I do a huge amount of work in forums for my clients because I see it as an important part of search engine optimisation.
Not so much for link building, although it can have a profound affect when carried out correctly as I discuss in the article Forum Link Building - What Not to Do, but because it brings visitors from the forum to the website I'm working on.
On top of this those redirected visitors feel a greater sense of trust for the site and then tend to stay longer, read more or carry out some desired action (fill out a form, buy a product, etc.).
But in all the years of optimising I've never been moved to hang out in SEO forums. Things are changing now that I'm looking for more direct dealings with clients and so earlier this year I went in search of good places to 'join the discussion'.
This was never going to be easy (see my post on Can we trust internet forums) and it certainly took a bit of digging.
One stop off point was Aaran Wall's blog for SEO forums. He runs an excellent site but unfortunately many of his recommendations were out of date. Some had sunk into constant spam posts and held little value and some (like Jimworld) just don't exist any more.
My final short list came down to:
So what did I make of them?
V7 Network – shaky and struggling but not dead. This thread is a classic example of what shouldn't really be allowed by the moderators but is. The post Make money using SEO is simply some members getting together and posting pointless waffle in order to get some links in.
Edit: 4th May 2011 - there appears to be a bit more of an effort to control the spam so things are looking up here ...
Digital Point – this forum does better than V7 Network in keeping out the spam but suffers from massive duplication (at least once a week someone asks something like “What are the best SEO tools” and this should be flagged as a duplicate thread and redirected to one that is already open). There are also plenty of non-native English speakers here which is not racism but it can make the reading hard going.
Sitepoint – now this forum is run fairly well but my concerns were raised when I started this post – How to agree with others without "me tooing". Note the first reply 'Thanks for sharing' (which made no sense at all) is apparently from a Sitepoint Author and database Guru but the post is more spam like than anything else. The point of the post is another reason I'm not warming to this forum – there is no way to agree with people quickly (without writing a post that says 'I agree') or give them points of respect so the site lacks a community feel
SEO Chat – This is my firm favourite so far. It's well moderated with obvious and large 'report spam' buttons; you can agree with others in one click and this helps visitors see which posts are well received; you can give other members 'points' if you think they have made valid comments so visitors can see who is respected in the forum, not just who has been around a long time and written lots of posts.
That's where I see it today – could be different tomorrow!