Do you want more web traffic?

I assume the answer is yes. Before we look at new solutions, let’s make sure you have the basics:

  • Frequently updated blog? Without a steady stream of new content, it is hard to drive repeat traffic.
  • Robust social media presence on at least one relevant platform. You don’t need to be everywhere, but you do have to be out there, somewhere.
  • Regular email program. For most companies a monthly communication is sufficient.

If you have done all of the above and you still aren’t happy, the easy, but sometimes expensive answer is to start paying for Google advertising. And in some cases that is the way to go. If, however, you are a subject matter expert, then discussion groups, bulletin boards and forums may give you just the boost you need.

On the surface, getting active on a site filled with your competitors may sound a little strange, what difference does it make if they come to your site?

  • The listings on these sites create authoritative links to your site, which improves your SEO.
  • If someone likes or shares your content socially, your exposure grows exponentially.
  • Not everyone who joins a forum is an expert. Many people come to these sites to learn, build a reputation as a subject matter expert and then the business opportunities will follow.

There is however a right way and a wrong way to participate on forums. Here are some basic tips which will help you get the most from the time you spend on these sites. As you read the list, the tips may sound familiar. Good online behavior is fairly consistent whether we are talking about a social media site or a discussion board.

Become a Discussion Board Pro

Do your homework

Online bulletin boards and discussion groups were some of the earliest online communities, with many dating back to the 1980’s and early 1990’s. The software has changed and there are lots more niche sites, but the fundamental elements remain fairly simple. You can start a discussion, respond to a discussion, vote for your favorite content or share a link to interesting content.

With the explosion of sites, where do you start? Look for links on social media which take you to discussion groups. Ask people in your industry and try a few Google searches for discussion groups or forums about (insert industry).

Check out a few, and then pick one or two as a start. Look for forums with lots of active discussions, not just a string of posts which no one responds to. You will have better results if you commit to a few and become active than if you try to be superficially everywhere.

There are rules, follow them. 

Every quality forum has rules and regulations concerning the kind of content and types of interactions. If there are no rules and no moderation, it isn’t going to be a very good forum. Too much spam, too little quality interactions. Find the rules. They are usually posted as a “sticky post” in the very top of the forum. Read them and follow them as you participate.

Join the community, don’t just spam

Yes, each of these sites will give you an opportunity to share links to content on your website. But if all you do is share links without ever participating in other discussions, asking relevant questions or simply “up voting” for content you like, you’ll likely be ignored and at worst you’ll get kicked out. Follow the rule of 3:1. Like, comment and interact three times as often as you share links to your information.

Complete your profile

If you are using the forum to promote your business, your best opportunity is in your profile. Complete all the details, be sure to include a link to your site in your signature. Your signature will typically display on every post you write, so people who are interested are likely to follow the link to your site.

Start with a search

Want to talk about web design? Then search the forum for existing discussions before you start one of your own. Participating in an active conversation is a much better way to get noticed than throwing up an obscure topic. Be helpful. Answer questions. Respond with more than just ” nice post.”

Share your best content. 

Be selective. Choose your best content. Use topics which have already driven a steady stream of traffic to your site. You already know it is content people are interested in. These forums will allow you to spread the reach.

Monitor results

Like any other marketing activity. Look for results. Do you see these social sites showing up in your analytics? Are you seeing links on social media which originate on the forums? On some sites it takes awhile to build followers, on others you can gain visibility quickly. Post consistently for a few weeks and look for the results.  Adjust your strategy and start again.

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Roundpeg is an Indianapolis content marketing firm.