|After getting a website together and up to the high standards of the Internet (cough), the next step for any webmaster (with an ounce of sense) is to begin promoting their site. The web is loaded with resources that happily explain how to promote a website, and if you’ve looked for this information then you’ve probably received guidance on such topics as SEO (Search Engine Optimization), social and viral marketing, traditional ad campaigns, text link building, back linking, etc. One topic that marketing articles love to throw around is the concept of prompting your website through forums and blogs. However, if done the wrong way, your promotion attempts will do little more than make you look like a tool in front of your potential customers.|
The Lure of Posting to a Forum:
Sounds great, just find a forum or blog on the web that accepts posts from anyone in the world and post about your website. The website owner and moderators will love that you’ve posted about your website, and the community will flood you with traffic, money, sex, unicorns, money, shots of Jack, doughnuts, money, whatever else you desire. Just in case you are from Canada and are unable to interpret sarcasm (30 Rock anyone?), the above scenario will not happen, and rather than being given the gifts of financial dividends, affections of the opposite sex, mythological mammals, alcoholic refreshments, and confectionary treats, you will likely instead be labeled as a spammer for your unsolicited posts about your site, and instead receive the gifts of being banned, blocked, brow beat, berated, or stung by bees. However, this does not preclude that promoting your website on forums and blogs is inadvisable, and the key to your success in doing so is all to your execution.
You’re Doing it Wrong – How Not to Post:
OK, maybe you don’t think of yourself as a spammer; you just found a forum that is related to your website and decided the visitors of the site would have an interest in the services you offer. The thing to remember is that most forums are not classified ad posts, and unless there is a place specifically made for advertising, the members of the community don’t want to read through a bunch of posts advertising a service. They are there to ask questions, find answers, and interact with each other. If you come along to a forum and just start suggesting your website, you won’t be welcomed, and often won’t be allowed back. Certain forums even leave the offending spam posts in a spam repository where the website owner can be taunted or flamed, and you’ll be more shunned that Peter Parker at a high school dance.
Good Posting Etiquette and Community Interaction:
So hopefully you’ve gotten the gist of what not to do on a forum. Now, it’s time to start posting the right way. The first thing that you are going to need to understand is that this will not be a quick or easy process, and that it will require the right mix of patience, knowledge, manners, parsley, and respect. The first and most obvious part of this process is identifying the leading forums that are in the same niche as your industry. If you are able to locate the top 5-10 forums for your genre, then you’ll be in pretty good shape. You don’t need to go posting in every little bitty unpopular forum that is related to your site, and it’s fine to stick with just the leaders. If you’re not sure how to find these forums, here’s a tutorial on how to use Google.
Great, you’ve found a few web forums that relate to your knick knacks, doo dads, widgets, and weird paraphernalia. Go ahead and register with the forum, and create a signature. Sometimes the signature allows for images and links. Go ahead and add some creative text or images – it should be catchy and relevant, or have some search engine friendly text depending on of your goal is to get some backlinks or if it’s to get some traffic.
After you’ve registered and set up your links, it’s time to return to the forum to make a first post. You should start browsing through the forum topics to look for unanswered or unresolved questions. If you know the answer to any of them, write a well thought out, well formulated, and completely punctuated response. Your answer should be more than 6 words long, and if possible, cite sources and list URLs of websites that you helped find the answer. If you don’t know the answer to any questions, there are probably some questions there that could have been answered with a Google search, so you can always use this method to find the answers to those topics. Repeat this same process several times daily on each forum to build up a number of posts and increase your exposure.
Advanced Posting Advice:
Ok, you’ve been a helpful community member for a few days now by contributing knowledge and answering questions, way to go! Now it’s time to both look for existing conversations as well as begin your own threads. Why wait to do this until you’ve answered questions? Well, the truth of the matter is that SOME forum members can be a little elitist, clicky, and snoopy at times, so if you just come into a thread with 0 existing posts and start spouting off about a topic, you might not be very well received. However, if you’ve built up a few dozen posts or so by answering questions, have been seen around the forum being helpful to the website and the site’s members, then you will be made much more welcome within existing conversations.
It’s also time to start creating your own threads. A good thread will post an opinion on a topic that relates to the board, provide a little bit of relevant news that no one on the forum has yet provided, and ask for other user’s opinions. Asking questions and opinions is an important part of creating a thread, because it invites other users into the thread to keep it “bumped” up to the top of the board and actively viewed. If you are successful in starting a few popular threads, your signature will always be seen in the first post of the thread by all who view it. It is also a good idea to continue to post to the thread from time to time as well to keep your posts and signature inserted.
Advanced Signature Modification Tips:
By now you’ve integrated yourself into a community forum better than Jake Sully integrated himself with the Navi, so it’s time to edit and improve your signature. Find a few of the best topics that you’ve started (those that have gotten the best responses), and also find some of the most honestly helpful posts you’ve seen made by other members. List each of these threads in your signature by title, and link to them. This will draw attention to your otherwise dry and static signature area, and provide more opportunity for members that have started to mentally ignore your signature to give it a second look. Keep your signature updated with new topics every week or so, so that it becomes a habit for other users to pay attention to it, rather than ignore it. A good signature might look something like this:
Weird Widget Discounts | There is a major Weird Widget convention in Vegas!
Tommy fixed his broken Weird Widget! | Debate: Which color would you pick for this Widget?
You can also mix in intersting posts or articles that are hosted on your own site as well, if the are closely related to the existing interests of the forum.
Applying What You Learned to Blogs:
The above practices have a loose association to your behavior in blogs, but to a lesser extent. You should once again look for the most popular blogs on your topic before posting comments. However, you obviously won’t be contributing to a blog post with a comment to the same extent that you will be contributing to a forum. Instead, the best practice here is to simply make sure that your comment posted is relevant to the post itself and not something generic just to get your link up. Blog owners can be more sensitive than a first year Hogwarts student that’s been called a mud blood, and there are many blog owners that are happy just to have something relevant said about their posts to reassure them that there is someone out there reading their post with a degree of interest in their topic. So if your posts are along the lines of “great topic! thanks for your insight!”, it might not get approved by the blog operator, because it’s pretty cheesy and is an obvious link ploy. However, if you cite specific information that was stated in the post, like “I found your Weird Widget custom modding interesting, and I’m going to try steps 3-9 tonight, but would never dare try step 12 or 22 without a supervised spotter”, then your comment will approved, velvet ropes will part, and the sensitive blog writer will be happy to have further comments with you and allow your url to be posted with your comment.
For a further list of do-nots on web forums, please see my previous post: 10 Types of Forum Spammers