For my Blog-off post, I wanted to do a piece which somehow tied back into my first contest post. Out of the 14 items, the one about SEO Forums actually has some deeper meaning to me and I thought it would be a good topic to focus on.
6. Real SEOs … Don’t go to the forums
Real SEOs used to go to forums all the time. As a matter of fact, I bet most Real SEOs learned the craft on those very forums. Now, Real SEOs post all of that hard earned knowledge on their own sites or friends blogs. Why give away the milk when you can monetize it yourself.
While the original thought was obviously written in satire, it did have a underpinning of truth. In the beginning, much of the knowledge base of the entire SEO Industry was formulated and recorded in the SEO forums. Today however, this is just not the case. Much of the new knowledge is now being published on blogs, social or news sites. Has this shift in the location of our knowledge centers made the SEO Forums a artifact of our past or do we still have reason to participate in our original social environments?
A Recent History of the SEO Forums
These forums have been the foundation of our industry’s knowledge base since the beginning. They have not been without their share of controversy or drama. The differing levels of accountability has long been a problem for me personally when visiting SEO forums. Many of these forums allow discussion of black hat or potentially unethical techniques relying on their membership to counter or expose the problems with such activities. This does not always happen and the information may go unchallenged. All but one forum, has a history of not allowing its members to “name names” when exposing spammers or Black Hat SEOs. IHelpYou Forums and its owner Doug Heil have actually gotten a negative reputation in the industry for exposing the names of these people or companies when they find them. The one exception that comes to mind was the Traffic Power scandal, pretty much everyone called them out though the members of IHelpYou were first.
There have been some political and personality battles as well. There was a rather large flame war both publicly and behind the scenes when Jill Whalen left her moderator status at IHelpYou to start her own High Rankings forum. The members of those two forums held some grudges for quite some time and it was the cause of some very “interesting” but unproductive reading. The mystery of GoogleGuy over at WebMaster World and other forums was very entertaining for quite some time. The information he provided was outstanding but the mystery of his identity and authenticity was almost as intriguing. Here’s a hint to his identity, he stopped posting on the forums around the same time Matt Cutts launched his blog and started posting under his own name.
When Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Watch he left and many of the most prominent members of their forums left with him. This created a void at the relatively new SEW Forums and the new company used recruiter to contact major SEM agencies to try and find new moderators. The company I recently left was contacted and asked if we had anyone who would volunteer for a moderator post. There are many more example of this type of drama, but this is to be expected in a living community or collection of communities.
What about the individual forums? Back on October of 2006, I compiled some data related to the activity of what then were the top ten SEO forums. I took a look at the number of members and the number of posts at these forums since their creation. Using these numbers I determined the average number of posts per member to get a basic idea of how active a specific forum actually was. Using these same forums and comparing toady’s data, I thought I might be able to get an idea of the growth of these forums over the past 20 months.
I first looked again at the number of members of the SEO forums:
Two of the more popular SEO forums did not publish this data on their site. I was quite surprised at the growth of the Digital Point forums (325%), but much of that growth can be traced back to some very non-SEO portions of their content. V7N seemed to be the one forum with the most growth in membership dedicated to SEO with an increase of 194%. The SEO Guy forum, while small in the overall scheme of things actually showed a rather large growth percentage as well with 167%. Overall the average percentage of growth of the other forums was right at 60%. If you compare the growth of these forums to the growth of our industry, it does not seem the original supplier of SEO knowledge has been keeping up. In a recent article looking at SEO Job growth, Reilly O’Donnell of Onward Search showed us some interesting graphs including one that revealed that between October of 2006 and today, the job growth for SEO has increased approximately 400%. This is over 6 times the average forum growth.
Next I looked at the number of posts at the listed forums. I thought this might gage the levels of activity at these forums over the past 20 months.
Again Digital Point blows the grading curve with 435% growth in the number of posts clocking in at over 300,000 a months since October of 2006. Close to 4,000,000 of these posts were in a single forum dedicated to the selling and buying of web sites. My gut was telling me that Digital Point was being targeted by spammers, however when I went back to their site this afternoon, it was down so I could not confirm. Its no surprise that Webmaster World has seen the most activity of the ten with over 600,000 posts and consistent with its growth, V7N had over 400,000 posts. The average of the rest was approximately 43,000 posts in the 20 months or 2,200 posts a month.
The most interesting data of all in this little experiment comes when looking at the Average posts per member statistic. I left out Webmaster World and Search Engine Forums from this graph as they did not publish enough data to be included.