The Problem with SEO / Webmaster Forums

Let me start by prefacing this post with the obligatory this is my personal opinion.

I am not Satisfied with the current forum offerings

Im a member of many seo / webmaster forums and none of them are providing me with what i feel i need at the moment. Possibly my needs could not be met, they're more than a little demanding of even the best of the bunch but, i can't help feeling a little let down by what's currently on offer for people like me that want to talk shop in a safe, pleasent environment. Follow the title link above for the full post.

The problem as I see it is not one thing but a combination of many. I'll try to outline some of the issues without going into to many specifics. This isnt a personal attack on any one forum and shouldn't really be taken as such, it's just my personal perspective on the webmaster forum circuit as it stands.

The main points

Too much foo and not enough discussion
Whilst out over the last few days scouring the boards for the good stuff i realized just how much crud their was on about 90% of the boards i visited. One board, at one point, had something like 70% of the recent posts lists consisting of introductions, jokes, silly polls and worthless gossip.

This is fine if all you want to do is engage in teen chatter but what about the real business of the day? Sometimes it seems like the entire webmaster community is using the boards as a mere social network rather than a learning network or discussion network.

I dont necessarily think that chatter posts dont have merit, they do. They can help bond a community, you can make good friends and valuable aquaintences by participating in the "what kind of potato are you" type silliness that we all like on occasion. I do feel however that when the vegetable soup that is chatter starts to outweigh the meat an potatoes of webmaster talk then it's a poor diet for folks that want to learn.

I dont feel "safe" in many places
Some forums have a very lax attitude to pointing fingers at websites. This just fills me with fear and makes me very nervous about posting or participating in any fashion.

Primarily im talking about the famous public spam report - where a new user comes in with either a blatent cry of "I found a cheater!" or worse, "is this spam?" and names the victim website in some manner. (you dont have to post a url to point the finger directly at your competitor).

Boards with lax to non-existent policies covering this ghastly phenomena just give me the fear - cold and real. When will my site be next? - what if my site, or yours, is so white it hurts the eye but some monkey has a problem with it and draws attention to your hard work? Man, the last people I'd want looking at a website of mine (apart from this one :-) is a whole bunch of seos!

Poor Moderation
Forum moderators and admins are human like the rest of us, and as part of the package come with all to human faults just like everyone else. They do however get their brief from the owner of the forum in question so ultimately moderation is set, enforced and taken responsibility for by that owner or group of owners.

When threads are allowed to run riot, or devolve into unsightly flame wars or spam reports are not acted upon either quickly enough or at all, it provides me with no confidence that my time would be well spent participating.

Likewise when rogue moderators start personal wars or throw their weight around unecessarily. I think there is a fine balance to moderation and it certainly isn't a perfect world so some leeway needs to be given for either inexperience, bad judgement or lapse of manners for any given mod but this needs to be handled from the top when it gets out of hand.

Much much more...
..of course there is. I could sit here an waffle on about every tiny aspect of forum groups, what i do and dont like, etc etc but it would take forever. Those are the main things i think are making me a bit pissed off with what's on offer at the moment though, you can take them, leave them, pull them apart or eat them. It matters not particulary as they're just my personal thoughts, for all i know i could well be one of only a handful of people that are unhappy with the seo forum circuit right now :) I think not though.

Perhaps as Andrew Goodman was keen to point out I should start my own forum if im unappy with the free ones?

At the end of the day, "if you don't like it, start your own forum" seems like a possible resolution in cases where one just cannot seem to derive the proper level of satisfaction from participation in a free forum.

Well, i did! :) although maybe its a blog or a blorum, or flog heh...

So, I've Bitched Enough - What Would I Like?

Well, in an ideal world i'd like someone to provide a forum where search marketers and webmasters can talk shop in a relaxed environment with no fear of spam outings or finger pointing.

I'd like a place that wasnt full of gmail invite posts, where every user was welcomed but didnt feel the need to post a seperate introduction for themselves and choke the recent posts list. I'd like a place where the number one rule was NO WHINING! and where like minded folks could talk shop with a minimal amount of chatter.

Does it exist? No, not from what I can see.

Could it exist? No, probably not, though i'd like to think it might...

Share Your Thoughts

Well, go on.. you can tell me to STFU if you like, i wont mind. Some constructive thoughts on the subject of what's out there would be cool though. Dont think im unaware that good boards exist, i do actually like more than a few, i just feel that the whole ciruit lacks a little and would enjoy some discussion on the subject..



It Exists

In the moderator staff rooms at most forums.


Not the big ones Jill, not the big ones...


It seems to work just fine.
Ivite only and private.

my 2 cents

If a forum like this existed

If a forum like this existed I probably wouldn't share urls or even specific industries anyway but it would be nice to discuss things like what I just sent Nick a private message about. Or linking strategies.
Basically I'd use it to discuss things that I would otherwise talk about at a pubcon or in stickies, but it would be a way to share it with a somewhat larger group - but not the whole world.

I'm not really certain why I feel like I wouldn't want to talk about these things in a public forum actually. I think it's just not knowing who might be reading it. Plus if we all discussed some issue and came up with a great theory or solution I don't see why we would want to make it that obvious to SE's in a public forum either.

Sure, ideas would eventually leak out but at least it would slow it down a bit.

Closed knit

If you eject a member you have that horrifying prospect of them blabbing what they know. - But guess what, you got that MF anyway. Once a group gets beyond 20 or so the idea of "what's said back here stays back here" goes right out the window I think. - bugger that, let's not break the habbit of a lifetime and mince words, information will leak.

The idea of a place where "secrets are shared" just doenst strike me as particularly realistic. Where theories and ideas and strategies are shared, then sure...

Which brings us to ejecting members. If it's not some kind of mythical secret sharing society but a more realistic "invite only" no bollocky gmail posts type affair then should a member not contribute, or stiff another member beyond doubt (for examples of reasons) then membership could just be shut off.

I dont see why anyone would have to take responsibility and all the baggage that entails if the rules were set out clearly in the beggining with "break em, your account is nuked. period"

Of course somebody(s) have to decide what constitutes a breach of the rules and some warning proceedure would be best in place as we all lapse from time to time and should i be invited i'd probably not last a week :) but although those thougts above are just off the top of my head, i dont think they're too bad...

Another scenario
If you take this place as an example, we have very few folks that are green to this stuff in here, im thinking that the subject matter would put people off if a tight reign is kept on topics rather than an invite only, closed board. - just a thought.

Maybe that's just rubbish and the reason we have no gmail inviters here is cos it's not well known enough to attract them heh..

it also needs

some sort of mechanism to eject a problem member. very tough problem to handle considering that this is likely to be a close-knit group.

As the Actress said to the Bishop

...its a size thing.

Once a forum reaches a particular size, threads lose their conversational nature. They end up getting dragged down to the lowest common denominator and being dominated by the folk who like to 'spout off'.

A meeting of 10 might be able to debate an issue to a conclusion. a meeting of 100 just ends up being noise.

Small forums with hi-grade members are the ideal, and that means some form of membership restriction.

[daft idea warning]
Might be interesting if there was a forum script that only allowed a certain number of new sign-ups per month and automatically kicked off non-posters. Maybe a periodic 'vote for the guys to be sacked off' poll like 'Big Brother' on TV

i’m not anti-noob, we all h

i’m not anti-noob, we all have to start somewhere and it wasn’t that long ago i was one(still am to most on here). A few beginners read and use the search feature first, others wade in and ask “How do i get PR?”. Some forums would almost be dead if it wasn’t for such basic questions, other forums are being ruined by too many beginner posts often asking the same thing within five minutes, or starting 20 threads saying “update?”, “update on? ...

I like SEW, but i think it will eventually become noisy, and it would be nice to occasionally discuss some things knowing the reps aren’t reading – i’m sure they take great pleasure reading the latest theories every time one of them hits the randomize button ;).

Private forums can work
I know of a music forum that went private to escape the eyes of the RIAA and it works really well with 100’s of active members out of 10,000 registered members. To get full access you need to be invited or apply, all new members need to be approved by several moderators. Supporters forum of wmw worked well once too so it’s not a completely crazy idea.

I've been thinking about it too

I like the idea of a private, invite only forum too. One challenge would be knowing who is and isn't a search engine guy, so they could be kept out. It's true that there may not be as many posts, but the ones that would be there would be of higher quality.

perfect forum

I keep thinking an invite only forum with no search engine reps may be one solution.

Now that would be sweet!

I'd like a place where the number one rule was NO WHINING!

I belong to another site/forum where one of admins would regulary chew up noobs and spit them out like chewing tobacco. His theory was if you couldn't take a beating you didn't deserve to run with the 'big dawgs'. The place was great and everybody got along. Bad part was only about 1 in 50 noobs stayed around. Then he got a serious job and spent way less time weeding out the posers, and the village idiots moved in. All of us old timers long for the good ole' days.


im not sure i'd be comfortable with somewhere that was anti-noob...

We dont post noob stuff here, but we're not anti-noob, just anti-noob posts.. (if you can actually do such a thing without creating paradox lol...)

When i was modding over at wmw there were some terrific mods that were great at getting the noisey, new guys to integrate rather than irritate without alienating new members. I think alot has to go into turning new members into contributing members and that aint easy :)

But yeah, in general - an all pro grade system would be cool huh?

Perfect forum dream

I keep thinking an invite only forum with no search engine reps may be one solution. Have a simple rule to keep chit chat confined to Foo and any thread going off topic should be split. One downside would be the lack of posts, the kind of topics i like don’t come along very often, - newbs are often the only thing keeping many forums alive.


Hey Brad,

I do post, i just cant help myself most of the time even if im not cool with board policies :) but posting the kind of threads you're talking about takes a major commitment to a forum - I've done so over at SEW a few times for example but these days, for various reasons im more likely to commit the time here at TW.. not on a daily basis, the point here is to talk about what can be found out and about but posts like this one take a minimum of a good hour to put together (at least for me...)


Yeah, it was suggested to me that should this place start to get too busy we might go invite only with current membership as seed but like you pointed out, there are inherent difficulties with that model also..

The point about noobs keeping a forum alive is a damn good one...

It's what you make of it.

Nick, communities are built through active participation. If there is an absence of good SEO/webmastering posts then dig in and start some threads. Lead by example. The smaller forums are usually quite keen to have thoughful posts by experienced SEO's and web designers. Literally one or three good consistant posters can make a difference.

The bigger forums are harder to mold and reshape. They rumble on a trajectory and sometimes they have too much momentum built up to change things.

None of them are perfect - that may be why there are some many. ;)