15 Ways To Get Traffic To Your Forum
There are literally 1000's of ways to get traffic to a website both from using online and offline methods. However, not all these methods work on a forum because of the different structures and environments that online communities create. I decided to create this article based on 15 different traffic development methods that I have used and watched become successful. These tips are all experiments that I have done on message forums. I hope you enjoy these tips and please feel free to share them with others - all I ask is that you link back to my original posts so I can get some credit for writing these free articles for your enjoyment.
Forum Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is important in the internet and search engine world. Google is getting firmer on how people can conduct SEO activities but there is still room for SEO to make websites better in search engines. You can use many different SEO tactics on a forum but some of them will fail because of the user generated content function of message forums. You do not have control of ensuring all content has the right keywords, you do have control of bringing in new content that can help create unique freshness to your community. The main objective of this tip is that you should focus on content SEO more than forum SEO. Focus on bringing fresh not-seen-before content to your forum that people will be dying to read on your forum. Make your unique content user friendly but also something new for the search engine. Put yourself in the shoes of a visitor and ask yourself what sort of content you would like to see that you have not seen before.
2. Back links
Back links are still a good method on getting traffic based on how your forum pages rank on a search engine. In terms of Page Rank (a Google ranking structure), ranking is done on a per-page basis hence the “Page" (well, that and the fact that it was developed by Larry Page) in Page Rank. Your forum homepage should be priority so that should be the page you are advertising. The best way to gain back links is to get your forum link on other forums, blogs and websites that relate to your niche (or topic). This creates relevant back links and helps to raise your ranking in search engines. You should avoid websites that have a lot of spam or heavy SEO methods applied to them.
3. Forum Signatures
Joining other forums allows you to be social and it enables you to start building a reputation for yourself. The great thing about most forums is they allow members to display a signature link and some forums are okay with competing links being displayed, like I allow at AAF. You do want to make sure you read the rules though before you add a signature link as some forums prohibit it. You should always abide by the rules on other forums because your reputation depends on it. If you get seen as a spammer, you will be a spammer to most and your link will be seen as spam. You should also be a contributing member of any forum you join. If other members like you, they will likely check out your forum links and maybe even join to be around you more. If you join a forum and post one liners, people will assume you are trying to spam your forum and not take your seriously at all.
4. Blog Comments
A blog comment can actually get your forum traffic. But blog comments apply the same as forum signatures; you have to contribute something worthy to get better attention. Read a blog that is related to your niche and then make a comment that engages both the blogger and their readers. Ask more questions, good questions or give a great answer that adds more value to the big picture of what the blog is trying to say to its readers. Become a regular commenter of a blog and develop a great relationship with the blogger and other readers who comment. Always be friendly and try not to play devil's advocate or say negative responses because that could turn people off from wanting to continue to discuss things with you. Add your forum link in the blog comment area where a website field is provided. If there is no website field provided, you shouldn't add it to your post because it will be seen as spam and really comment will likely be added as spam.
5. Social Media
Some forum owners say that social networks are destroying the forum industry. This could be a true logic in some cases but why not use social media instead of fear it? I created a forum for weather related discussions and used Facebook to advertise it. I liked weather related pages, talked to the page owner about posting my link and then posted my forum link to advertise my weather forum. It was a great way to get traffic because the fans of weather topics want to join all the weather related communities they can find. This may not be the same in all niches but it is worth a shot, isn't it?
Post articles relating to your niche and post different articles on different article websites and directories. A tactic I often use is posting articles on Squidoo.com and Hubpages.com because you can earn ranking on those websites and ranking will gain you more followers and readers. If you get better rank, your articles usually get better positions in their built-in directory and search functions plus you can earn money as well. They are a lot friendlier than standard article sites that don't have many features on getting yourself to the top. If I could suggest one thing though, I would suggest that you never make an article more than once meaning if you write an article about X, you should never duplicate X on another article site, you should instead write an article about Y and then Z.
7. Social Bookmarking
I highly suggest using social bookmarking functions on your forum. Websites like Digg.com and Reddit.com are still being used by a large user base. The best methods I have used for social bookmarking is sharing hot topics that get a lot of responses. I also share any article that I create as well. You should just stick with the main social bookmarking sites and social networks when sharing topics and articles. This will surely bring traffic to your forum.
Start a blog relating to your niche! Yeah, you already have a forum but why not make a blog as well? Here is a suggested tactic for forum owners who want to make a blog. Turn of blog comments! Create blog posts and then create a topic about the blog on your forum for discussing the blog. Then add the forum topic to the bottom of the blog for people to discuss the blog topic. Do this for some hot topics but not all of them. Maybe post a new blog a week or something like that! This will get activity to your forum and possibly new members who really want to comment on the blog.
9. Answer Questions
Services like Yahoo! Answers and other answer-niched websites are also great to use to promote your forum. Go hunt for questions that relate to your forum's niche and focus on questions that you have already discussed on your forum. Then when you answer them, you can link to a topic on your forum as the source for your answer. This is also a good tactic on helping you seem more like an expert of your forum's niche. Try to become a top contributor of the answer services you participate on because it will make your answers more trusted than others.
10. Outside Newsletters
Start a newsletter or announcement list related to your niche! Do this outside of your forum and on a separate domain if possible. Give incentive to users to sign up for the newsletter. Give them a free eBook or something like that and maybe even some videos that could help them. You can use this newsletter to advertise your forum. Be sure to never add email addresses to your newsletter though, it should only be made for people who want to join it and don't spam your forum too much. You should put useful information in the newsletter than cannot be found anywhere else. Email marketing is also a great way to earn money from selling advertisements in the newsletter.
11. Encourage Sharing
Encourage your members to share your forum with their friends and family. Encourage them to link it on Facebook and Twitter, social bookmark topics and email topics to others. Tell your members that if they help spread the word about your forum, it can help your forum become bigger. Your valued and active members will help your site grow and there is nothing wrong with asking them for help. But be sure to avoid begging them to spread the word. Stay away from statements about threatening to close down or being whiney about not being a big board. You don't want to turn off your members.
12. Submit to Directories
If you are thinking about submitting to directories, there really is only certain directories that are worth submitting to. DMOZ.org is a good directory because its contents is used by other directories and websites. If you are lucky enough to get a link on DMOZ.org, you will have a better ranking in search engines because of it. The best way to get linked on DMOZ is to become an editor in the section relating to your niche and then submit your forum link that way. However, as a DMOZ editor myself, I ask that you actually contribute to DMOZ and don' just become an editor for your own gain. The other directories are really not that important accept maybe forum directories and directories attached to other forum relating to your niche.
One of the newest methods of advertising is to teach a class online. There are plenty of software and service options to create an online course, too! Create a course based on a topic of your niche and advertise the course on your forum and other niche-related websites. Teach people how to do something new relating to the niche and advertise your forum as a resource to get more information about the topic that you are teaching about.
Videos are also proving to be great for advertising websites. Create videos and upload them on YouTube about your niche. The best type of video is a video that teaches someone how to do something. You can advertise your forum in the video as well as the video description. Then you should focus on advertising the video with video response features on YouTube, which will get your traffic and viewers to your video. You should also submit your video to your own forum as well so that your members can see it and share it with others.
Write eBooks about topics within your niche. The best type of eBooks are eBooks that teach people how to do something. Everyone wants to learn something new and they want to learn it for free. An eBook is perfect for this. This is something I do for AAF; I add “AnotherAdminForum.com Presents" and then make a title for the eBook. This gives my forum some extra promotion and it's the first things the eBook readers will see as it is a part of the title.
I hope these tips help you! Please comment with more tips to help forum owners promote their forum to gain more traffic!