A popular debate in the world of SEO is over the quality and significance of forum link building. Many believe the practice involves a spammy, black hat approach that will eventually end in a penalization in Google rankings. However, when done correctly, using Forums as a method to drive authority to your site can be a very effective and cost friendly approach for any website.
There is a line that many have crossed on forums; some have used low quality forums to place hundreds of links in short, thin answers, thinking it will raise their Google rankings. The quality in a forum comes from the people who participate in the topics. Forums are generally packed full of internet savvy visitors who are interested in the same forum niche. Using forums to reach out to a specific community; placing valid, useful contributions can be extremely helpful to drive legitimate authority back to your site.
A range of the forum users are most likely respected experts and bloggers in the specific subject matter covered by the forum. One of the most important reasons Forum marketing can be such a useful strategy is because creating a following from this knowledgeable and influential audience can help your marketing message spread throughout the Internet World.
Finding the Happy Medium between Spammy and Genuine Forums
Thankfully, there are clear “red flags” on forums that help distinguish them from a spam filled Forum vs. a useful and authentic forum. It will be quickly apparent that there are many forums absolutely loaded with spam. These are usually unchecked forums that are used mainly by spammers for obtaining quick link placement by posting short useless content with links, or dropping a link in the signature of the post. It’s also important to note that some unscrupulous types might use bots to spam forums. This is not the type of marketing any website should want. Although forum spam may bring in some very momentary leads to your website, in the long run these promotions can severely spoil a sites reputation and authority.
The superior forums can be a little more difficult to find, but don’t be discouraged, there are many out there! When beginning to look for popular forums, start by asking your employees, contractors, and customers which online communities they most often visit. There are also useful search engines to help find specific communities such as Board Reader, Big Boards, and Board Tracker. Use niche-specific keywords to search through many different forums and communities. It’s helpful to create a list of possible forums that might be useful for your site.
Take a look for any of those “Red Flags” and cut out any forums that are overrun by spam or inadequate posts.
- Look for specific forums that have 1,000 members at the minimum.
- Make sure it has at least 10,000 total posts.
- A quality forum should get at least 10 to 15 new posts every day.
Make sure the forum allows signatures, or links in the forum posts; although it can be beneficial to create a relationship on any quality niche specific forum, the ability to place a link to your site through a highly popular topic is what will essentially build your site’s authority. The final step is to check the User Agreements and Forum Post Guidelines thoroughly. Most forums will have a registration process asking to agree to the forum’s user agreement and posting guidelines. Read these rules and guidelines carefully! It’s tempting to just pass over them without a glance just to get signed up with the forum.
How to Participate in the Community
Once the new forums have been discovered and reviewed, it’s time get set up and create a professional, complete profile. Try to create an account as soon as possible; seniority is a vital part in the forum society. The forum users with an older registration date are given more regard than the newer users. Some forums even prevent new users from posting for the first few days after their initial registration. This is to give time for new users to learn the topics, the post styles, and begin placing valuable contributions.
Deciding on a username is extremely important, much because this is the first thing most visitors will see with your post and content. The name needs to be professional, yet easy to remember. The username will most likely be forum specific; one forum might call for the use of your real name for a personal appeal; another might be a short catchy Name related to the individual niche. Avoid using company branding and/or company names, as this will most likely be considered spam by higher end forums and too commercial for fellow users. Pick a username that is simple to remember and pronounce, avoid peculiar number combinations and misspellings.
Creating an Avatar is another great way for visitors to recognize and seek out forum posts from specific users. Avatars are small pictures or characters attached to the forum posts. A flattering head shot or a friendly picture will keep people engaged to the Forum posts, and keep them coming back to a recognizable fellow user. As always, steer clear of any photos that might be considered offensive or controversial; the goal is to be memorable for future relationships, not remembered for being distasteful.
A solid profile can help establish authority on the forum; provide a complete description of expertise and related experience. Feel free to add in a couple of personal tidbits to humanize your profile. Avoiding anything that resembles spam is crucial. There are many ways to break the ice in a Forum Society:
- Information about a hometown school.
- A pet’s name.
- A favorite sports team.
- Popular Hobbies
Stay away from sharing information such as political or religious affiliation, this information is not important, and runs the risk of offending fellow Forum users. The most important part in a profile is to provide contact information so other users can get in touch if they are interested in learning more about a business.
Many forums encourage new users to establish themselves to the community by making an introductory post. An introductory post should include a brief description of the expertise and an explanation of why the forum was joined. Let the other users know that the main goal is to contribute to forum and learn from the community of fellow users interested in that niche. The introductory post is highly watched by the forum administrators, if the post sounds too spammy or commercial, the account is subject to being banned. Resist the appeal to start posting on every topic right away. Forums are tight-knit communities that are inclined to reject and haze newcomers. Spend some time researching the forum to get a feel of the community’s idiosyncrasies and cultural style. Try and note who the prominent users are, and find which topics are persistent favorites. Researching for this information will be of assistance to fit in quickly, and gain notoriety throughout the forum.
Strive to Post Helpful Information to the Forum Community
This is the absolute most important key to success in forum link building. While keeping up with popular topics, if a user asks a question related to the niche, astonish them with extremely useful answers. It’s important for users to feel that they can come back to a trusted profile for more useful input and gain common interest throughout the forum neighborhood. These scenarios are openings to display expertise in a specific niche, and to generate benevolence. Validate the given advice/answers with links to trusted sources, and respond to follow up questions quickly.
A huge key to a successful forum marketing campaign is in the forum signature. A good forum signature will help members know who you are and what you do. If written correctly, it will also motivate other users to contact your site outside of the forum. It’s important to add the forum specific user name, and company information with a URL to the site. The signature needs to be professional, yet personable at the same time. A common mistake is making a signature too casual, other users view the profile in a more professional type of way, and therefore a signature calls for a more specialized approach. It does need to have some personal appeal, which is where an avatar can be so effective. For every solid post that is placed, a link directly to your site will go along with it. If the post is relevant and informative, many users will investigate the Signature Profile for more information.
Feeling Love from the Neighborhood
If done correctly, the forum link building campaign can be a huge success. Adding valuable resources and relationships to your site can only beneficial for your business. It’s a free strategy that when given some time, can have some truly influential results on the authority of a website. The forum community is a closely tied family, with similar interested and expertise. When creating leads and new relationships, there is no better place to start that through a forum community.
What forums are you active in? Tell us in the comments below.