Using Online Forums To Drive Traffic To Your Blog

Online forums and bulletin boards related to your blog niche topic can be a great source of traffic and long term readers to your blog. For this reason, you have probably seen blog owners lurking around the boards throwing up links randomly looking for that massive wave of targeted traffic to hit their site. Most of the time, they are heckled or ignored as they approached online forums as a source of blog traffic in a manner that is completely wrong.

Online forums can be a fantastic source of traffic, but you need to understand the mentality of a forum member before you start jumping in head first promoting your new or established blog.

Understanding Online Forums

Before you even start your first post in an online forum, you need to completely understand the community. Online forums are much different than anything else on the web. Most of them are loosely moderated and anyone can say close to anything they want. Forums are an open community where topics typically surround one subject matter, but are known to go off topic on a frequent basis.

Credibility Is Everything – Unless you are a superstar in your niche, your credibility on that forum is all that matters to those forum members. They do not care what you have done outside of that forum and even if you tell  them…it is not going to matter. That online forum is their home and you are going to have to prove yourself with your replies and posts before you get the respect within that community. Do not walk in with an ego thinking you are hot shit and expect to see good results. You are going to have to start building up your own reputation within that community.

SPAM Is Not Tolerated – The quickest way to lose all credibility is to appear that you are spamming that community. Wanting to jump in and throw up links right away? Be ready to be thrown to the wolves. Members of an online forum protect their community with a vengeance. If anything is looked at as SPAM…not only will you lose all credibility within the forum, but your blog will lose that same credibility with its members.

Post Count Actually Means Something – Typically, your post count within a forum actually means something to the members. It shows that you actually stuck around and contributed for more than a week. Are there members that reply to every thread with worthless crap just to pad their post count for perceived expertise? Yes…but you don’t want to be that person. Instead…you are going to need to have a higher post count that actually has value. Having 6,571 posts that are nothing but “I agree”, “wow…really?” and a bunch of other 2 word responses doesn’t mean anything.

Forum Credibility Takes Time – For the most part, new members of a forum aren’t completely accepted right away. It is going to take some time to build a reputation and prove that you are not there for other motives.

How To Find Online Forums In Your Niche

Now that you know online forums and bulletin boards are an incredible source of online information and traffic, where do we go to find forums in our niche blog topic?

Google – Do a simple search on Google for “basket weaving forum” and you will find online forums dedicated to basket weaving. This is probably the quickest and easiest method to find online bulletin boards and forums on the net.

Ask – If you are blogging on a topic, you should be directly involved with your readers and other members of that community. Start asking around to see where most of the other basket weavers are hanging out online. You can even run a poll on your blog to see where your readers are posting on online forums. If you have a large blog readership and most of them are hanging out in one particular forum, you probably want to start at that forum as you will have instant credibility backup.

How To Drive Traffic To Your Blog Using Online Forums

Now the part you have been waiting for…how are we going to leverage the fickle beast to generate traffic to our blog and convert these forum users to blog subscribers? Luckily for you, online forum members convert extremely well when done correctly. Why you ask? Because online forum members are already on the web talking and conversing about your subject matter on a daily basis. Forum members can also be an incredible source of blog commenters as they are already used to conversing on the web. So…now that we know there is a great untapped resource out there for your blog, we need to capitalize on it effectively.

Sign Up and Become A Member of the Community – First and foremost, you need to sign up for the forum and start conversing on topics. Since you are going to have to use a lot of your online time building a reputation on this forum, I would recommend only joining 2 forums to start. Any more than that…and you are going to stretch yourself too thin between the forums and your other online activities to get the results you want. Take a look over the forum topics and start to converse with other forum members. Ideally, this should be something you want to do anyway outside of traffic generation, so really start to dive in a become a valuable member.

Complete Your Profile and Signature – Every bit of forum software out there has two features at your disposal…a profile and signature option. Fill out your profile completely including an avatar. Your forum profile is where other members are going to go when you start to pop up on the radar, so…in the spirit of transparency…fill out your profile truthfully and completely. The second step is to through a link to your blog in your forum signature. This signature will appear in the bottom of every post you make, so you will start to see some click throughs as you continue to converse within that forum. Do not announce your blog or draw attention to the link any an obnoxious way…just throw it down there and get back to posting.

You are going to get to a point in your forum experience where you start to notice that you are building a reputation within that community. By helping out other members and sharing your experiences, you are going to start to build up some trust that you can convert into traffic.

Post An Entire Article – Once you have built up this credibility within the forum, start to watch trending topics. Once you have seen that there is a large amount of posts surrounding a certain subject matter, post up a complete article (typically one that teaches or helps…not just news) on the forum. Start a new topic and write a beginning intro that goes something like…”I have seen a lot of discussion on here lately on which wood to use for basket weaving. Last week, I posted up a wood comparison that I thought you guys might find useful. I have copied and pasted the complete article below…” And then paste the complete article…not just a link to your blog.

You are not looking to drive traffic to a specific article. You are looking to build up your blogs credibility through your forum credibility. This will increase click through rates on your forum signature and increase conversions. By doing this simple step, you have married the reputation of your forum profile and your blog together in one simple step by giving away your content in a way that does not look like you are spamming the forum.

After you have posted the article, participate in the discussion and comment on the feedback. Not everyone is going to agree with what you posted, but the conversation that takes place is invaluable.

Afterward…keep on participating in the forum and rinse and repeat. Typically, I would only post a complete article once a month.

Linking To Articles On Your Blog – Once you have increased the reputation of your blog on the forum, you will be able to causally link to your blog in replies to other threads on the board. If there is a topic that directly relates to something you have previously written, write a short response and say something to the affect of…”I also wrote about this last month if you want to check it out. Here is the link.” Again…you are adding value to the conversation not just throwing up new threads with links in a vain attempt to get traffic.

Final Thoughts On Online Forums

As a blogger, you should want to be a part of these communities online outside of the desire of traffic generation. As someone who is involved with the niche on a daily basis online, you are able to make friends and connections with other like minded people through the use of online forums. As geeky as it sounds,  I have actually made some great friends through different social communities online that benefited my life outside of my blogging. There is no better way to find more people that have the same interests that you do than through online forums, so get out there and start conversing.

Bonus: The Side Affect Of Forum Conversation – Another reason to pay close attention to online forums related to your niche? The topics list might as well be your brainstorming list for new blog articles. These are subjects that are currently being talked about on the web. If you are not using these topics as a source of potential blog articles, you are missing out on a huge resource.

Traffic Image by Mohsan CC

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Elie Kochman October 20, 2009 - 8:57 am
Excellent way to put it! I'm passing this link on to someone I know who is just learning the ropes (and does not yet have a bad habit to break) as I believe this will help him learn to use his online presence to his benefit.
Robb Sutton October 20, 2009 - 8:53 pm
Thanks for passing the article along!
Mike October 20, 2009 - 5:06 pm
Find it very scary that you're posting this article today. I'm working on an article for later this week on my blog about the best coffee forums. When I started blogging, I hit up the forums on a regular basis. Kind of lost track, so now I'm writing an article that sums them up and I can use as my own reference point for them.
Robb Sutton October 20, 2009 - 8:54 pm
Nice! I was making a poll for mountain biking forums when I came up with the idea for this post. Nothing better than a free reference for blogging information and content.
Mike October 21, 2009 - 3:41 pm
I've found some new forums and will be singing up soon. I've been having a hard time trying to figure out which "nick" to name, DailyShotMike or just DailyShotOfCoffee. Any advice?
Robb Sutton October 22, 2009 - 8:11 am
Include your name. On forum sites, they are conversing with you and not your blog. You have to be as personal as possible.
Rob October 20, 2009 - 8:52 pm
Awesome post Robb. I have to agree with you, forums are a great way to build readers to your blog. I've been sticking in the Problogger community for awhile and I've gotten some good hits and readers from there. "As someone who is involved with the niche on a daily basis online, you are able to make friends and connections with other like minded people through the use of online forums" This is another great point to, I've built some very good relationships with people I probably never would have if I haven't been in some forums. Keep up the great posts Robb!
Robb Sutton October 20, 2009 - 8:54 pm
Thanks Rob! Yeah...the connections with other like minded obsessed individuals can be priceless for your blogging.
bucabay October 21, 2009 - 11:11 pm
Good thing to mention is to use your website analytics to monitor your progress and to see which forums bring in more traffic, or achieve the goals (sales, or subscriptions etc.). Different forums perform differently. From personal experience, signatures don't usually perform well, but links to relevant articles on your site can.
Robb Sutton October 22, 2009 - 8:11 am
Absolutely. That is just good practice for any referred traffic source. Keeping on track with how you are converting from different sources is a must in all situations.
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