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I have a WordPress blog (blogging and technology niche) with 10,000 monthly traffic from search engines (95% from Google).

I have decided to add a forum using bbPress to that blog (www.example.com/forum/). I can't maintain high quality content on the forum. Yes, I can remove spam posts but still there may be lots of thin low quality content on the forum.

So can this hurt SEO? Also, will it cause me to lose my current search engine traffic?

  • It seems to me that you answered your own question. – closetnoc Nov 12 '15 at 3:13
  • You could stick a Disallow: /forum/ into your robots.txt to block it from crawlers. – Andrew Lott Nov 12 '15 at 19:40
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As you most probably already understood, if you can't control the high quality of the forum, it's probably not a good idea. Indeed, it can penalize your existing blog on SEO side, especially because the forum is on the same site (in the directory /forum/ in your case).

However, if you want to go into a forum, you can create a subdomain for it (like forum.example.com). As Google considers a subdomain as different website from your main domain for SEO, you can try to provide a forum to your users.

Of course, I encourage you to try to keep the forum as clean as you can. And anyway, if you notice that it gets a lot of spam, you could remove it.

  • "Google considers a subdomain as different website" -> It's not quite that simple any more. The official stance as of 2018 is that subdirectories and subdomains are interchangeable, though subdirectories does send a stronger signal that a site is cohesive. – Maximillian Laumeister Dec 17 '18 at 18:24
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  • Put forum under sub domain. As noted above, Google considers a subdomain as different website from your main domain for SEO purposes.

  • Limit signups to users who answer a specific challenge question that must be reviewed/approved by an admin or moderator.

  • Make forum private. E.g., for paid subscribers only?

  • Locate 3rd party vendors in your space (such as app developers) to sponsor the forum. This way there is an incentive for you to monitor and "prune" the forum.

  • Make the "application" process more stringent for users from spam-happy countries.

  • Get rid of BBPress. There are many better platforms.

Think of it like this. You need to defend against automated spam bots and human spammers and you need to allow legitimate users. So you need multiple lines of defense.

For bots: honeypot, CAPTCHA, IP blacklist check

For human spammers: country of origin check, challenge question, settings to prevent flooding

For legitimate users: open ended challenge question that must be approved by a moderator.

Finally if spam content does slip through (and it will) simply remove the content quickly and ban the user account.

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