8 Tips To Get Traffic From Online Forums

By Guest Author

This is a guest post by Tristan Higbee. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

Forums have been around since the earliest days of the Internet, and people have been using them ever since to drive traffic to their websites. While they’re not hip and sexy Web 2.0 darlings like Twitter or Facebook, forums are still a great way to drive targeted traffic to your blog. Below are 8 things you need to keep in mind when using forums as a traffic driving strategy.

1. Pick the right forum

Choosing the right forum(s) to participate in makes a big difference. Hopefully you’re already an active member of a forum or two. If not, hopefully you’re at least aware of some of the popular forums that cater to your niche. If that’s still not the case, Google “YOURNICHE forum” or check out Big-Boards.com.

If there are multiple forums in your niche, you should focus on being active in just one forum at first. You don’t want to spread yourself too thin, and you want to be sure you become a prominent member of the community. That’s hard to do when you’re trying to post in half a dozen different forums. Once you’ve become established in one, then you can determine whether joining another would be best for you.

If you’re not already active in a forum and you have multiple forums to choose from, there are a couple points to consider. How large and active is the forum? You won’t get much traffic from a forum that has 30 members and the last post was six months ago. Do you like the look of the forum? I’ve chosen to participate in certain forums because I just like the way they’re designed. Does the forum allow signatures? Some forums don’t allow signatures, which will make it harder for you to get traffic (see the “Put a link in your signature” section below). And finally (and perhaps most importantly), do you like the community that has built up around the forum? You’re going to be spending a lot of time there, so make sure you like the kind of discussion that’s going on.

2. Choose your username carefully

Your username is your brand out there on the forum for everyone to see, so it needs to be chosen carefully. Ask yourself what message you want your username to send. Using your name as a username gives your interactions with others a more personal feel than if you just used the name of your blog or business. It’s important that you username fits in with your niche and the forum. For example, if you’re posting to a realty forum and the forum community you’re posting to has a very professional feel to it, you’ll obviously want to steer clear of usernames like “xfallenangel1987x.”

3. Put a link in your signature

Your signature is the couple lines of text that appear below each one of your forum posts. Putting a link to your blog or to a particularly good post is the backbone of any solid forum-based traffic strategy. This is how you’ll get the majority of traffic out of the forum.

A standard signature will include the name of your blog and maybe your blog’s tagline or what your blog is about. Linking to an especially informative or interesting post can also be a good strategy if you want to drive traffic to certain parts of your blog. Remember that you can also link to a newsletter signup page to help grow your list.

You can read more about putting a link in your signature in this previous Daily Blog Tips post.

4. Craft your profile carefully

Your profile is what people see when they click on your username, and it usually consists at least of your avatar, a short bio, and a link to your website. Most often, your avatar should be a picture of you. We like to know that we’re interacting with a real person, and a photo gives a face to the name and helps create a more personal interactive experience. If you prefer anonymity, then use anything you want as long as it fits in with 1) the feel of the forum, and 2) the image of your blog or business. Using the realty forum example again, you wouldn’t want your profile pic to be a funny animated .gif of a guy getting hit in his private parts with a baseball. Likewise, you wouldn’t want to use a serious, black and white photo of yourself if you’ve got a fun and colorful blog about funny YouTube videos.

Your bio should include relevant information about you. Again, make it professional, but don’t be boring and one-dimensional. Sure, talk about how much experiences you’ve got in your particular field, but also talk about any other interesting information about yourself. If you’re on a rock climbing forum, you could state that you’ve been rock climbing for 12 years, that you are an avid backcountry skier in the offseason., and that you love watching Lost. Give people more reasons for them to interact with you.

And while we’re on the subject of getting people to interact with you, be sure to include a line in your bio (preferably at the end) that you welcome people to contact you with any questions or comments. This can help people feel comfortable about coming to you for any additional help or information beyond what you provide in your forum posts.

Many forum profiles have a space for your website’s URL or the URL of your favorite website. Be sure to put your blog in there!

Finally, take advantage of any other profile features your forum might have. Some forums let you enter your Twitter handle, for example. Others let you enter your other interests. Use these elements to further differentiate yourself from others, to establish yourself as an expert in your field, and to set yourself up as a person people want to interact with.

5. Don’t be spammy

When you’re networking with people in person, you don’t shake their hands and immediately stuff a business card down their throats. You want to get to know the person a little bit before interacting with them on a professional level. To put it another way, you wouldn’t go all the way on a first date, right?

Sure, you’re using the forum to promote your site, but that shouldn’t look like the main reason you’re there. Stick around the forum for a while before you start promoting your blog openly. No one likes it when the forum user’s first and only post is, “Hey guys! Check out my sick awesome new blog!”

6. Provide quality content

We’ve all heard that “Content is king” for getting traffic to your blog and getting people to subscribe to your blog. The same applies to forum posts. For example, don’t just respond to a question by saying “Yes” or “No,” but justify your response with a clear, well-thought-out, informative, helpful reply. Provide the best content you possibly can. Link to other resources both inside the forum and elsewhere online to provide even more helpful content.

Another tactic you can use is writing content especially for the forum. Think of it like guest posting for the forum: you provide your own content for free to the forum, and in exchange you get more exposure for your blog. At the end of the forum post, you can include a line of text that says something like, “This was written specifically for the Whatever Forum. If you found this information useful, check out my blog at WhateverIsAwesome.com.” You’re adding value to the forum while at the same time giving people a reason to check out your blog. Win-win!

Having said all of that, not all of your posts need to be long and epic. Quality content can be as simple as posting a funny YouTube video that a lot of people in the forum community can enjoy.

7. Start new threads

If someone opens up a thread to read it, that person is obviously going to read the first post in the thread, right? The first post in a thread gets read more than any other, so being in that position is a great way to leverage your forum posting.

It’s important, however, that you start the right kinds of threads. If you’ve got genuine questions about something, then by all means ask about it. If you don’t have any questions, a great way to go is to ask people’s opinions on a topic that they all can have input on. If you’re posting to a mountain biking forum, for example, ask people what they’d do if they had $5000 to spend. Would they spend it on a new bike? Upgrades to their current bike? Travel to that place they’ve always wanted to ride? More examples can be asking people on a Corvette forum to post sweet pics of their ride, or encouraging members on a photography forum to post links to their portfolios.

8. Post often

Forum posting isn’t the best passive traffic strategy. You can’t just spend a week posting multiple times a day and then sit back and expect the traffic to roll in forever. The threads that you spend all that time and effort posting in will eventually be pushed further and further down the page until they disappear from page 1. It’s sad, but that’s just the way it is. Participating in — and getting traffic from — forums is very much an active process. To get the best results, you really need to commit to it and make it a regular part of your blogging process.

Above all, just try to enjoy the experience. Hopefully you’re talking about things you like, and you might as well be building blog traffic while you’re at it, right? In addition, forums are great way to get post ideas for your blog, so keep your eyes peeled.

Pick a forum, do your best to become part of the community there, apply the above 8 points, and you’re sure to see the traffic start to come. Good luck!

About the author: Tristan Higbee just launched Blogging Bookshelf, where he reviews books and ebooks specifically for bloggers. Subscribe to the Blogging Bookshelf newsletter and get his ebook, “101 Ways to Battle Blogger’s Block”, for free.



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50 Responses to “8 Tips To Get Traffic From Online Forums”

  • SenseiMattKlein

    Just started on a new forum this week, so your advice is timely and very helpful. Thank you. Like Akie, above, says, there seem to be a lot of “stupid fights that make no sense”, but the discussion is lively.

  • Akie A.

    Great post indeed. This has been an area that I struggle with, trying to become a member of a forum community and gain credibility. I usually get caught up in stupid fights that make no sense. Great tips though, will keep in mind.

  • BlogTipss

    The old saying that knowledge is power has never been truer. The online world is all about knowledge; those who have the most knowledge will succeed online. Thanks to Dailyblogtips and Tristan Higbee for great post.

  • Steve Stillwater

    Great post, Daniel. Very practical advice that I want to keep in mind when I start thinking this work is too time consuming.

  • Petri Suhonen

    Great tips. But the problem with forums is that you get VERY easily flamed – even if you try to post something helpful. I once started a thread and wrote a bunch of tips on how to promote music online (and of course two deeplinks to my blog) and I got FLAMED by the other forum users. No one actually thanked and the feedback was mostly negative. (One user even mocked me about trying to get backlinks even though it was a music producers blog). But I guess it was all too obvious that I was also promoting my blog while posting helpful tips. So, I learned that the promoting in forums must be done very carefully and in a non-pushy way.

  • Web Marketing Tips

    nice and well described tips.

  • Bill

    This is great you can learn great tips and tricks from forums. You can also do some research and find great posts that give you step by step instructions on how to improve your website ranking. Also try to be helpful and chime in to help a fellow online webmasters.

  • Tristan

    Wow, what a comment! And you’re right, I did click back through to your site! (Though the link wasn’t working; Did you leave out one of the N’s in beginning?). And great tip about saving everything you write!

    Thanks again!

    • odtaa

      Tip 6 – make sure you spell the link back to your site properly.

      I’ve not corrected the link at the site’s needs about two weeks work before it’s really ready for public consumption.

  • Odtaa

    A few tips on forums.

    1 Technical and support forums are often large and usually carry a lot of authority. So if you are using a certain package, eg WordPress, a certain professional theme, such as Thesis or StudioPress, then it’s worthwhile you joining the leading forums anyway.

    It is useful if you are seen to help others. Even if you are not technical you can probably still help sort out basic issues or you may spot some trick that is useful.

    The highly technical people will be relieved that you’re taking on the simpler tasks and the people you help may link up with you or in a couple of cases become online friends. This has lead to exchange of writing posts to each other and other lines of support.

    2 If you are on a support or technical forum and need help. Do as Tristan suggests be professional. The heading to your post should explain the problem, ‘ How do you use a full width header image in Thesis,’ not ‘I need help’.

    I explain the problems as clearly as I can. Give links to where the problem page is. which in a way is a useful back link. Don’t make up problems though as the techies will soon soon catch out.

    After stating a problem I always end with a ‘Thanking you in anticipation’

    When I’ve got responses I always respond with a thanks.

    Where the solution is one that will help others I will write that up as a solution.

    This approach means that you get recognised by the technical people and you’ll find them eager to help you when you do have a problem.

    Just ignore the odd arrogant response you may get. These sort of people are like Sheldon on the Big Bang Theory. They’re good technically, but probably don’t have much of a social life.

    3 On big forums support others and you will find they will quickly support you. Thank them for a tip or solution.

    Don’t, however, be too eager, or too cynical, in trying to make contacts or friends. Other people will spot your ploys and your attempts can be counter-productive.

    4 I didn’t realise this comment was going to be so long. it just started with a few thoughts and has now developed into something much larger. it’s the lecturer in me coming out.

    This comment is possibly useful and backs up Tristan’s post. It is therefore more useful to a reader and is therefore more likely that the links to it will be followed.

    This is a repeat of Tristan’s point 6 above. However, I personally would not pressure people to follow a link back to my site. This is not a criticism, but my personal style.

    I also think a lot depends on the forum you’re in, the type of business you’re in and the niche you’re in. I’m also English and a restrained approach works well over here.

    5 Don’t waste your comments in a forum. Often a response on a forum triggers a number of thoughts that can be used again.

    If you’ve said something useful to members of a forum it almost certainly can easily be turned into a post, part of a post, a free article, a how to article or possibly a response on another forum.

    So looking through this comment. I rewrite or about three blogs I write for. Rewrite again for submission to a number of free articles sites. I’ll also file it in case I might use in an ebook, a class I teach or rewritten again as an article in a print magazine, (to you younger readers – a magazine is a legacy content management system, with really poor search facilities and editing ability).

  • Roxanne | Schoolkid.Ph

    I agree! I do get good traffic from a couple of forums that I participate in.

    Similar to the suggestion of one of the comment posts, tact is of utmost importance in forums. The last thing we want is a forum fight.

    Balance is another. As a forum member, I wince at “know-it-all” posts, answering every question like he/she is a wikipedia. So, maybe posts should be quite balanced. At times, ask questions and seek the opinion of others. That makes you real. And others will appreciate that their opinion is valued too.

    Friendship is also created in these forums and little “virtual” groups are created in the background. So, if there’s a forum member acting like a jerk, you can be sure that there’s a round of private messages going in those groups in the background and totally dissing the jerk. 🙂

    The last paragraph says it all.. be a part of the forum community. You’ll gain respect and friendship.. your increase in website traffic will be a great bonus!

  • Joshua Dorkin

    Great Post! If everyone could only read this post before joining a forum, admins and moderators would have a much easier job. These strategies work. On our real estate forum, those people who employ these tactics are absolutely the most visible, build the best network, and do the most business with other members of the site.

    Well put!

    • Tristan

      Awesome! It’s great to here confirmation of these tips from an admin/moderator point of view!

    • Bil Yann

      Totally right, it is too common to see people joining a forum, leaving a short post along with the link back to their site. I am 100% sure that they don’t get the traffic they expect. So let’s be careful when joining forum

  • steve

    looks like your link big-boards.com is missing an H for http.

    • Tristan

      Thanks for the heads up, Steve! Hopefully Daniel will fix it…

  • jason

    I would say that picking the right forum and posting frequently are the best pieces of advice here. Without either, you will not get properly noticed.

  • Ivan Walsh

    Hi Dan,

    One suggestion is to use a real name on the forum and not a psuedo-name,

    I think we all engage better with ‘real names’ especially when you want to respond to anothers comments.

    Ivan

    • Tristan

      I agree 100%. Great point, Ivan!

  • Terry Dunn

    Great post tristan.

    As I’m starting to get into forums more often, I’ll be referring to your timely and practical tips.

    Terry

    • Tristan

      Thanks for the complement, Terry! I’m glad you found the tips useful!

  • OneBlogTips

    Signature on forum is dofollow link and it is better to find high PR to start doing forum marketing

    • Tristan

      Not all forums are DoFollow, but you’re right, it is a great idea to participate on DoFollow forums especially. I don’t think the search engines give too much credence to backlinks from forums, but hey, every little bit helps, right?

  • Joshu Thomas

    Hey Dan,

    Excellent Topic. Every newbie who is new into internet marketing should understand the importance of building a trust relationship where ever they are rather than looking for the short term benifts, since the long term benifits are simply too big to handle 😉

    PS: the link for big-boards is not working – i guess the “http” needs to be added as the anchor link since its just taking to ttp

    thanks again for the nice post.
    warm regards
    Joshu Thomas

    • Tristan

      So true about lots of people just wanting the short term benefits! Once you’re in it for the long haul, THAT’S where you can start creating a serious online business.

  • carolee Sperry a.k.a. The Blogging Biz Mom

    You definitely want to hang out in one or two and get your name known….

    I used to join every working from home forum…

    Now I’m finding since “changing directions” somewhat, I have tons of profiles to update.

    • Tristan

      Great point about just “hanging out” in forums. By just posting consistently you can get your name out there and get clickthrough traffic. Thanks!

  • World Wide News Provider

    I agree, Start new threads, I open up a thread to read it, that person is obviously going to read the first post in the thread

    • Tristan

      Yup! I think this might be the #1 best way to get traffic from forums. Thanks for posting!

  • Radim Kracík

    Herman: I think i depends on your niche, in which you want to promote. For expample in tabloid niche are forum fights big opportunity.

    • Tristan

      True. Some niches are more conducive to forum traffic strategies than others. But I’d argue that for just about any niche you can participate in a forum and get some amount of traffic. The quality of the traffic… now that’s another story.

  • Cathy Miller

    Typo alert…make that great about 🙂

  • Cathy Miller

    Forums are something I have not been grfeat about participating in. I think it’s partly because of the few I tried, my experience was not a good one. Lots of personal attacks and spam. So, your point about picking the right one is a good one.

    Thanks for the Big Boards tip. I think I’ll give this another shot.

    • Tristan

      Yeah, a lot really does depend on the forum you choose. I definitely know what you mean about the personal attacks and spam. Those kind of come with the territory in certain niches and on certain forums. Sad but true.

  • Baldai

    Sad, but not all forums allow to add url to signatures

    • Tristan

      Yeah, and that’s annoying. My favorite forum for one of my niches doesn’t allow signatures, but I still get a fair amount of traffic from people clicking through to my profile.

      • Web Marketing Tips

        seems to me that you are adding quality stuff at there. That,s why they are visiting your profiles.

  • Herman Dailybits

    Another good tip: don’t get yourself in forum-fights.

    Avoid the forum-trolls and indeed with good content you can built a status on a forum. I have myself worked in into some big local forums (about windsurfing) and this is creating a lot of traffic, but also a lot of usefull relationships with other site-owners.

    ANother nice added value is when I’m selling some second hand stuff on those forums, it’s gone in some hours, because of my good status and confidence in my posts.

    • Tristan

      Great points! I’ve also been able to sell stuff quickly on forums just because of my reputation.

      And yes… Trolls… How can something simultaneously be so amusing and so freaking annoying? 🙂

  • Barbara Ling, Virtual Coach

    After you’re well-known, you can also include a deep link from your site in your post, if it answers a particular question.

    Becoming well-known at a forum can really generate fantastic traffic.

    • Tristan

      Very true. Thanks for the tips, Barbara!

  • Mike @ Blog Success Resource

    Tristan,

    Forum is sure way to get great links and get help from other like minded people. However with forum I have noticed, it takes time to build reputation (as in everything online does), many forums give only no follow links too but in my opinion some forum are much better over other. Great tips.

    Which Forums are good in your opinion?

    • Tristan

      Depends on what your niche is! If you’re into the whole Internet marketing thing, Warrior Forum, Site Point, and the Digital Point forums are the big dogs. Site Point seems to be the most active one if you’re looking for forums specifically about bloging.

  • vicky89

    10. Content is King.

    • Tristan

      Yup, I said that in #6!

  • Jason

    9. Start your own forum. 😉

    • Tristan

      Yes, but I think one of the saddest things on the web is an empty forum! I’d only suggest creating a forum if you’ve already got a decent amount of traffic and a loyal readership.

    • Kamal Hasa

      It’s not a great idea because trust me it’s time consuming and also paid promotion is a must.

      • Jason

        Nothing is a must. But I do agree, it is time consuming…but, if you have the time, it’s worth it.

      • Web Marketing Tips

        starting own forum is good idea if you a good network or good team or your own staff.

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