This is my another article from the series about strategies on how to drive free traffic to your website. This time I am going to talk about forum marketing. Yes, you read it right – forum marketing. Probably the most underestimated free traffic generation method.
Forums have been around since the earliest days of the Internet. Even now, when we have such a powerful platforms like social networks and blogging communities, forums are still one of the most popular places to look for answers. Thousands or even tens of thousands of active people gather in one place to discuss topics they are interested in. And, most of them are looking for experts that could help and guide through the learning process.
Thousands of visitors looking for experts… Do you get it? Yes, you can be that expert and use it to attract those visitors to your website.
The formula of successful forum marketing is very simple:
By the way, forums can be used not only to drive visitors to your website. Engaging with other members might help you build relationships with fellow experts which could develop in future partnerships and business opportunities. Participating in forums could be a very important part of your personal brand developing strategy.
Do not expect this strategy to be a quick “how to get free traffic” scheme. It requires consistency, time and hard work. You have to be prepared to spend at least an hour a day (depending on the number of forums) reading and writing insightful posts which actually contributes to the forum community. There is no place for laziness. You need to keep working and you will be amazed how many visitors this strategy will bring to your website. Don’t forget that all visitors are interested in your niche, so they are more likely to convert.
Almost every niche has some forums you can participate in. If you know your niche well, then you probably know the largest forum communities available. If not, then our good old friend Google will come to the rescue. All you have to do is use well-chosen search queries like “your niche keyword” + forum that accurately describes what are you looking for and you will find all the most popular forums in the market.
After making a list of forums don’t just jump in blindly and start registering to every one of them. You don’t need many forums to use this strategy. 1-3 forums is just enough for your successful campaign. So, you need to do some research before choosing where you want to register. Here is the main criteria to look for:
- Is the community active? Enter the forum and look at when the last post was written. Also, take a look at approximately how many new post forum receives every day. The more active it is, the more potential traffic you will be able to attract to your website.
- Read some posts to find out what kind of visitors are participating in this forum. If you find out that most members are rude or don’t like to involve in discussions or just leave meaningless 2-3 word messages, then you should probably leave this forum and try another one. You should be looking for people that are eager to discuss, learn and help others. Only this kind of people will be interested in you and your website.
- Find out if it allows signature links. This is a very important part of your marketing strategy. Your signature is a place which will attract visitors to your website. If you are not allowed to use it than it is probably not worth spending your time there. It is better to look for other forums.
OK, so you have finally chosen the most suitable forums for you. The next thing you must do is read the rules in each forum. This is very important because if you don’t know the rules you can easily get a ban which will finish your strategy soon. For example, some forums do not allow signatures for new members, others do not allow creating threads for new members. You must follow all the guidelines and prepare your strategy based on them.
Once you have learned the rules, you can begin registering to forums. Try to provide as much information about yourself as possible. Use the same profile picture you are using in social media, blog commenting and your personal website. You need to be recognized as the same person in every marketing channel to build your online reputation.
Similar rules apply to the username. But this time you have two options:
- Use your personal name you are using in other marketing channels
- Or use your business (website’s) name to be recognized as a brand or a representative of the company
Actually, it is up to you what username you are going to choose. Weigh the pros and cons of each option and stick to the best that suits your marketing strategy.
NOTE: Never use meaningless names like Bryan666, xBenx, SallyGirl, etc. It will make you less memorable and all the seriousness of your business will disappear.
Fill the bio section with relevant information about yourself. Write couple of sentences about what you do, what achievements you have. Also, you can leave some words about your hobbies. Don’t be too promotional. Make your bio intriguing and interesting to read. Also, you can include a line at the end inviting readers to contact you with any question or information they have.
And, don’t forget to fill your website’s URL field!
Signature. This is the most important part your profile. It is like your business card. Your signature will be seen under every post you leave. So make sure it is memorable, eye-catching and attractive. Actually, you should treat your signature like a Google AdWords message. You have limited amount of characters which must be transformed into a high quality promotional text with a link. Do not use those boring hundreds of times seen messages like “Please visit my site”, “My personal website”, “www.mywebsite.com”, etc. You should try to intrigue people with your message. Include call to action links so that people would want to visit your website. But don’t be too promotional, don’t use any fancy colors, fonts or effects in your message. Make it simple, but yet very attractive. Here are some examples of good signature messages:
- “Add me on Google Plus right now.”
- “Learned something from me? Visit my marketing blog.”
- “Learn the best affiliate marketing strategies for a six-figure income”
Also, you don’t need to always link the signature to your website’s main page. Maybe you have a very interesting and informative blog post you want to promote. Maybe you have created a tool that could help other forum members. You can link to almost everything as long as you do not violate the rules.
NOTE: Don’t treat your signature as a link building strategy for SEO. You are trying to get direct traffic to your website, so treat your signatures as promotional messages, not a keyword-stuffed link.
There are the 3 ways how you can participate in forums:
- Create your own informative threads and answer to other topics
- Answer other questions and provide a link to your blog post for further reading
- Create a short article or a summary of already written article with a link to read more about it on your website
Your main focus should be on option number one. Leave sensible comments and create insightful threads. Every post you leave will have a signature with your link. So the more posts you create the more links you leave on the forum. And, this means more traffic to your website.
Options number two and three could significantly increase traffic to your website, but you should be very careful with this tactic. First of all, you need to read every rule very carefully to make sure you do not violate anything by leaving a link. Secondly, you need to spend some time on the forum and earn some respect so that you wouldn’t be treated as a spammer. Your link must be deeply connected to the topic and answer author’s question. And, never leave a plain link. Write a summary or copy a paragraph from your article and offer to read more about it on your blog. And, don’t use this tactic too often because you might become over-promotional and people will start treating you as a spammer.
Finally, you have prepared for your forum marketing. Your profile is perfect and you know what posting tactics you will be using. But before you start, I would like to give some more advice about participating in forum communities that you should follow:
- Observe at the beginning. Don’t just jump in and start writing post after post, leaving links everywhere. This is the fastest way to get banned. Better wait for a few days. Identify the most active sections of the forum, learn what kind of topics get the most attention and find out who are the key members there. Patience is the best way to success.
- Choose sections where you are going to participate. Usually, large forums have lots of sections and hundreds of new messages every day. It is impossible to follow everything. You should choose only the most important to you. When selecting sections, you should consider 2 main factors: the activity of the section (it can be seen by how many people are viewing it at the moment and how many new responses it gets every day) and does it match your area of expertise.
- Add value to the topic. Your main objective should be not to leave as many posts as possible, but to leave quality posts that provide value to the topic and helps solve author’s problem. This kind of response gets the most attention. It is better to leave one insightful response than 10 irrelevant messages that no one will be interested into.
- Start new threads. This is the place where you can get the most attention because if a person opens a thread, he will definitely read the first post. If you have some questions or advice on your mind that haven’t been discussed before, don’t just wait, but create a new thread. Just make sure your post is insightful and well written.
- Keep the consistency. Participating in forums should become your daily routine. You cannot expect passive traffic from forums because your threads and posts will disappear from first pages sooner or later. So, you need to remind about yourself regularly. However, don’t force yourself to leave messages just because you need to. Everyone has moments when you have nothing to say. If it happens, just skip those days until your mind gets clear again. Remember that consistency is good, but quality always defeats quantity.
- Intro post should be your first message. You already filled your bio when registering to the forum. This time you have an opportunity to write even more about yourself. Almost every forum has a section where new members can introduce themselves. This is a great place to make the first impression. Try to be unique. Tell your story, explain your goals in life and share your experience. Explain how you are planning to contribute to this forum. Make your introduction entertaining for readers. This could be the first big step into building good relationship with fellow members.
- Keep the positivity. You will see many different people in forums and there will be times when you’ll get really rude and negative comments. Do not reply to these messages in the same manner. It is better to ignore such comments, but if you decide to reply, then make your answer polite. Warm people are the most respected members on forums, so behave yourself as one of them.
- Write tutorial type threads. People like practical examples. Tutorials always get attention from other members. Create a step-by-step guide from your expertise and people will be eager to read it.
- Answer to personal messages. Do not ignore your message inbox. As you get recognized more and more, people will start sending messages, asking for advice. Don’t be lazy and try to answer to all of them because this is a possibility to attract a converting visitor to buy your product.
These simple rules will help you become a respected forum member. If you consistently participate in forums, more and more traffic will be coming to your website.
As for the final part, I would like to point some crucial points of what should not be done in forums:
- Don’t be rude and arrogant
- Don’t spam
- Don’t be “it’s all about me” person
- Don’t be too promotional
- Don’t use too many forums
That is all you have to know about forum marketing. If you read everything carefully, then it is time to start using this effective technique for your marketing campaign. Many people are getting hundreds of visitors a day only from forums. So, now it’s a good time for you to become one of them.