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.