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Search for and Join Forums on Your Blog’s Topic

Building-A-Better-Blog-2Your task today in the 31 Days to Building a Better Blog project is to find and become a member of a web forum in your niche.

Why Forums?

I find forums to be a very worthwhile type of website to join and participate in for a number of reasons:

  • Relationships – good forums can be incredible communities with a lot of good personal interaction between members. Some of the people that I have worked with more closely over the years are people I have met in forums.
  • Profile/Branding – participate in a forum well and you can build your own profile and brand. I’ll never forget the power that ‘Google Guy’ (Matt Cutts) used to have on webmaster forums. He, as a Google employee, used to have incredible influence (and still does today under his own real identity).
  • Learning/Post Ideas – one of the best parts about participating in a forum is that as you use them you’ll find yourself with a lot of new knowledge and potential post ideas. Forums are full of threads from beginners in topics asking questions. Grab these questions and answer them on your blog. You can also get scoops on stories from forums if you monitor them well.
  • Readership – I’ve put this last because for me it’s not the reason I use forums the most – however I do know some bloggers who generate a lot of traffic from forums. A well read forum can have tens (and hundreds) of thousands of readers – a well placed link back to your blog can have serious impact.

There are plenty of forums out there on most topics. Go on a forum hunt today and when you find one that has a similar topic to your blog sign up and become an active member. To find them it’s usually as simple as searching Google for ‘your topic forum’ (try a few of your main keywords).

So what do you do when you find and have joined a forum?

I guess it depends partly upon the forum and how it operates – but here are a few starting points:

  • be a good member and let your reputation grow – it’s the same as with blogging – as you add value to the forum over time with helpful posts, people will want to know more about you and will either PM you or check out your profile page (make sure your link is on it)
  • spend time getting to know the forum’s culture – every forum is different – they will not only have different topics, they’ll have different rules, etiquette etc. Before rushing in and promoting your blog, get a feel for the forum. Watch how people post, see what topics are most popular, identify key members.
  • make strategic friends - every forum will have members that are more connected and powerful than other members. While I’m not suggesting you make friends just to manipulate them I think it can be smart to be in contact with key players. I learned this a few years back when I joined a forum and found that linking to my own blog had little or no effect – however when one of the forum moderators linked to it, it sent significant traffic. People take notice of these members – they can be useful to know.
  • where appropriate, suggest links to things you’ve written as an answer to questions – If they are on topic, helpful and relevant they will usually be allowed (this varies from forum to forum)
  • link to your blog in your signature and profile page prominently (although don’t go over the top and make it too spammy)
  • Private Message people where appropriate – eg when they are asking questions – the personal touch goes a long way
  • break news and link - if news breaks in your niche and you post about it on your blog before anyone in the forum writes about it then this is often a good way of driving traffic. Similarly rumor posts can do quite well in some forums

The level that you can actively promote your blog will vary a lot from forum to forum so you’ve got to get to know the culture of the forum before doing too much. For me it’s more of a long term reputation building exercise than a quick term traffic builder.

I’m by no means the most prolific forum user – but I have found them to be a very useful place to participate in. If you’re using forums, feel free to share your tips as comments.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the tip Darren. I never really thought of forums as something in which I can extend my site’s exposure. I always thought that it was wrong to join forums just for marketing my site. After reading this article I noticed that there is more to it; that there are also some “strategies” as you call it.

    The last tip point is very nice: break news before everyone else. That’s true to everything else too like Digg. If you’re the first to break the news on something, traffic comes in seamlessly.

  2. Sean says:

    Brilliant tip! I’m joined to a few forums, the key is getting popular! :P Then people want to know all about you I find if you get the “Headline Animator” from feedburner, and replace the link to the feed with the link to your blog you get amazing traffic! The key then is to post lots without spamming, brilliant on big forums! It’s like free advertising! Nearly half of my regulars have come from forums, definately works!

  3. Lori says:

    I get half of my traffic from forums and if it wasn’t for forums, I wouldn’t know anything. I have learned soooo much from different members and from reading through all the topics. Not only do you learn blogging tips but you learn more about your readers and potential readers. You get to “hear” what they like and dislike and then are able to take that and use it to your advantage for your own blog/website.

  4. I love posting in forums as a way to build exposure and drive traffic. They key to this, as you said Darren, is to be very careful with how far you go in promotion. If you are too over the top, people will quickly get angry and flame you.

    Another use for forums is to do customer research. I recently wrote an article about getting to know your customers, and using forums was one of my favorite tips. If you can find a forum that embodies your target market, then you have a goldmine of free information about what your customers like/dislike/want/need etc…

    Thanks for the tip,

    – Mason

  5. Jeremy says:

    I find this an interesting strategy in theory, however haven’t been able to find a set of forums where people have really useful / intelligent conversations about the niche I am in… most of the good conversation occurs on blogs.

    So I’ll keep my eyes out for a decent set of forums, but not holding hope up too high.

  6. Tangler.com

    I just discovered it today. Totally awesome. So much better than the forums you’re used to.

    And forums do work, they drive traffic to my site. Love it!

  7. April says:

    I think it depends on the niche. I’ve been able to find highly active forums on some topics but “ghost towns” on others.

  8. Adam Snider says:

    I whole-heartedly agree that community and relationships are HUGE when it comes to forums. I mean, that’s the point, of course, but sometimes the community is more important than the niche.

    Years ago, I used to create my own video games as a hobby (nothing particularly good, but it was fun to do, even if the actual games kind of sucked). I joined a forum related to that subject and, even though I haven’t attempted to make a game in at least 3 years, I still visit and post on the forums on an almost daily basis, simply because I enjoy the community and the people so much.

    I don’t talk about games anymore, but I’m constantly posting in the “general discussion” boards, simply because I enjoy interacting with the people who make up the community.

    I know for a fact that I have a lot of very dedicated blog readers as a result of this forum, partly because I have a very good reputation, after having been an active member for so many years (at least 5 years, if not longer).

    Like blogging, it takes time and effort to create that kind of reputation, but it’s very much worth it in the end.

  9. April says:

    Oh, what I wanted to ask was: Would buying a signature link from some one on a forum be a good idea? I know that people do this over at Digital Point but I’ve never seen this done on other forums. I also have no idea what would be a good amount to offer.

  10. I’ve used forums as a way to also gain mentors and other partnerships.. .it works out well!

  11. I can attest to this method because I’m participating on two forums which are both bringing me a steady source of traffic. It’s not anything to brag about but for a new site it’s nice to get a few extra eye-balls passing over your work.

    I don’t think an already established site would yield much of a traffic benefit from this method, though.

  12. Tavi Nemet says:

    It’s a good thing to do, but not really for promoting your blog, your main focus should be the interaction with other people (learning from the forum but also helping others).

    That is what will make you popular in a forum, and not the evil-just-post-to-promote-your-blog mentality.

    Cheers!

  13. vargas says:

    I’ve made good relationships on forums and I think it’s a great way to get yourself out there.

    But, I’ve found that knowing forum etiquette is very important. I’ve seen too many people join a forum and immediately come off as being trying to be an authority on something or coming off with an attitude, criticizing members who have been on the forums longer and it turns other members off instantly. Thereafter advice or contributions these members give tends to be ignored.

  14. Matt Jones says:

    This fits in perfectly with BlogLight.ning, the new social network just for bloggers, whch has a forum.

    Do you know how much Google values forum Sig links?

  15. jim says:

    If you’re in the personal finance niche, a lot of us chat about blogging, personal finance, etc. over at the MBN Forums:
    http://forums.moneyblognetwork.com/

  16. Chase Roper says:

    I have a sub-tip when it comes to forums. I was a member of several that I would neglect to visit each day and found it overwhelming to keep up on them all. I’ve noticed that forums are starting to offer RSS methods to stay on top of group discussions. So if not all of them are doing this now, I suggest finding the ones that do!

    Thanks for reminder to use forums in our niche to our advantage Darren!

    Chase

  17. I can’t tell you how many great readers I’ve gotten from different forums I’m a part of. I actually just found another forums specifically for software tips and tricks, which is what I write about. I can’t wait to get some great relationships formed with other users there.

    Also, another great thing about joining a forum aimed at what you blog about is the content you can find on the forum to blog about. Froums are great sources of readers of of good content!

  18. Forums can definitely be a great way to promote yourself, but the keys are getting to know the community and being a contributing member. If you openly try to promote yourself. If you do the community will quickly call you out.

    You’ll get more out of a forum but making real and honest connections with the people there.

  19. Oliver says:

    What about having your own forum along with your blog? Is it worth it?

  20. Ravi says:

    Thanks for reminding me as i stopped using forums for a while.I always look for your views and i will again start the activity. thanks again

  21. Matt says:

    This is my first comment but I just want to say that your posts are really great and are helping so much with getting my blog up and going.

  22. Teejay says:

    I made a blog post on task 3. Forums are really great for learning, research and of course traffic.

  23. Jennifer says:

    I’ve been using forums for this purpose for almost two years and we get a great deal of traffic from our signature files. Last year, I found a tool to manage my forum accounts so that I can now participate in several forums in considerably less time. Desktop Forum Manager is a desktop application that you program all of your forums and usernames into and it has a built in browser for you to just click through to each forum. You can manage your posts and subscriptions, and get from one to another very quickly. I think there’s a free trial version there to at http://www.desktopforummanager.com

  24. I’ve been leveraging forums for some time now and can attest to their value. All of the suggestions are great and I’ve used them all at one point or another. One thing I think really needs to be highlighted is learning the culture of the forum. Nothing will ruin your reputation like jumping in before understanding a particular forum’s dynamics. Some forums are quite comfortable with bloggers self-referencing while other forums see it as spammy. To some degree its a perception thing but you have to respect the forum’s culture if you expect to develop it as a source of long term traffic.

  25. I love forums, there is a huge group of forums over on Cafemom that I use a lot in the context of both my blogs. I sell vintage on eBay & have a website/blog One of Kind Wisconsin. On CafeM. there are several groups I like to participate in this context- not just trying to sell my “product.” I love answering questions for new eBay sellers, about selling, having an eBay store, & sometimes I “very carefully” give out some generic business and accounting advice. (I am supposed to be an accountant in real life). I have been known to spend an hour or more trying to find the best answers for people, despite the fact that these forums are not my blogs & brands. Being a reciprocal partner makes the forums work the best. As for my thrifty blog Smart Not Cheap- I find a lot of insider information on coupons & sales- &great tips from the posters there. Perhaps with this blog I take more then I give back to the forums. Remember too that the posters on forums are people & some of them hang out to get away from the day- not be bombarded with a MLM sales pitch or blog. Forums are a fun way to “meet” people online & build relationships too sort of like a blog only you aren’t the person in control. -Michelle

  26. Sinead says:

    Thanks for this advice. I’ve also found that, aside from forums, there are some great niche networking sites which I find bring a lot of visitors my way. (Maya’s Mom and Minti being two that I enjoy.)

  27. I’ve seen successful SEO campaigns accomplished on signature links alone!

  28. Adam Snider says:

    @April: I wouldn’t recommend buying a signature line link. Most forums and web boards use the nofollow attribute, so you’d be essentially throwing money away. Better to put the link in your own signature, and become an active and respected member of the community. This way, you’ll get the traffic without spending a dollar, plus, you’ll be furthering your reputation as a trusted expert in your niche.

  29. Don says:

    I have used forums exclusively and I depend on them heavily. As I have been writing more pillar articles I see more traffic coming from google too..this is also due the my nice market and the keywords. That come from the forums and ideas they give me.

    It’s a small niche but I’m happy for the search traffic for now.

    I don’t link to all the forums in my niche because I don’t agree with some of the subject matter they discuss. I know I would get a lot more traffic from it but I just don’t feel good about it and don’t want to be linked to them.

    Am I cutting my nose off to spite my face? Should I link to them just for the traffic?

    I’ve found forums a great place to build an audience and a great source for article ideas.

    If I were to give any advice on this strategy is to get yourself out there first. I read a forum for a while before I ever post..and then I post for a while before I ever add my Signature…basically I try to establish credibilty and rapport.

    I guess I’m trying to say …I love forums thanks Darren for posting this article.

    Don

  30. Travis says:

    Great advice, and exactly how I primarily spend my blog promotion time. One of the focuses of my interest is how the social space develops and evolves, and that obviously only occurs through relating and communication. I don’t have the bandwidth I’d like just yet, but I do keep myself involved in a few forums, and some key social networking environments. It has definitely improved my readership (as well as my writing.)

  31. Dee Stewart says:

    My best pro friends have emerged from forums. We make arrangements to meet in person at conferences. In fact, those of us that are local hang out, write together, and show up at booksignings together. I’ve also gained clients from those forums, which is another way to generate income.

    I don’t think I would still be blogging if it wasn’t for my faith*in*fiction and writersview friends.

    One thing to also remember is that when you’re life is hectic, business is booming, you still need to check in on your forums. The more participation on the forum, the bigger the attraction for others to want to join, the more of an authority you become as you share what you know.

    Thanks, Daren.

  32. Jeri says:

    The only forum I’ve really accessed in the last few years – Ars Technica – discourages signature lines and has that function disabled in their user management interface. Obviously, I need to look for others. :)

    What have others’ experiences been about being able to sign their posts with a business signature line and site URL?

  33. ApOgEE says:

    Ahah!… I’ve commented about this before. There is one more way, regularly commenting in this popular blog can also increase my traffic. Maybe there are somebody who get interested in me and click on the link on my nick. ;D

  34. Trevor says:

    I’ve participated in one forum for over ten years and this is right on the topic of one of my blogs (bird watching). I contribute to the forum reasonably regularly and it always generates some traffic. This is because I always have a link to my three blogs in the signature line. People must be clicking out of curiosity.

    On some occasions I’ve deliberately made a post on the forum with a question and then with an invitation to answer it or comment on my blog, again with a link to the relevant article. This has also generated a good source of new readers and commenters.

    On one occasion I made a post on the forum outlining a certain experience I’d had and invited others to share their similar experiences. (My blog is on bird watching; I explained a birding identification blooper I’d made.) Over twenty people contributed their bloopers which I used – with their permission – as the basis of a series of over twenty posts.

  35. Before setting up my blog, I have joined a few forums for my other interests, mainly magic and illusion. From my personal experience, I find it very helpful, fun and have gained a lot of info, friends and help to get your name in the search engine as well. Definitely it’s good idea!

  36. Syiru says:

    yea, this is one of the effective way to have a comeback reader, coz from the forum u could build your own relationship with others. i have a lot of reader who come from a forum that i joined…

  37. Johnny says:

    Thanks for the tip, however what if your blog has no set niche? What kind of forum would you suggest joining then?

  38. Dadviser says:

    As a blogger focused on better parenting, especially for single fathers, I have spent ample time at some forums including Single Family Voices and Single Father Forums.

    Conversations are often slow, but there are so many unanswered questions that you can find month’s worth of posts just by answering the forgotten threads.

    I’d also suggest taking unpopular stances on issues important to you. By doing so, you will be raising your profile and compelling others to join the conversation.

  39. Patrick says:

    You’ll definitely, definitely want to be careful to read the guidelines and ask the staff members of the site questions if you intend to post links to your site. I know, if you were to start a thread to link to your site on my communities, it will be pulled. Communities can bring you a traffic, to be sure… but, all of them have different rules. So, read them and ask questions.

  40. Since my blog is about adsense consulting I find that my most favorite forum is the adsense forums themselves.

    Usually people will ask questions that I have already answered in my blog and I will link to that part of my blog that has the answer.

    And like you advised I visit and participate in this forum often.

    I check my stats periodically and find that a good portion of my visitors come from these forums.

    So far my traffic has been good and I just reached page one of google’s search engine results for my main keywords “adsense consultant”

  41. Mark says:

    About a week or so ago over at BlogCatalog, I was reading their discussion forums, when I noticed that one of their members requested some help.

    I responded by writing a kind of mini-article to help that poster.

    A couple of days later, my blog got stumbled. I usually receive about 10 to 15 uniques a day, but I observed a traffic spike that lasted about three to four days. Traffic peaked at 240 uniques in a single day, then about 120 uniques the next day, then about 40 or so the third day. That’s a lot for me so far. I was kind of amazed; I realistically never expected anything like this so quickly.

    All I wanted to do, was to help the poster who had a question that I felt I could reasonably answer. I find it’s fun to help people out on forums, not necessarily to get anything from them, but just because it’s the right thing to do and it’s a great thing to do and it’s courteous.

    Thank you for your tips, Darren. I always learn something new every time I read your blog! The great thing is, I can then go out and immediately apply it to my blog, to better serve my readers.

    Have an excellent day!!!!

  42. MDB says:

    I think its a great idea, especially if you take the time to help people out. You can increase your knowledge, your profile and make a difference to some people all in one easy sitting. Now I’m off to find a few forums in my niche.

    Wish me luck :)

  43. Jeffro2pt0 says:

    Hmm, turns out, I have been thinking about joining a forum of sorts which pertains to the areas that I’m blogging in for some time. After reading this extra bit of motivation, I decided to do a google search and I came across http://www.bloggerforum.com which has a Web 2.0 look and feel to it. I think I’ll be able to fit in nicely to this forum, or at least thats my goal.

    At what point should a blogger consider starting his own forum or should the blogger keep the conversation within the commenting section of the blog?

  44. Thanks for doing this project!! MamaBlogga told me about your site, I love it.

  45. Mark Avey says:

    This is a great tip and is something that has worked well for me in the past.

    One thing I haven’t seen mentioned is the use of Google Alerts (http://www.google.com/alerts). I’ve set up a number of alerts relating to Flight Simulation (the subject of my main blog) and I get regular notifications with links – many of them to forums with people asking questions. I can then go and sign up for these forums and offer advice etc

    It’s a great way to find out about new forums and sites that I might otherwise not have discovered.

    If you also add an alert to your own blog, you can see where it’s getting mentioned.

    Mark

  46. Before I read this tips, I do link my blog to forums. But when the topic make them confuse. They told me that I promote my blog, but after someone know my topic, they didn’t think again that I promote my blog

  47. Zac Davis says:

    I do seem to get some traffic from the forums I am a member at. This is a really good tip that help you promote your blog fairly easily.

  48. Rose says:

    Being the administrator of two forums- one being a blogging community I can stress enough that forums are a great way to network with others in your ninche.

  49. Ming says:

    Thanks for the in’s and outs of forum participation, i’ve just joined a forum, and was quickly ear marked as spam. I clearified my intentions, and am now enjoying participating, and exploring the forum.

  50. James Mann says:

    Darren, I appreciate your tips, keep them coming.

    When I first started online I was really intimidated by those on forums and did not do much visiting for quite some time.

    Later I decided to try a few more forums and my online business changed almost over night. I starting learning, from friendly forum members, why my pages weren’t making me any money.

    thanks again