AAF's How-To get an active forum!
Another Admin Forum (AAF) is not a big board by all means but it's a growing active forum within the forum administrator niche. So I decided to write an article on behalf of AAF as a how-to article on having your own active forum. I will give my secrets to you so that you can implement them on your community and help it become an active and growing forum. I like to share the wealth so I hope you enjoy this article. Thank you for reading it and please feel free to leave a comment or two. Please note that this is a premium article so sharing it outside this board is prohibited.
Don't mislead anyone
Don't focus on adjusting your forum completely to SEO standards. As many have said, if you go 100% SEO on your forum, it will become more spider-friendly but less user-friendly. If fewer users want to use your forum, then there will be no point of SEO tactics. The best SEO tactics to use on a forum is content building and back links. The content building part is easy but it will take some time and concentration. You need to make sure the forum continues to deliver fresh and unique content at a constant level. A forum's job will never stop; you will always have to keep pushing new content. Eventually members will start to assist in pushing new content but that is because they are following you, the leader, so you will continue to show an example so they continue to follow your lead. The back links are not as important as content but they help build your ranking in search engines. You should exchange links or purchase links on relevant forums and websites which means forums and websites that share your niche or topic.
When you start a forum, you instantly start a reputation and your reputation will always be on the line. You need to make sure that you put the truth down and never mislead your visitors and members. If you make one mistake that can harm your forum's reputation, it will not only make your forum always have a bad reputation but it will likely give you a bad forum running reputation as well and that my friends, is horrible in the forum business world. You need to ensure that the information you provide is not only worthy and resourceful but it needs to be truthful and fair. You should also never gossip about other people and especially competitors because that will make you look bad as well. If you need to address a mistake that someone else is spreading, that is fine but make sure it's in a very professional manner because people will be looking to see how you react. As a tip, I have seen people out there who intentionally spread rumors and start stuff only to watch their competition fail horribly and then that is one less rival they have to worry about. It's a good idea to be paranoid when running a forum that you would like to get into the top section of your niche.
Black Hat SEO is dangerous. SEO is a gamble to begin with but when doing with black hat, it's like counting cards and having a spotter, meaning its basically cheating. Black Hat SEO is SEO tactics that are not allowed by most search engines (like Google) and they are unethical tactics. Some forum owners use the black hat method and some of them get away with it. The majority of them get caught and suffer penalties including getting their website listing banned from Google. It takes a very long time to get your forum unbanned from Google. If you do happen to get it unbanned, it will likely mean that Google will be watching your forum very closely and will ban it again if you do anything wrong at all. So don't do it in the first place. If you do decide to use black hat SEO tactics, don't get caught because if you do, you deserve every bad thing you face. Yeah, black hat SEO folks are not respected in the webmaster community at all, so you will likely be a loner after doing those tactics.
The most common mistake that forum owners tend to make is going straight to SEO once they make a forum. You wouldn't believe how many “How can I improve my forum's SEO" questions I have seen in my 15+ years experience in forum administration. SEO is not the answer; it is just a tool of getting your name out. Any business can get their name out but they are nothing until they actually get a customer. That is the same with forums. You need to focus on members before focusing on SEO. I would focus more on talking to other members on my forum before getting another back link. If you do want to focus on SEO and members all at the same time, you can do that with content. Just start posting new topics that are eye catching and that drive members to reply to them. The new content will keep members talking and it will keep search engine spiders indexing. Don' make the common mistake of addressing SEO before members because the results will not be in your favor.
You also need to keep your members happy and that sometimes means doing for them that you don't want to do. If members want an off-topic board but you do not want one, think of them before you think of yourself and give them their off-topic board. If they want classifieds feature but you don't want one, you might want to reconsider your thoughts and think about your members first. The members will build your community and make it active not just you. You need to keep them happy and do things to please them. This tactic will not only keep members active on your forum but it will also help build a better reputation for you and your forum.
Make others see what you see
Before you create a forum, you usually have a vision for it and why it will become successful. I made AAF to show others that it is a unique admin forum and it is because instead of being ran by XenForo and having the same old same old features, I run it with a different software than most and I add unique features that have not been seen anywhere else. I started forum of the month and review of the month contests that pay cash prizes, I start premium memberships that give to charity and more. I keep the forum unique and I make sure it is known to other members so that they can see how unique it really is. You also need to make sure your forum explains itself and is descriptive enough where your members know what it is all about. If I visit your forum and don't know what it is about, I am probably not going to make the effort to have to work to realize what the forum is about.
Don't overdo it! Don't look at your competition and duplicate everything they have and add a whole lot of features where it becomes bloated. When it comes to modifications, you should also try to keep the amount as low as possible because important updates can break the modification or even the forum. That is for all the forum software out there as well. You should also only focus on extra features that are actually used. If you install a classifieds section and no one ever uses it, then it will make your forum look inactive all because that classifieds section is inactive. If you add something and it doesn't end up working, you should consider getting rid of it and moving on. Sometimes when adding features that are also seen on rival forums, you need to add something more to it otherwise it is just a boring old feature just like the other guy.
My Content Secret
You won't get members until you have content and the amount of content from the get go is important. My secret is a simple system: Start by assuming people are only watching and not responding. Then start posting new topics as if you are blogging except the topics can be smaller than a blog and you can add more. After that, research what the hot topic of the niche is and then start making more topics based upon your research. Post 5 to 10 topics each day you visit your forum in each main section of your forum. If you have 3 main boards on your forum, you should post a total of 15 to 30 new topics in those boards each day you visit the forum. I recommend visiting every day if that is possible. Do this for about 2 to 3 months and you will likely have a very high post count for the forum. If there is topics, it give incentive for people to want to join and post.
So hopefully by the time you do all that above, you have people posting their heads off. Next you need to keep the discussions going. I try to respond to every topic and previous reply that I can. I also try to respond adding more to the topic or keeping the topic going with a question. Its good to build a relationship with your members by getting into long discussions with them. It also makes your forum look more active with more active discussions. Usually when there is a long discussion, members want to get into it and tell their opinions and thoughts on it.
Get the word out
Be sure to start the fire of an active forum by getting the word out about your forum. I used post exchanges as a start to get some active members. I usually bought points and due to my niche, quite a bit of the Post Loop users decided to stay as active members. There is nothing wrong with getting post changes to help jump start or develop a forum. In my opinion, buying forums and merging them into yours is worse because you are doing less work to get bigger. If you do post exchanges, you are helping another person while they are helping you. I think that is good on all terms.
Relevant back links are also a good way to get the word out. Go to other websites, blogs and forums that share your niche and see if they want to conduct a link exchange. Be sure to research them first though as you dont want to be linked to a website that has a bad reputation because their visitors may think your forum is bad as well. Share your forum with your close friends and family both online and off line. My good friends always join my forums to help me get them started. In fact, a lot of my good friends become staff on my forums because I know them well and can trust them well. You can submit to search engines if you want to but it really isnt needed anymore because Google and other search engines are just waiting for new forums to pop up and be indexed. I never submitted AAF to Google once and there are several Google spiders on my forum every day at all times of the day.
I hope you have enjoyed this premium article. I hope it can help you help make your forum more active. Thank you for reading and please show your support by leaving a comment!