Forum posting is one of the best, and possibly most under-rated traffic-building strategies available.
In fact, this is one way in which I first began to get traffic when I first started online over a decade ago. But that doesn’t mean it’s outdated – it’s just as relevant and as powerful now, and is something I continue to use today.
Forum traffic can also be a lot more valuable than traffic from other sources.
It sounds simple enough – the basic premise is you post content to popular forums relevant to your niche.
However, it’s not a case of just posting a few comments here and there and hoping for the best. That type of approach is unlikely to bring you much traffic or be worth your while.
Instead, this post will show you the strategies you should be using to achieve maximum impact.
How Does It Work?
By their very nature, forums attract a lot of traffic, whether from regular visitors on the forum, from search engines, or other traffic.
And it’s not just any traffic.
By participating in forums closely aligned with your niche, you are getting your message in front of ideal prospects for your business. That means the traffic you receive is highly targeted, with the visitors you attract many times more valuable than the average visitor.
In terms of search engines, forums offer a valuable source of information, and are often well-moderated to prevent junk and spam content. That means Google and other search engines do tend to rank posts on them fairly highly.
As one example, the Warrior Forum is a popular forum in the Internet marketing community. It has millions of pages indexed by Google:
The content you post on forums can be viewed literally thousands of times. As a result you can continue to receive traffic for months and even several years after your original post.
Most forums encourage your continuing participation. For example, the more helpful you are and the more you are involved, the more prominent your posts and your profile can become. This builds your authority over time and adds more weight to your posts and links.
You can generally link back to your site or your own materials either from the content itself (if done in the right way – see below), from your signature file shown beneath the content you post, and/or from your profile page.
Forget SEO …
If you’re SEO-savvy and are concerned whether such links are follow or no-follow, don’t be. It’s irrelevant. You may get some SEO benefit, but it’s likely to be negligible. You should regard any possible SEO improvement as just a side benefit, rather than the purpose behind your participation. In fact, trying to focus on gaining SEO benefits while engaging in forums can negate some of the real value to be had.
Instead, the real benefits come from the direct click-throughs, i.e. the visitors you attract to your site.
Your focus should be on attracting these direct click-throughs, for example by using the language most appropriate to achieve that goal, rather than any SEO concerns.
Forum Traffic-Building Strategies
1. Find Relevant Forums
Start by finding forums relevant to your niche. The primary method is to search for [your keyword] forum, using a range of different keywords associated with your niche.
For example, if you were in the horse riding niche, you would search for horse riding forum, as shown here:
- equestrian forum
- equine forum
- horseback forum
- saddlery forum
- and so on …
You can use fairly broad, generic keywords – or use long-tail keywords to get really specific.
For example, you might purely focus on the market for children’s horse riding, and so use a keyword like horse riding for children forum.
As well as forums devoted entirely to your chosen keyword(s), you will also find specific topics within wider-topic forums. These can serve your purpose just as well.
To find additional forums to choose from, use the following method too.
vBulletin is a popular piece of software used for running forums. Search for [your keyword] “Powered by vBulletin” and you can find further forums to look at.
For example, if you were looking for angling forums, you may do the following:
2. Determine Which Are Worth Your While
Once you’ve made a list of possible forums to start looking at, you need to determine if they are actually worth your time and effort:
If the last post was some time ago, then obviously the forum has little traction. Posting your own content would not attract much if any interest. Your efforts would therefore be better spent elsewhere.
On the other hand, if there are one or more posts from today or yesterday, then it’s looking more lively and may be worth your involvement.
Although exact stats are difficult to come by, there are usually far more lurkers than posters. Estimates range from 5:1 to as high as 100:1. Posts alone are not an indicator of actual traffic.
It’s important not just to look at the past few days, but at activity in general. There may for example be a short burst of activity, followed by very little for weeks or even months.
Does the forum have a general hum of activity?
Do the posts contain lots of garbage or spammy posts? Or is there genuine interaction (which indicates good moderator activity and an active community)? Does the forum give you the sense of a vibrant community?
Use the checklist above to come up with a shortlist of forums you can start participating in.
3. Start Posting Content … The Right Way
Once you’ve found suitable forums, it’s time to start posting content. But you need to do so in the right way so it actually increases traffic levels for your website.
Start by registering with the community in question. There will usually be a Register or Become a Member type button somewhere.
You will probably be asked to pick a username when you register. The username will be associated with all your posts, so choose wisely. Choose either of the following:
Remember the username will become recognizable and identifiable as you, so you want one that people can easily remember and associate with your content. Avoid generic usernames that look a bit random (eg. Steve6789 or trafficonome53) as it will be harder to stand out as a brand, and can lead to lower levels of credibility and click-throughs to your site.
You’ll likely also need to set up a profile, along with a signature file to be shown after your posts. Both places are opportunities to add links to your site. See below for some pointers to maximize their effectiveness.
Primarily … Help Others
In terms of general strategy, your primary motivation should be to help others. The more you genuinely try to give to these communities, the more benefit you’ll tend to receive.
In some ways it’s similar to social media. If it’s obvious you’re only there for your own benefit, and you’re basically spamming the site with your own links, it will be ineffective and work against you.
Instead, there are ways to provide genuine assistance to and interaction with others, while still attracting click-through to your site.
Here are some pointers:
Every forum is different and will have its own set of rules, likes and dislikes, and general culture.
Therefore, before posting, it’s wise to spend some time on the forum as a lurker and familiarize yourself with it.
When you do start to contribute yourself, you won’t then cause problems or end up in hot water with the forum’s moderators.
Rather than quick, thoughtless ‘Me too’ type contributions posted solely so you can display your link in your signature file (which is likely to be ineffective anyway), you’re instead looking to interest and engage others in the community.
Provide comments based on your own experience and expertise. Be willing to help, and be likeable. Be positive in your interactions.
In doing so, you’ll find people develop a genuine interest in who you are and what you do, and will often click through on your links to find out more about you.
While you can often link to your own site within your posts, it’s important to be careful how you do so. I’d strongly recommend you do so sparingly, and of course to keep within the rules of the forum.
If you link back to your own material with every post, it’s likely you’ll either get warned by a moderator, or possibly banned completely, which of course you want to avoid.
Acceptable linking practice would be for example to link back to a genuinely useful resource (eg. a blog post) that helps answer an original inquiry. Don’t do things like demand an email address before making the resource available, or it can work against you with negative comments thrown back at you.
Similarly, avoid linking to a resource that people would have to pay to access. That goes against the spirit of what forums are all about. The only exception would be of course to post such a resource in a part of the forum where you’re specifically permitted to do so.
You can of course link to other materials too, not just your website. You may for example have a video on YouTube that deals with the exact issue under discussion (or you could create one especially – such gestures can go down very well!). Or you could point to a posting on one of your social media accounts such as Google+ or LinkedIn.
Perhaps you could create a PDF report (or some other free download) that you freely make available in order to add to the value of the forum. By adding your URL to say the beginning and end of the report, you’ll attract traffic (potentially ongoing) from interested parties wanting to find out more about you.
For the best results, just be genuine in your attempts to help others, and try to continually add value to the community you are now part of.
The aim is simply to begin a business relationship with interested parties on the forum, and to add them to your own community (i.e. visitors to your website who may opt-in or follow you on social media) over time.
Part of your aim on forums is to gain authority, and thus more weight to your posts and links. You’ll lack credibility if you only ever link to your own website, so it’s important to link elsewhere too.
Refer to sites and resources owned by others where it’s helpful to other forum users.
By doing so, your authority and credibility will increase. When you do link to your own resources, you’ll enjoy more click-through as a trusted and authoritative forum user.
It’s tempting for newcomers to forum marketing to add click here, buy now type links to their signature file. However, that type of approach is completely ineffective.
Instead, your first goal should be for people to click on the link, not to sell them something.
After they click through to your site, you can then work on the relationship you have with them and over time move towards a sale.
For example, offer a freebie as a click-through incentive. It should be something of relevance and value to the type of person you are trying to attract.
You could even have something exclusive for the forum in question, that outsiders would either have no access to or would otherwise have to purchase.
Once they’re at your site, use an opt-in form to request their email address in return for the freebie. You will then be able to follow-up with them and build your relationship with them.
Don’t always just respond to other people’s threads, start new threads from time to time too. Ask questions, survey people, ask for feedback.
By starting a thread, you’ll be be top of the tree. That means your own profile and links in your signature file will gain maximum visibility for all new traffic clicking through to the thread.
Be responsive to people’s replies to your original post in order to encourage further interaction. More interaction of course means more content, which can attract additional traffic to the thread. Some threads continue for years – and most people look at the originating post to find out what it’s all about.
In conclusion, posting to forums can be one of the most effective (though often most overlooked) methods to build your traffic for the long-term. However, as this post has shown, it has to be approached in the right way to make it effective.
Why not start now by following the advice above to find some initial forums and communities to participate in? You may be surprised by how effective this becomes for you as a traffic generation method.