I wrote this blog post to help any forum that is serious about growth and improving their community. Promoting your forum can be easier than you think, and often times free! Keep reading to learn how to grow your forum and increase your membership.
A First Look
In order to successfully promote your forum, you must first examine the methods by which new members find your site. Here are a few of the main ways you get users:
- Search engines – people use Google and other search engines to find what they are interested in
- Links – users click a link to your forum from another site
- Referrals – current members tell people they know about the forum
- Advertising – a person clicks an advertisement that links to your site
Of the 4 methods listed above, the first three can be accomplished at no monetary cost. However, as with all good things, it will take time. Let’s ignore #4 and take a look at how to leverage the free ways to promote your forum.
Before we start, let me explain one very important point: Content is King!
Promoting your forum starts with having an active forum with as high quality content as possible. The better your content, the easier it will be to attract the attention of search engines and people. And good content doesn’t just attract members, it keeps them! And it gives them a reason to share it with others. If people like your forum and find value in its content, then they will promote it for you.
Your forum’s content is picked up by search engines and found by future members doing searches. The subject of your forum and its posts will determine how the search engine indexes your site in addition to which keywords to associate with your content. If your forum content focuses on cars, the people searching for cars are more likely to see your site in the results. This is called relevancy and it drives how search engines index sites.
However, content is not the only thing search engines look at when determining relevancy and how to rank your page in their results for a given keyword. They also look at links pointing to your site.
Many search engines look at both internal links (link to the same site) and external links (link to a different site), but external links tend to be much more important. Not only that, Google’s Page Rank system looks at how relevant the site linking to your site is for that keyword.
In other words, if a site about bikes links to your site about cars, that is not as relevant of a link as a site about Toyotas linking to your site about cars. Google will place more weight on the second link than the first link.
The best links you are get are real links from real people, rather than creating your own on other sites. If your forum has great value, it will attract people who will share your link on other sites. It never hurts to ask your members to spread the word, too. You can also ask for link exchanges with sites of the same topic or niche.
Otherwise, you will need to submit your forum’s link to directories or share it yourself on other sites. This is okay to do as long as you are creating quality posts/comments on those sites and you aren’t just spamming your link everywhere. Also, we careful which directories you submit your site to as some of them are link farms and search engines generally look down on those.
Another way to promote your site is through referrals. Referrals come in many forms, from people verbally telling others about your forum to users sharing links to your site on other relevant sites or social networks. If you have great content, then people will just naturally want to share it with others.
However, it can be a good idea to give people a little nudge. Ask your members to share your forum with people they know. But don’t just do this once, do this every once in a while. Periodically reminding them to help their beloved community grow and thrive can have very positive results. If your users like your site, they will be glad to lend a helping hand.
But, of course, promoting your site will only work if you have good content. So what are some ways that you can not only improve the content of your forums, but get more of it? Here are some ideas:
- Use someone else’s content
- WARNING: DO NOT PLAGIARIZE
- when referencing content from another site, never post the entire article, only post a snippet
- always give credit and link to the original source
- Invite experts and authorities in your niche to participate in your forum
- experts may include popular bloggers, article writers, members of other forums, or even professionals
- send a friendly email or personal message to these people inviting them to share some new thoughts or ideas, or answer questions on your forum
- if they agree, make an announcement on your forum to get people excited and ready to interact with the expert guest
- Ask a friend
- or two or twenty!
- if your forum’s niche is on something your friends are in to, then they would probably be willing to help get some good content on there
- ask your friends’ friends, too!
- DIY – Do It Yourself
- there will always be a need for you to create content on your forum
- you are a participant and member, too, so keep adding your own knowledge, thoughts, and ideas to the mix
- before you hit submit, make sure that what you have typed will help someone in some way or that it is interesting and relevant to your forum’s focus
Promoting your forum can be tough. There are a lot of forums out there that don’t make it. That is just the reality of it, but if you put in your full effort, get help along the way, and keep pushing forward, your chances at creating a strong and vibrant community are increased exponentially. I guarantee that all the successful forums out there never gave up.
And just to reiterate, if you need help, ask for it. You will be surprised who is willing to lend a helping hand out there and just how much you can accomplish as a team.