Your task today in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to find and become a member of a web forum in your niche.
I find forums to be a very worthwhile type of website to join and participate in for a number of reasons:
- Relationships – good forums can be incredible communities with a lot of good personal interaction between members. Some of the people that I have worked with more closely over the years are people I have met in forums.
- Profile/Branding – participate in a forum well and you can build your own profile and brand. I’ll never forget the power that ‘Google Guy’ (Matt Cutts) used to have on webmaster forums. He, as a Google employee, used to have incredible influence (and still does today under his own real identity).
- Learning/Post Ideas – one of the best parts about participating in a forum is that as you use them you’ll find yourself with a lot of new knowledge and potential post ideas. Forums are full of threads from beginners in topics asking questions. Grab these questions and answer them on your blog. You can also get scoops on stories from forums if you monitor them well.
- Readership – I’ve put this last because for me it’s not the reason I use forums the most – however I do know some bloggers who generate a lot of traffic from forums. A well read forum can have tens (and hundreds) of thousands of readers – a well placed link back to your blog can have serious impact.
There are plenty of forums out there on most topics. Go on a forum hunt today and when you find one that has a similar topic to your blog sign up and become an active member. To find them it’s usually as simple as searching Google for ‘your topic forum’ (try a few of your main keywords).
So what do you do when you find and have joined a forum?
I guess it depends partly upon the forum and how it operates – but here are a few starting points:
- be a good member and let your reputation grow – it’s the same as with blogging – as you add value to the forum over time with helpful posts, people will want to know more about you and will either PM you or check out your profile page (make sure your link is on it)
- spend time getting to know the forum’s culture – every forum is different – they will not only have different topics, they’ll have different rules, etiquette etc. Before rushing in and promoting your blog, get a feel for the forum. Watch how people post, see what topics are most popular, identify key members.
- make strategic friends – every forum will have members that are more connected and powerful than other members. While I’m not suggesting you make friends just to manipulate them I think it can be smart to be in contact with key players. I learned this a few years back when I joined a forum and found that linking to my own blog had little or no effect – however when one of the forum moderators linked to it, it sent significant traffic. People take notice of these members – they can be useful to know.
- where appropriate, suggest links to things you’ve written as an answer to questions – If they are on topic, helpful and relevant they will usually be allowed (this varies from forum to forum)
- link to your blog in your signature and profile page prominently (although don’t go over the top and make it too spammy)
- Private Message people where appropriate – eg when they are asking questions – the personal touch goes a long way
- break news and link – if news breaks in your niche and you post about it on your blog before anyone in the forum writes about it then this is often a good way of driving traffic. Similarly rumor posts can do quite well in some forums
The level that you can actively promote your blog will vary a lot from forum to forum so you’ve got to get to know the culture of the forum before doing too much. For me it’s more of a long term reputation building exercise than a quick term traffic builder.
I’m by no means the most prolific forum user – but I have found them to be a very useful place to participate in. If you’re using forums, feel free to share your tips as comments.