How to add Forums to your site or blog (and more traffic) and why you MUST do this.
Welcome to this next lesson and thank you for reading this far.
Here are some things that we’re going to look at.
- What are discussion forums?
- Some good things about them and why you should add one to your site
- Some not so great things about forums and why you may want to avoid adding one
- A look at a huge(ish) forum I created earlier
What are discussion forums?
Discussion forums are, well, umm… forums for discussion. I don’t quite know how they started (probably something to do with bulletin boards decades ago) but the modern day forums are sites where groups of people with common interests come together to share information. They ask questions, answers are produced and experiences are shared.
Today everyone raves about new media / social media but discussion forums and the bboards before them were the facebook and pinterest of their day! Sort of.
Forums can either be stand-alone or they can exist as part of a larger website. Good forums tend to be full of members who are often absolutely passionate and deeply knowledgeable about their subject or topic of interest. And it is for these two reasons that forums are powerful.
Forum members will often return regularly and if the forum is popular and interesting, new visitors will join. And so the forum grows
So how does this apply to building a business and getting money online?
Good things about Forums
As you build a business, you will actually create a community. Pretty soon, your community will be made up of a growing mix of people who all have the same general interests.
But there will be different levels between these people in many aspects: There will be different levels of experience, different levels of skill, different levels of knowledge, and so on.
The natural tendency (its human nature I guess) will be for the less experienced to seek guidance from the more experienced and a forum provides a good platform for this to take place. Even in your absence. (Super)
So new and relatively inexperienced members of your community will get needed support without you needing to invest large amounts of time in the forum. Unless that was part or all of your business plan in the first place in which case it doesn’t matter.
Now each time a question is asked or information is posted, this becomes free content that is being added to your site by someone else. (Powerful stuff here!)
The regular addition of fresh new content pleases search engines and can position your site above your competitors in search engine results.
Can you see how this is powerful? With a busy forum, you will easily get dozens of fresh relevant pages of new content added to your site every day and all for free!
Now other than adding forums to your own site, lets take a step back and consider another good use for forums.
If you are ever stuck for a post or article idea, search and find a forum in your niche and look at what questions people are asking. Then write a whole articles about these questions it for your site.
I like numbers. Do you like numbers? Well check out some staggering figures about forums.
Money Maker Group (http://www.moneymakergroup.com/forums.html) an Online money making and investments forum receives 9000 daily visitors and has 4.5 million posts and 100, 000 members
Bodybuilding.com (http://forum.bodybuilding.com) a Bodybuilding and fitness related forum: nearly 70 milliion posts by 3.5 million members
Gaia Online http://www.gaiaonline.com an Anime roleplaying community has over 26.8 million members who have all joyously contributed well over 2 billion posts to the world!
(Data from big-boards.com)
If you owned one of these forums and placed an ad on the page, how many views or impressions per minute would your ad get? How many clicks? How much could you earn?
Know that many of these boards have been around for over 10 years or more. (Much longer than the average blogger online today has been blogging for.)
Not so good things about forums
Apart from the time that it will take to build up a good sized forum from scratch, here are the downsides to owning and maintaining a forum:
A new forum will be an empty forum. There will be no members posting anything so a new forum looks cold and uninviting with nothing to read and no one to interact with.
New visitors would arrive, take one look and leave.
The trick here is to boost your early days by inviting / bribing / blackmailing / paying your friends and family to post and have conversations on your forum. This will quickly create the right impression for any new visitor looking to join in the discussion.
This is how I started off my forum wisegp.com a Mingle forum
But I ran into problems as you’re about to find out..
You are reading: How to add Forums to your site or blog
The opportunity to post information about yourself or your product and to post it for free will attract spammers and their spam posts. Very frustrating when this happens to you as a website owner.
Not to mention the awful experience that it would be for legitimate forum users trying to work their way around the spammy comments and posts.
As the forum moderator or owner, it can quickly become very time-consuming deleting numerous unnecessary post on a regular basis.
This is what happened to me: As you can see, the forum has many many sections (also called forums funnily enough) where you can post your material and say what you have to say.
Like I said, I hired forum posters from Elance to help get the forum off to a healthy start. So pretty soon, the site became busier and the pages were taking longer to load. It got to the stage where one afternoon, I received an email from one of my forum posters alerting me to the fact that none of my forum pages were loading anymore and that all he was seeing was a blank screen
I looked at various ways that I could speed up the site . One such way was to install a plugin (add special software) to the site. I had to temporarily disable some security features to do this.
Anyway, cut a long story short, I left myself open to spam attacks and I ended up with over 2000 spam comments from someone trying to sell designer bags.
I had to delete all the comments by hand! Thanks to the developer of Mingle who was quick to respond to my cries for help on his forum. He guided me through deleting my spam and setting my security back up again!
Now here’s a quick question:
Think of the last 10 Google searches that you performed. Was a forum page present in any of the results?
Generally, Google does not like forums. This is because forums represent people’s opinions. Although the material that is posted in a forum may be beneficial and immensely useful to the forum members reading the content, Google does not see this as in-depth or authoritative enough.
A dedicated webpage or blog post will win over a forum thread.
Unless there is no blog post or webpage that has addressed the search term adequately.
If you ever perform a search on#Google and a forum response comes up in the search result, congratulations! You have found a gap in the market for a much needed in-depth article that the world needs.
Choosing a forum
This had to be one of the most difficult jobs that I ever had to do.
Basically, you have 2 options:
- Install and use forums that are easily added to WordPress or
- Install a stand-alone forum
The first option: Combining your forum with your WordPress site.
WordPress is great. The ability to add extra functionality to your site using any of the hundreds of plugins makes WordPress even more amazing.
So the greater option would therefore to be able to keep my WordPress site and add the forum on top.
Now I am not a programmer or coder – and I never will be. I hate paying for stuff unless I have to (earn first then spend secpnd) and if I am experimenting, free is a good place to start.
So my mission was to find the easiest and free-est (?) forum that I could install with one click into WordPress. I found this with Mingle forum.
Now WordPress have their own forum software called bbPress. But check this:
With Mingle which I installed, you can scroll down and see ALL the forum categories on one page. Within seconds and with just one glance, you can see what my forum is all about and you can stop and read any section you want. All posts are grouped in the same tight section.
I don’t know why but with bbPress, the forum posts are not grouped under headings. Instead, you get one very long list of posts. This is just crazy and would drive me mad.
Which is better? Scrolling down one long page to find what you want or clicking through 100s of pages ? I know which I prefer.
Now you can use the other option which is to forget WordPress altogether, and install a more popular and dedicated forum software and just use that as your entire website.
But making changes to your site, adding and removing ads and so on would require coding knowledge or having to pay someone to do it for you each time that you needed to make a change.
If you went for this option, you would be installing phpBB or Simple Machines or vbulletin alone. This is still a viable option and in many ways I would recommend this if your aim is to build just a forum community. You can compare three forum software options with this great table on forum-software.org
- Take extra care when choosing the forum platform that you will use on your site.
- Invite good and active forum members to be moderators and issue them with a superior level of account functionality. You will need their help to police your forum.
- Enjoy the great benefits that a forum will bring you.
Thank you for reading How to add Forums to your site or blog. Join up to my Newsletter now. I share more experiences there.