9 Methods of Message Forum Promotion
Welcome to another one of my articles. In this article, I will be discussing nine methods of promoting a message forum but in full detail. There are many articles that are like this one except the methods and tips are shorts as if the author is just winging them out to let you decide what the meaning of tips are. So I wanted to make a good article with a lot of details and information for each tip to give you all some sort of foundation to start on.
I hope you enjoy my article about message forum promotion. Please feel free to comment after you have read the article with further ideas for promotion and experiences. You may share this article on other websites, blogs and forums as long as you keep all text intact and leave a link to this original article page on the page with the article. Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy this article as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Submit to Search Engines
In this day and age, you don't have to submit to search engines if you don't want to and the bigger engines will likely find your forum. However, it doesn't hurt to submit to the search engines anyways so that the engine can find your forum a lot faster especially as you are making fresh new content on the community and need it to be indexed. I would recommend visiting Google and submitting your forum to it. You only need to do it once, there isn't any good reason to submit it more than once and in some cases, you could get blacklisted for submitting it more than once as it could be seen as spam.
Don't stop at Google! Yeah, Google may be the best search engine out there and the most important one to optimize your forum for but there are also other fish in the sea. Just search for the top 20 search engines or something like that and see about getting your forum linked on each one. The more search engines you have crawling your forum, the more listings you will have and the more traffic and members you might be able to get. I would suggest that you stay away from search engines in China and other non-English parts of the world as that is where the majority of spam bots, bad bots and bandwidth suckers will come from.
It is also a good idea to keep tabs on the search engines keeping tabs on your forum. Set the forum to show search engine names on your who's online list (you may have to look for an add-on pending what forum software you use) and keep track of those engines that visit the most. Then go to that search engine and look for your forum. It is a great way to watch your ranking status on that particular search engine. You can also read up on that search engine and figure out what you need to do to get a higher rank with it. In my experience though, I would highly recommend that you make Google the most important search engine to optimize your forum ranking on because it's the most used and its currently “the thing" right at the moment.
Important Content First
Now it's time to get into search engine indexing a little bit more. Search engines will send spiders over to index your forums which are bots. These spiders will collect your information and send it back to the search engine to be listed within its results and ranked appropriately. While most of your forum content will be indexed, especially the newer content that is posted, it is still a good idea to put the more important stuff at the top of your forum. This means that anything you want more indexed than other things, you need to move it closer to the top of the forum.
An example of this would be your main niche boards and categories. You would want to put this at the top of the forum categories. On my forums, I show the news and help boards first and then the main content for the niche. I keep all the less important content such as the off-topic section on the bottom since I want my forum indexed by the contents related to the niche. It would also be a good idea to add any pages to the main navigation that you would like to become popular so that the pages are indexed before the less popular pages and content.
Google is always changing how its SEO works so there are a lot of previous SEO methods that are really no longer important. For one thing, using different header tags is not that important anymore for SEO. Google and other engines are starting to go after the main content more than anything else now so that means that you should be worrying more about the content that you post on your forum. Content will always be king so you need to ensure that there is plenty of it and constant fresh amounts as well. When it comes to forum SEO, there is not a whole lot you can do because of the way forum's produce content but the content YOU provide will make a difference and that is the SEO method you should be focusing on more than anything.
Offer some sort of Newsletter or eZine
One major important thing for a forum is the return rate. The return rate is the return of members to visit the forum again after they join and each time they post. You want to ensure that you have a community that brings people back to it as much as possible. Fresh and unique content will help with this for the most part but sometimes you have to remind them that the forum is still around and that they are members of it. This can be made possible by having a newsletter or eZine for the forum.
The newsletter or eZine should be related to the forum's activity but also related to the niche. So for example, if you have a forum about shoes and have a contest going, you should include in the newsletter that you have a contest going and that active member can win and then you should also include hot topics about shoes and maybe the latest news about shoes as well. Those plain old boring newsletters that everyone sends using some default method are nothing but annoying and a lot of times seen as spam. So you need to focus on making your newsletter or eZine something worthy of a read by other members.
One way I get non-active members to come back is to use the mass email function and send them all a newsletter. I don't send newsletters that often but I mainly try to do it when we have hit a big milestone or when I add a new feature to the forum that I think everyone would love to use or be a part of. I make sure the newsletter is interesting and I add some humor into it as well. So far I have not really had too many complaints about sending it besides someone here and there who doesn't like to get newsletters. Soon I plan to start releasing eZines (online magazines) for my forum's niche in hopes that will attract more members and previous members to become active again.
Jump up on the Social Wagon
There are some people out there that absolutely refuse to integrate social networking and media into their forum because they feel it will ruin the reasons of why a forum is what it is. That is fine and dandy however, in this day and age, social networks are starting to rule the web ground and forums are a great website method to get involved into social networks. Now on most of my forums, I do not let others connect to them using social networks because I am bit wary of it but I do use other features of the social networking and media world.
One thing I do try to use the most is Facebook pages and Twitter profiles. I will make a FB page and Twitter profile for each forum I start and I will connect the two together so that when one has a post, the other one posts it as well. I also usually use free RSS connection services to connect my newest forum threads to FB and Twitter so that I never have to do any of the work and there is a constant flow of new content going on each social profile. There are other social profiles to choose from as well and using more than one is not a bad idea, it's actually a good idea because it means more of your content will be out there stretched across the web.
Social Bookmarking is also a good way to go when running a message forum. Those are sites like Digg, Tumbler and so on. They are usually a default feature though some forum software requires you to have a modification to use them. They sit on each topic and allow you and your members to share them on their social bookmarking profile page. This will get topics spread out across the web and will not only bring in more traffic but it will help with ranking for each topic you and your members decide to add as a bookmark. If you do use social bookmarking though, I would encourage you to add a lot of bookmarks for each topic and encourage your members to do so as well otherwise it could become a forgotten feature that never gets used and you don't want that.
Make your Forum Sticky
Now it's time to get back to why content is king. When it comes to making a successful forum, it's wise to have the lessons of content stuffed down your ear into your brain until you just cannot take any more in. There are many people who will get annoyed because so many articles and forum owners recommend constant unique content but it's the solid truth and the truth shalt set you free while making your message forum a better community for everyone.
You need to focus on what sort of content you are putting on your forum. A few one sentence topics here and there are just setting you up for a quick failure. You need to add a lot of new topics that are not read anywhere else and they each need to have about a paragraph of sentences each. A little secret that I do is asking a lot of questions in each topic in hopes that the reader will be able to relate to all or at least one of the questions and then continue the discussion by replying with their answer. Then I will attempt to reply with yet another question about their answer. This usually brings about the topics with more than 3 pages of replies.
Content needs to be unique and not found anywhere else. Sure you can go around other forums and websites looking for post ideas but chances are, those post ideas have been talked about a lot and many may find them boring. So now it's that time in forum running that you have to use your intelligence, your brain and your creative mind to make something that cannot be found anywhere else. People feed of new topics and discussions and that is when you're going to get your best forum results. Plus people will talk about how your forum always has unique topics and more people will likely want to join in on the fun and register on your community.
Start a Referral Contest
A referral contest is a great way to increase membership on a forum and you can practically run one anytime you want to. The idea of a referral contest is that you give a prize to the member or members with the most new member invites. I always make at least 3 prize changes (first, second and third place) so that more people have a chance of winning. If only one person has a chance of winning, then it will become harder for people to attempt to win and they might give up easily or decide that they don't want to participate and then you will not get potential new members.
You also want to develop a good set of rules when having a referral contest. You want to express to members that you will not tolerate spam because if they spam people to join, the people that have been spammed may see your forum as a forum that spams others and you do not want that sort of reputation at all. It would also be a good idea to inform members participating that you only want them to refer new members who will become active members otherwise they will invite everyone and their brother to just join so they can have more referral points and to me, that is just plain cheating, period. I would recommend having the contest last anywhere from 2 to 4 months so that you can get more and more new members joining from the referral participants.
Prizes will be the difficult part of running any kind of contest. If you offer generic prizes like premium membership or an announcement made, chances are, people are not going to participate. People want to win things that they will enjoy these days. I always offer my first prize winner a good chunk of money as part of their prize and then I add a few more different extras such as premium membership, listed as a winner and so on. It is good to make all prize chances have more than one prize because people will likely want to participate more if they have a chance of winning several different things.
Pay for some Advertising
Paying for advertisements is not a bad idea. However, not knowing what advertisements to buy, well that can be a bad idea. Research around and find the most successful advertising to purchase for plugging you message forum. One trick I do is find websites that advertise my competition and then I check their rates. I also look at websites that sell advertising and that are related to my niche some way, shape or form. For example, a posting service would be a great spot to purchase advertising for my admin forum since other forum owners will likely go to that website. Stick with the advertising that will likely get you traffic that would be into your forum's niche.
You can also pay for some content which might as well be paying for advertisements because it's getting members over to join your forum and post. Now I have never purchased a plan from an actual paid posting service before so I cannot fully say they can be trusted. In this case, I would recommend you do your research on the posting service and check for reviews. I would even go as far as finding a service with a free trial plan to see what sort of posts you will be paying for. You should also ask around to other forum owners and see which services they trust to purchase paid posting on.
There are also free and paid posting services. The free method is that you post on other people's forums for points which enable you to enable your forum to be posted on. However, you must be active on other forums to keep your points up because if they go so far down, your forum listing will be disabled. There is also a paid route which is what I use. I will buy points for a bit over $20 or so and then have plenty where people can post on my forum. Each time I get a new post, my points decrease but I still don't have to do much work myself. For an admin forum, this was a good idea because it brought forum owners over and since my forum is about running forums, a lot of people decided to stay.
Run more Contests
We have already talked about running a referral contest but if you just run one contest, your members are likely to become bored with the same old thing. So you should consider mixing it up a little bit and running other contests from time to time as well. We have discussed prizes in the referral contest portion of this article so be sure that you keep that in mind when making another contest. There are plenty of ideas about other contests to run and below are two fairly good ideas for them.
Run a posting contest! A posting contest is simple, you add a credit system which most forum software has modifications for and you allow your members to make new topics, replies, polls, be active and so on for credits/points. Then the member with the most points at the end of the contest will win. As a suggestion, I would give more points for making a new topic than I would for making a reply. If there is more points for new topics then members will likely make more new topics which will help bring your statistics up and make your community look a lot more active and better.
A unique contest idea is the Member of the Month contest. This is where members try their best to become the Member of the Month by being very active, posting a lot, getting more people to join the forum, welcoming new members, being helpful when people need assistance and showing others that they are a good asset to the community. This will not only give you active members but guests will be able to see how friendly members are and will likely join because of the happy forum environment.
Give Away Something for Free
Everyone likes free stuff so you should consider giving away something for free. This could be anything from educational resources to eBooks, free software to design services, signature link banners to gift certificates and even the more popular coupons. If you give away something for free to a member of the community, they will really feel appreciated and will likely visit again. They will probably also tell other people about it and more people will want to join to get something free.
I honestly think an eBook would be your best bet. It seems like with most niche topic forums, you can write an eBook for that topic. If you do go with an eBook, make sure it is long and full of information and resources related to the niche. Make sure people can easily download it and don't add any sort of advertisements or content that could harm another's computer like spyware and malware. Advertise the eBook outside your forum to give it some more promotion. Lastly, you should try to update the eBook with changes as they come in association with your niche.
Another thing to try is giving free stuff away to premium members on your forum. This means that people will purchase a premium membership for premium features such as custom user title, access to hidden boards and no advertisements plus whatever free thing you are giving to them such as a software download or an eBook. This could increase the rate of premium member signups which can help you pay the server costs or use the money for whatever you need to use it for.
Thanks for reading my article and I hope you enjoyed it!