Welcome to our series on how to create a successful business website. If you followed the steps in this tutorial, you now have a professional looking website with effective copy and powerful calls to actions to get business from your website. You’ve added a blog and started writing content and have clear idea on how to promote your content. Today, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of adding a forum to your website.
SEO + Automated Content Generation
Forums = automatically generated content. The content generated by your users in a forum helps your site rank better for what is called ‘long tail searches’. A research report from Google astonishingly revealed that about 50% of all searches are completely new, never seen before. A forum, having essentially randomly created content, is one way of catching these ‘long tail searches’ that you simply can’t plan for.
Another benefit is that we don’t always know the vocabulary of our demographics. Forums can catch this vocabulary, since the content is used by the target demographic.
If your forum is high quality and truly provides useful content, visitors can get very focused on it, checking in every day to learn more, ask new questions that arose and connect with their virtual friends.
Being in direct contact with your target group allows you to be better informed about their needs, wants, questions and general culture. It is a great research tool.
Forums are ideal to provide your community with a way to connect to each other. It is a fantastic tool to swap ideas, create meaningful relationships within overlapping industries and create a sense of belonging.
The challenges of building a forum
The many benefits that come with building a forum doesn’t mean it is a walk in the park. When considering building a forum, ask yourself the following questions in order to assess that you can meet the demands put on yourself:
Kick Starting Your Forum
It can be very difficult to attract visitors to your forum. An empty forum basically has no hope of attracting people that participate. People need to see content, need to be able to explore topics. Creating all this content can be a lot of work. I spend a lot of time trying to share my expertise on our Online Marketing Forum and providing the visitor with answers to questions they posted. I am lucky to have a small community who provide so much useful content besides the posts that I submit.
As with everything in life, you need to ask yourself if you have the time to put into making your forum a success.
Managing Your Forum
Even a popular forum cannot be left alone. True, forums generate automated content, but still require a moderator who makes sure that the forum stays on topic and that valuable content is added everyday. Especially when you run a successful forum, this can become a full-time job. One way of coping with the volume of work is recruiting volunteers to moderate your forum. I am always surprised how many people want to contribute free time to develop a forum that discusses ideas that they are passionate about. From a sociological and psychological point of view, this can be explained by the fact that some forum members would have contributed content anyway, and enjoy the added status of being selected to become a VIP, a Forum Manager.
Forums are a target for spam bots that leave all types of nonsense on your forum. Here at Online Design Bureau we upgrade our forum every month to deal with the ever growing sophistication of spam bots to take advantage of a sites capability to accept user generated content. The benefit of these upgrades is that forum managers don’t have to worry about spam, as the spam bots are outsmarted each time they find a new way to bypass all the security.
Is a forum right for your website?
You need to assess whether:
- you have enough visitors to make a forum viable
- Whether they would appreciate having a forum made available to them
- Whether you have the time (or the money) to generate the initial content that a forum requires to become successful.
- Whether you or your web design agency has the technical know-how to set up and run a forum.
If the answers to the questions above is an resounding YES, you can reap the many benefits of owning a forum, which include repeat visits and visitor loyalty, the early beginnings to create a community around your brand, the benefits of having automated content generated and the SEO boost this brings by ranking better in the search engines for search terms you aren’t even planning for.