Advertising on a dime (literally)
Let's face it. For those of us who are just getting our new forums started, and those who have been running their forums or website for a small amount of time, we know by now that advertising on other sites can be an expensive venture. It seems nowadays that a thousands are starting webpages with little money in hand to get their site going.
This guide is just a stepping stone to the many great articles and resources we have here on TAZ, with the specific purpose of helping you get your forum more targetted traffic, for free (minus the fact that you have to spend some time doing these things, however). Everything in this guide is based on having no money whatsoever for advertising your website on the increasingly large internet.
The first step to being able to get your forum or website traffic venture started is.. quite obviously, having a forum or website. Because there are hundreds upon thousands of websites available today for people to use, it is in ones best interest to find a certain niche for your website, that is, finding your own little share of the "market," so to speak, of users to cater your forums and website to. This must also be implemented when you're looking for valid sites to advertise your own site on. An example of this would be, if you're running a website with forums about a certain genre of music, advertising on a site that has a community of alligator lovers would not be a good niche to advertise or affiliate with.
Based upon past experiences, there are many ways that you can get decent advertising through many free services available on the internet. But it's going to take some work on your part. If you have not already read SEO for the Beginner: FAQ & Resources, that would be a good start to getting the most out of your site. [link]
The following are some simple ways of getting your site and name out there without spending a dime, in no particular order.
1 ) Forum Directories
Forum directories are exactly what they're called: directories of forums, all collected on one website. These sites offer users the ability to find forums by selecting a certain niche and listing forums under that niche. A lot of forum directories will allow you to add your website for free (requiring no reciprocal link back to them,) however some require a link back to their site in order to submit your site.
2 ) Other Forums & Communities
Perhaps one of the most time consuming practices among those that are free forms of advertising and traffic for your site or forums, are posting on other forums with your link in the signature. Though some forums do not allow signatures from their members, quite a large percent do allow you to. This one is pretty simple: Sign up for a few forums that are seemingly in the same or close niche to yours, post a few quality posts (do not go to other forums and just spam your link all over the place, this is not only bad netiquette, but will more than likely result in you being banned, and will also put forth a bad image of your site) A simple link in your signature with some descriptive text, or maybe even a small image with a link to your site is often enough to bring in some extra traffic. If your posts show that you're interested in the subject, and also in quality over quantity, you'll get more traffic than posting "lol" just to get your link shown. Of course, if you stick around on the forums, this can also bring in more traffic, and is encouraged if you like their community Yahoo groups and chat is another way to encourage people to visit your site.
3 ) Topsite lists
Topsite lists are simply lists of websites that are the "top" sites in their respective niche. There are many, many websites available which offer topsites for tons of different niches, so some research on your part is definitely suggested. Topsites allow you to post a small image on your site to allow users to vote for your site on whatever toplist you've signed up to, and in doing so will "push" your link and banner up higher on their site list. Usually as long as you pick the right niche of topsites for your site to submit to, this can drive in some extra targeted traffic. Topsites aren't really a great way to get much traffic unless you're pretty high up the list, however.
4 ) Trading links with other sites
This is probably the most popular and helpful way of "advertising" your site for free. Trading links with other webmasters will promote your site in a number of ways. Firstly, if your site or forums are new, this can help you build backlinks to your website, and increase your PR (pagerank) on search engines. Like most of the others, it's best to find sites that relate or are close to your niche, for example, if you run a website or forums for musical instruments, it would be in your best interest to find a site to trade links with that caters to people that are generally interested in music, or sites that sell musical instruments, even. The possibilities are endless, and the more backlinks to other sites you have, the more PR your site will eventually build.
5 ) Word of mouth!
Today, you go out to eat somewhere with your family to a new restaurant you have never eaten at before. You get there, are seated promptly, the waitstaff are very upbeat and cheerful, you place your orders and get your food quickly and it's great food, all for a great price to feed your entire family. You go home, and call a friend and tell them about this restaurant because of your great experience there. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Though on the internet it's not so big because so many people's biased opinions are floating around, having someone that genuinely likes your site tell another as a friend or co-worker the best way to generate real interest in your site. Generally, word of mouth works the best once you have a substantial population of users, topics and posts on your site already.
6 ) MySpace!
As much as some users despise myspace (myself included,) it is a great resource for finding people interested in your website or forums. Posting a link on your myspace profile, or posting a bulletin on their site can bring in more traffic than you would believe. Just remember to use descriptive text about your site, what your site offers over the others, and a link.
6 ) Post exchanges
If you're reading this article, you may already be aware of all the wonderful features we have here on TAZ, and one of them that I fancy quite well is the post/link/banner exchange forum. Here, you can find other webmasters who are interested in trading links, banners or posts on their websites for the same on yours. Post exchanges will help to build the number of posts, and threads on your site. Users coming to your site will not be interested if they come to your forums and they're empty. It's like going to a party where there is nobody, why would anyone want to do that? Getting your site filled with good quality content is the best way to drive traffic to your site. If you have content that users will want to read or take part in, you'll be able to get the most out of these tips.
7 ) Expanding on Articles and Content
By writing articles and content for your website, you're doing quite a few things. You're giving your visitors and site users something to read and catch their interest. You can also visit the forums you've signed up for and share some of your article text with them, and a link to encourage people to visit your site. In the end, Articles and content prevail over design and anything else. A site with lots of content and no design will always do better in the end than a site with no content and a nice look.