How to Use Forums To Drive Hundreds of Thousand of Readers to Your Blog

Posted By Darren Rowse 20th of October 2008 Blog Promotion 0 Comments

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)

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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.

About Darren Rowse
Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.
Comments
  1. Helpful tips but I think the first thing to do is find an appropriate forum. One that is relevant to your niche (if you have one) and receives a huge traffic like DP and SitePoint.

  2. Forums are a great way to bring traffic,and to find contacts.Finding the right ones can be a challenge though some are not very active or have members that will not reciprocate with you.It would have been nice if you would have included a few good ones along with your post.

  3. A great post and spot on. I moderate several forums and am a member of a few others. I’ve done exactly as described above and have had the same results. Links in my signature and posts of value have brought me a lot of traffic from those forums.

    The claims that forums are dead have been grossly exaggerated. They are still vibrant communities usually focused on a narrow topic. Find those that relate to your blog and follow the suggestions made above.

  4. Thanks a bunch for confirming what I initially suspected when I first got into this whole site building thing.

  5. great post. I wonder who the writer is and his blog address so I can subscribe :D

  6. Good one, now I will start to create a forum, :)

  7. Darren, I agree with most of yourtips, however, this part: “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.” Sounds like a tip for buying links, you may want to refrase that, as I understand it (and so does Matt “GOD” Cutts) exchanging anything for a link could be considered as buying links, I think the best way for this to work if you are offered any kind of compensation you should take it or keep doing it for free (free means free, if a link is not free you are buying it..) and keep including your links within your useful threads…

    @TheWeblogZone: you mentioned DP, I think DP is one of the biggest link farms on the market today since it allows all their members to “rent” signatures and stuff… i think that is a no NO…

  8. I haven’t yet integrated forums into my traffic strategy so thanks for these great tips.

  9. The best advice in this post is the last paragraph. To paraphrase, give way more then you receive. Don’t expect anything in return for your input and free advice you are giving on a forum.

    And, make sure what you are giving is relevant to the forum you are on. I participate in a couple of really good and very niche specific email listservs. It is filled with people more then willing to give advice and help on a daily basis. And that is something I have always strived to do on those list. By doing so, and by offering for free what I actually charge people for, I have grown my own business from it.

    I have not taken advantage of forums yet and I know I need to. My only problem is wading through those who are willing go give from those who are there to take. I wish forums were as good at controlling this as the email list I am on.

    Another issue I have been looking at is putting a forum on my blog too. However, I have always feared that it would be empty and no one would participate and add to the conversations. In that sense, an empty forum would cause more harm to my blog then not doing one at all.

    However, I have always considered the fact that you Darren, don’t have a forum on Problogger. And when I get the itch to try to talk by designer to put on one our blog, I stop and ask, why doesn’t Darren have one on Problogger.

    Thanks again Darren for a very timely post as we all look at ways to increase our traffic and reach.

  10. Forums are a good source of traffic for my blog, but I am in a fragmented niche. The article is spot-on with regards to adding real value to the forum. There are no shortcuts!

  11. Nice Tips. Thank you.
    Forum is a wonderful place to share everything.

  12. As was already mentioned the forums should be related to your topic. I also find it helps to have your iron in many fires at once. I try for three to five posts per day per forum over at least five forums. That gives me 15 to 25 opportunities to siphon in several visitors per day. In the end it really pays off.

  13. Great article!

    Like the anonymous poster, I too have trouble not promoting my blog every chance I get.

    I’ve been leaving comments in several blogs for the past week or so and it has done wonders for my traffic. I went from around 8-10 visitors a day to at least 20-30 a day. I woke up this morning and found out that 35 people visited my blog overnight. The bounce rate has been very low this week (10.6%) so I know that they’re not just popping in and leaving.

    I’ll keep this article in mind when I decide to go to forums to increase my traffic. Thanks!

    TheAndySan
    http://www.theandysan.com

  14. Great post! Forums are an excellent way to get traffic. The key is definitely to become a useful, active member. It’s a two-way street. You will gain traffic and readers to your blog, but you also learn alot yourself, make new relationships, etc.

    Great explanation on how to use forums the RIGHT way!

  15. I’ve done this two times and it worked very well for me. I got master resell rights to a clickbank step by step guide and promoted it on the clickbank succes forum. I got some hits, but nobody ordered. I think the conversion rate is to low if you try to sell something via forums.

  16. I have to disagree. I think the forums, for the most part, are a giant waste of time with little benefit. Maybe in the early days they were useful, but now it’s highly unlikely that forum users, unless you maintain a sustained presence, will look at your profile page and click on your link.

  17. I have been using this same way of promoting my blog, except I just noticed that most of my posts on the forum weren’t helpful.

    I though that by posting more, more people would visit, I guess I was wrong! I’ll be testing out this tutorial-writing method very soon :)

  18. I think you need to keep in touch and spend a good time in the forum. When the other people see how active are you in the forum, they will eventually visit your website!

    And of course, your comments will create your reputation so avoid to leave comments like “I gree” or “great post”…

  19. Brilliant tips, i sometime got traffic from DP, but it is very large forum and you should write more and more every day

    does anyone know some forums about blogging?

  20. Absolutely correct.I found this tool is very useful.I got Thousand of users using this type of guidelines.
    Blog: http://www.iboozi.com
    Author: S.K Sharma
    Location : India

  21. As always, I am impressed. I knew how to advertise in a forum through the signature and leaving valuable posts, but the other tips are great. I can’t imagine having other people promoting my blog, what an excellent idea. That and taking it slow, if anything I go crazy with posts…I am so going to try this strategy, thank you so much.

    Tressa
    http://www.traffic101.org

  22. Great post! There are simply too many people out there who have little idea of the annoyances they bring to forums with their SPAM. It isn’t very difficult to follow the guidelines you’ve set forth in this post to help folks get the word out about their blogs and websites. It is amazing – we have WAY too many people come to our forum who think that it is ok to spam their website.

    This morning I had 3 users accounts post over 25 posts promoting their website. We banned them all and will NEVER consider working with or promoting that company, EVER.

    Be respectful, be helpful, use a signature, READ THE RULES OF THE FORUM YOU’RE POSTING ON, and you’ll see the benefits of forums. Post a lot of crap with your website promoted in the post and you’ll find yourself become just like the Nigerian Email scammers we all hate.

  23. Serge says: 10/20/2008 at 2:46 am

    Thank you Darren and Anonymous for this great article!

  24. This is such a great post. I am new to blogging and I have the itch –I so badly want people to come and see what I’m doing :)

    I hadn’t thought about forums at all.

    After reading this article I joined one forum, and am now going to take the author’s advice and take it slow.

    I know I will enjoy being a part of the forum, so I believe this will be successful for me. But I think if someone uses this tip and does not enjoy the forum it would not work for them.

    Thank-you for such great tips! I hope to report someday that , because of the great tips on ProBlogger, I have a large audience on my blogs!

    Grammy’s Recipes

  25. Thank you for the great tips here. I have been trying to do the same but at times going to all these forums and posting become so much overwhelming.

  26. This sounds a lot like the @garyvee school of promotion =). Get out there, be helpful, get noticed – and never stop hustling.

  27. This is really a killer tip. I actually was an active forum member long before I started blogging, so I have the luxury of having a well-established reputation on one of the biggest forums for my niche.

    It’s really true, too, that the traffic will come back to you, because you’ve set yourself up as an authority.

  28. Great post. Being useful and informative is how I’ve marketed my own social network for several months, it’s helped me get over 4,000 members. Converting readers to followers is easy with good content and a willingness to share what you know. – lhenry – http://www.sistasense.com

  29. I hate to be negative, but I’m with Brandon on this. I’ve tried many of these tips in various forums, and (at best) the results have been so-so. It seems to me that the time and energy spent building a “presence” in a forum would be much better spent working on your actual blog.

    And, as to tip #5 specifically, I’d suggest not wasting any fantastic content you write in a forum (where it will soon be buried), but either publishing it at your own blog or submitting it to (and hopefully getting it featured at) a “bigger” blog, a well-known e-zine, or some other relevant (& respected) publication.

  30. This really is helpful, and best of all you just reminded me that I’ve been registered to a forum relevant to my niche for a few months now and haven’t written anything. Thanks, I’m going back to that link now.

  31. I would say that not only are forums a good idea, but for some blog/site topics, they’re invaluable. For example, I’m in a Home & Garden sector, and none of the big sites like Digg have been a good option for me. Topic-specific forums, however, have always been a good market. I haven’t focused on them like I’d like to, but the handful of top bloggers in my category have told me that forums are their primary resource for growing their reader base.
    ~Angela :-)

  32. A very insightful and well-written post!

    You deserve success after all that hard work +_+

  33. Thanks Darren. This is a very timely post. I’ve been hearing a lot about forums lately but haven’t yet done any investigating. I’m enjoying connecting through the comments section of my blog so expanding over to forums seems to be a natural transition. It just moved higher up on my to-do list.

  34. I think the point number 8 says it all…..
    “Be Generous, Be Understated and Be Useful”

    Using a forum is not only related to ”take something from there” (information, help, etc), but also to share, help other on something you already got a solution, state your point of view, present your idea, constructive critics, etc

    That’s why it’s called ‘COMMUNITY FORUM’ ;-)

  35. Good tips, the biggest thing is to ensure that you don’t come out as a spammer. As a community owner, I hate nothing more than a spammer and usually end up blacklisting their sites/blogs to ensure they can’t even be mentioned by other members!

    So follow the tips in this post and make sure you make yourself a valuable member of the forum instead of being just a spammer that every one despises.

  36. Great tips! I have never really thought of it this way.

    Thanks!

  37. Basically, communities want people to be a part of the community. Not people who “invade” it.

  38. Coincidentally, just yesterday I realized the power of forums when I saw a sudden rush of visitors to my blog from Poland to read a post on 1Gb/s optical fiber communication in my blog. The visitors came through a polish forum, in whihc I am not a member, but some of my visitor put a link to my blog as reference to a discussion.

    Forums are really useful to get genuine readers. Thanks for sharing and giving more inputs.

  39. Hi, thanks for the article…I’ve been thinking for a long time about adding a forum to my site, I just don’t know how to get one started although I’ve got all the topics (the initial ones) and am just needing to learn the technical stuff…

    Thanks!!!

  40. Incredible tips,
    I will be using these to promote my entrepreneur’s blog. Thanks heaps

  41. Forums are just another form of social networking. They definitely don’t work if you try to “spray and pray”. The advice of “join and do nothing” is TRULY inspired. Read, listen, learn! Then speak!

    Great advice!!!

  42. thanks for all the comments. Interesting that a few of you seem to think that this post is about adding a forum to your blog…. makes me wonder how much people read posts before commenting :-)

    Brandon and Nancy – I see your points and I don’t think that this will simply ‘work’ for everyone who starts hanging out in forums.

    Keep in mind that the blogger who wrote this says that they hung out in a forum for 5 months, adding value on a daily basis, writing feature length content etc before they hit their ‘tipping point’. Also keep in mind that it seems like it was a fairly big forum and that they were doing it in a number of forums at once.

    The thing I appreciated about this post was the way that they really spent time becoming a genuine part of the forum – something that doesn’t just happen over night.

    Martin – if I’m reading the post correctly there was no swapping of links for services. The forum owner seems to have wanted to thank the blogger for adding so much value to his forum and freely gave them a link. I don’t think it was a ‘payment’ thing.

  43. I used forums on my website and noticed that 99% of what was posted was spam. A huge dissapointment, but this in itself is great information.

  44. I am thinking about doing anonymous guest posting. Darren, do you think, the blogger will except it?

  45. Very helpful post. This is something I haven’t tried yet, will definitely give it a go.

    My first problem though is actually finding a forum in my niche that allows members to have links in their signature. Not one that I have found yet does.

  46. What is the name of the guest blogger and what is his blog?

  47. This is a really useful post. There are forums that are related to my blog that I haven’t been very active on yet. This post is the boost I definitely needed!

  48. I remembered when I used to have a forum. It was both a gift and a curse. If people use these tips NOT only for blogs, but for everything else as far as getting forum traffic, then I would have an easier time.

  49. Hello Darren, Thanks again for one more great article.
    I have not tried to bring visitors from forum but now I will defiantly try this one more method to bring visitors.

  50. this makes a lot of sense. it’s also a great reminder to me that some very old-fashioned rules still serve us all well: be helpful, respectful and polite, and people will usually respond. very aggressive self-promotion — even if the site is an excellent one — is just annoying. but allowing your site to become part of who you are, and allowing the members to get to *know* who you are, is a completely different thing.

    thanks for the great post.