When, Why, and How You Should Start a Forum

Should you start a forum? When I first started getting into blogging, I noticed that many experts advised new bloggers to join forums and start talking. Not to directly promote your blog, but to be helpful on the forum, include a link to your blog in your signature, and you will start getting more traffic and loyal visitors. Having experience with this method, I know it works well enough, but there are better ways to driving traffic to your website – like starting your own forum!

forum software

When to Start a Forum

Now, before I get into why and how you should set up your forum, I will advise you to wait until the right time. Don’t instantly start a forum on a brand new blog, as it will most likely sit empty with hardly any registered users. You should wait until your blog has a decent-sized following, about 20,000 views a month, and you are getting comments on your posts consistently.

If you do not have consistent comments, but you have 20,000 views a month, that means your website may not be geared towards being social or leaving comments. To start a forum, you want your blog to be as social as possible and try to get as many people commenting as you can.

Why to Start a Forum

If you have all of my recommended criteria, it’s time to start thinking about setting up a forum. Forums, or bulletin boards, are places that people interested in a certain topic can go share their expertise. There are forums for Internet marketing, forums for certain types of cars, forums about aquarium keeping, forums about fitness… The possibilities are endless!

On a forum, somebody can ask a question about a topic and many other registered users can respond with helpful answers. This is a completely hands-off content building that will supplement any blog in Page Rank, visitors, popularity, and loyal readers. If your readers are inclined to come back to your website to post on your forum, then you will have a successful website that will continue to grow completely hands-free.

How to Start a Forum

If you decide that you want to set up a forum, you will need to be familiar with the way the software works. I would suggest signing up for a popular forum that you are interested in, learning the software, and figuring out if you like it from the user’s point of view. After you familiarize yourself with the way forums work, you will need to explore the different options.

Most modern forums run with the web programming language PHP, but there are also forums written in other programming languages. If you are willing to pay money for your forum software, you can get a much more sophisticated piece of software, but there are many free options that will do the trick just fine.

From a user’s perspective, my favorite forum that I am signed up for is the Ultimatum Support Forums. They use a software called Kunena, which is a plugin for sites running on Joomla. If you do not want to install Joomla simply to install Kunena, then you can explore options such as phpBB, MyBB, vBulletin, bbPress or Simple Machines Forum, which are generally all the same.

Because blogging software (WordPress, Joomla, Drupal, Blogger, etc) uses PHP coding, it is likely that it could use some of the same functions and variables as popular forum software. For this reason, I would suggest installing your forum on a separate subdomain, such as forums.example.com instead of example.com/forums. This helps keep things separate on the server-side of things and helps the web server keep the two programs apart.

Forum Marketing

After you have installed your forum software and gotten it to look the way you want by installing templates, you will need to market your new forum. You don’t need to purchase advertisements or anything that extreme, but you should talk about it on your main blog, post links to it on another forum in your signature, or simply convince your friends to register. Whatever the method you choose, make sure to never stop marketing your forum, as it can only grow. Always remember to respond to all legitimate messages in the forum unless another user has already done so. Users who get quick, honest answers will be more likely to come back than users who wait around for days.

A forum that is properly marketed and merged with a blog that gets a lot of traffic can help things a lot. Readers that love your blogging authority will most likely check out your forum. Users who want to learn more about a subject than besides what is on your forum may likely visit your blog. It’s a win-win situation.

This article is written by guest author Ian Eberle, the editor at an Internet marketing, blogging, and SEO blog called OmegaWeb.com. On his website, he shares tips to have a better blog, make more money on the Internet, and much more.

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About the Author: P Chandra is editor of QOT, one of India's earliest tech bloggers since 2004. A tech enthusiast with expertise in coding, WordPress, web tools, SEO and DIY hacks.