This short post on using forums to drive traffic to blogs was submitted by an anonymous ProBlogger reader.
My blog is visited by hundreds of thousands of visitors a month and other peoples forums are the number 1 source of this traffic. Darren has asked me if I’d share how I do it.
1. Identify where your blogs potential readers are gathering
I learned this from Darren here. For me the answer to this question is forums. I know that not every blog topic will have forums that relate to it online but the more blogs that I have started the more I have found that most topics do! You just need to know where to find them.
Quite often the forum is not just a standalone forum – it could be just part of a larger site. So hunt them down!
They don’t have to be big forums either (but they should be active). For my main blog I actually chose 4 forums, one big one and three small ones.
2. Join up…. and Do Nothing (for a while)
This is key. Many people identify a hot forum and rush in, leaving links to their blog as fast as they can. All this will do is quickly get your banned, annoy people and hurt your blogs reputation.
Instead of rushing in – join up and be a lurker for a few days. Watch and learn.
- Learn who the key players are.
- Watch to see what topics are hottest.
- See which areas of the forum are most active.
- Observe what the culture and rules of the forum are.
This ‘lurking’ is all about learning as much as you can so you can so that when you actually get active you can do it in a way that actually connects.
3. Set up your Signature and Avatar
Set up a very simple yet effective signature so that when you start posting people can find out more about you. My signatures are very understated. I simply include a link and name to my blog. I don’t do it in flashing fonts or bright colors. My reason for this is that the signature doesn’t convince people to come to my blog – the posts I write on the forum do.
If the forum allows you to choose an avatar – choose a simple one of these. I use a photo of myself because I feel it makes me more personal. On that note I make my forum name my real name. Again – this ‘humanizes’ me as I interact with people.
Also at this point I add links to the forums that I am going to interact in on my blog.
4. Start Posting
You have watched, learned and set yourself up – now it is time to start interacting with the forum.
Don’t go too hard too fast. Keep in mind that this is a community that you’re entering. Nobody likes a showoff or attention seeker. A few posts a day for your first week is more than enough. This means by the end of the week you’ll have 20-30 posts which is a signal to those on the forum that you’re investing time into it.
In my first week or two I concentrate on making myself as useful as possible to other forum members. My main priority is to answer questions that others in the forum ask.
Point people to sites that might help them or answer their questions – but in the first week or two show some restraint about pointing people to things you’ve written on your own blog. There will be time for that later.
5. Write Resource Content/Tutorials
After a week or two of ‘helping’ and being useful I then begin to produce weekly tutorial type content. This is where I find things begin to really take off in terms of driving traffic to your blog and becoming a more established presence in the forum.
In these ‘tutorial’ type posts you want to be writing top quality ‘how to’ type content that people will value highly. In many ways these tutorials are the type of things you might normally post on your blog.
In some ways what I am doing with these ‘tutorials’ is similar to what people who write guest posts for other people’s blogs do. It’s writing impressive content that makes people pay attention to you.
In these tutorials I generally will either include a relevant link to my blog to a post that extends the topic or is a ‘further reading’ type link OR at the end of the tutorial I include a simple line pointing out that I write more of this type of thing on my blog (with a link). I keep these links very low key.
What I find is that as I write these tutorials that people begin to want to know more about who I am. When you help people do something it makes an impression and they begin to seek you out.
6. Make Connections
You will find that the relationships will happen fairly naturally at this point but I also put a little extra time at this point to establish relationships with people in the forum, particularly key influencers, moderators and owners. Send these people private messages introducing yourself, encouraging them (particularly owners and moderators – many of them will really appreciate positive feedback) and even making offers of help or suggestions (if appropriate).
If you show that you’re willing to help make a forum a better place you’ll find these key people within the forum will be very open to working with you at some point in the future.
7. Let Others Promote Your Blog
I find that at this point a wonderful thing happens – forum members begin to promote your blog. They come across you either through you answering questions, your tutorials or through conversations that you have with them and they begin to read your blog. When they find something on it that they like, they write about it.
Sounds a little too good to be true – but it has happened from me time and time again. It’s almost like when you find other bloggers in your niche beginning to discover your blog – but instead it can potentially be a whole community discovering your blog at once (a very powerful thing).
Last time this happened to me it was in a forum with over 100,000 members. It took me 5 months of ground work but when the ‘tipping point’ came it was like I suddenly became a celebrity or some kind of hero in the forum. I’d written 15 tutorials by this time and they’d become some of the most viewed threads in the forum, the forum owner had asked if he could pay me to write more and when I said I’d do it for free he included a small button on his sidebar linking to my blog as a recommended resource as payment.
8. Be Generous, Be Understated and Be Useful
My parting words of advice for people wanting to use forums to promote their blogs is really to be as helpful as possible while remaining as subtle as you can.
This actually takes some restraint. If you’re anything like me your natural inclination is to shout out about your blog at every opportunity but take it from me, I’ve done this and it doesn’t work. The more understated I’ve been the more success I’ve had.
I have become a regular on one particular forum related to my site and it brings me in most of my referal traffic. It wasn’t until this week (after 8 weeks of blogging) that I started to get referals from another forum that I hadn’t visited. So I guess I made stage 7 then.
I think point 2 is the most prudent one here. Doing nothing for a while certainly helps. I think it is easy to see the key players on a forum and it pays to follow their lead.
An extremely useful post depending on your niche. Some subjects do not have many blogs, neither they get much attention on social media like SU & Digg.
Community forums, even like professional ones on LinkedIn groups, can be a good way to make contacts and attract traffic.
I think the most important thing about forums is to be genuine. I do think that there are tons of people out there (myself incuded) who are just very happy to have a chance to interact with peope who shared similar interests, no matter how narrow they are. If it’s only about strategy, then that misses the point a bit. However, I didn’t hear that in this article and am glad for the advice!!
Good post. Sound advice. I’ve no idea why I haven’t got round to joining many forums. Moronic really.
I have joined a few forums related to my niche but what I realized that a lot of them are full of idle gossip and nothing really constructive especially geographically targeted local forums. What worked better for me in terms of blog exposure and getting more traffic is participating actively in commenting on other’s blogs, selective ning networks and social media like twitter.
Great topic, and thank you both Darren and the author of this post for sharing this information with us. Do you know any way to find certain forums on the web that may be similar to your site, or should you just start googling?
Excellent post and very true. I’ve participated for a while now on a few forums and after a while if you post well people come to see you as a sort of authority figure.
Then regulars tend to recommend you to newbies.
Does anyone know some good forum directories?
I’ve searched for these and most have a very limited number of forums in their directories.
I think PageRank is fast becoming an obsolete metrics with its school yard like mentality. Few of the kids used to vote for the monitor in my fith grade…I remember that, now in adult life same with google rank.
This link building is also another one that should be abolished. It pains me to see what people have to go through to earn that insignificant amount of money.
Great tips. I especially agree with the statement that content brings people not the flashing signature. That’s what I also experienced. My logo was not attached to the other website as was yours, but at least some people joined my forum.
Useful topic and nice set of tips! I’m a member of a few forums that are unrelated to my blog content and soon I want to start investigating the value of posting on related forums. Your methods sound great, thanks for sharing!
I participate in a lot of forums out of interest and I have never thought about promoting my blog or anything else in them.
That said, I have noticed a trend as of late where a lot of forums are clamping down on members promoting blogs or any other sites, either in the sigs or profile. I think a lot of people abuse the means to promote blogs/sites in the sigs and forum administrators are getting sick of it. I’ve seen forum users with sigs three times longer than their average post length.
In a nutshell, be careful if you do go down this route.
Thanks for this awesome resource. I have been steering away from forums because I dread getting sucked into a black hole of endless pontification but if it can deliver the results I need then I guess I’d better give it a go.
BTW if anyone here can pop through to my blog (click on my name) and give me any advice on how to increase subscriptions, comments, email list sign ups then I’d be very open to feedback. You could email me about it at seamus DOT moose AT gmail DOT com
I am an active member of some top forums like DP and SP, and it is really helping me to invite visitors to my blogs.
Among the tips that was mentioned above, I think the best would be the last one – be generous. Although I think my blog will suffer somehow, I submit some of my useful tips (the whole post) on top forums and this kind of generosity is what readers like.
With all due to respect, I would like to add # 9 – Ask an interesting question and let others express their point of view.
Here is one of my older posts at Sitepoint that lasted for 3 weeks, and has been visited more than 2,800 times – SitePoint forum – Which do you prefer, many subscribers or commentators?
Through this, I was not only able to drive traffic to my blog, but also met fellow bloggers who eventually became my virtual friends.
I just wish I could do this again.
I have no clue as to who wrote this post. I also have no clue as to whether it is true or not. I certainly am suspicious.
Hundreds of thousands of visitors a month. Really? Why stay anonymous? Your not doing anything wrong. You don’t seem to mind letting others in on your secret. It sure is easy to make claims on the internet that don’t have to be backed up with evidence.
This kind of reminds me of the people who scream about how many subscribers their blog has. They point to the feedburner number they proudly display on their sidebar. It turns out that the number can easily be manipulated, misunderstood, or inflated.
I’m not so fast to jump on the bandwagon. You very well might be good at making contacts in a forum. And you very well might get traffic to your blogs from that effort. But before I believe that you get over 100,000 visitors a month from forums…I’d like to see proof.
Very useful points and a great way to go about joining a forum!
Great post, forums are a real asset, I probably spend a couple of hours a day on forums trying to drive traffic to my site
Great info. Its pretty easy to get carried away lurking though. How many forums do you think are realistic to join at one time and still maintain your other blogging tasks?
Very nice interesting article to read, but about inviting someone to promote your blog is it possible? I found its hard to tell ppl to promote your site, unless you give them something in return
Excellent ideas, especially for a novice who is just starting out, trying to drive traffic to my site.
All the best!
America For Purchase
Very good article here, a forum can be your biggest asset for helping to drive traffic to your blogs.
Just make sure its a forum where the admin is active, because you can’t expect the members to take a forum serious, when a admin doesn’t.
The forum has “over 100,000 users” and you get “hundreds of thousands of visitors per month”?? Sorry but it just doesn’t add up at all.
You are saying that every single member of this forum visits your website as well? I don’t believe that at all.
JK – I’m not sure which forum it is – but i do know from my own forum that:
1. we have about about 25,000 members but at any given time only about a quarter to a fifth of the people visiting the site are members. The rest are ‘guests’ – lurking, surfing in from search engines etc.
2. that over a month on my forum we have 25,000 members but around 200,000 unique visitors. If you ramp this up to being a forum with 100,000 members it could be around a million visitors a month.
With a prominent link from the forum plus members promoting the blog I guess they’re driving a lot of traffic over.
Also keep in mind that this blogger says that they are working in numerous forums – not just the one with 100,000 members.
I can’t really give much more insight than that as I don’t have all the details of this blogger’s experience.
I have done the same things for promoting my site on sitepoint / digitalpoint and today suddenly I saw it in words what I have done and it looks great.
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thanks ,I just wanted to share this tidbit
The four things you need to know about RSS
1. RSS is a stream of updated information. It comes from a blog or a website or some other content application and allows an RSS Reader to know an update has occurred.
2. When the reader sees an update, it grabs the headline or the headline and some of the content, or the headline and ALL of the content and displays it for you.
3. This means that once you set up a feed (more on that in a bit), you’ve got a direct, permanent, updated connection to a source of content. No more surfing!
4. So, this kills email marketing and it makes it easy for you to have anticipated, personal and relevant communications to (or with) whatever content sources–like companies or people or calendars or databases–you want.
Great article!!! I will definately have to look into all the ideas you have given.