Forum marketing is one of the most underrated traffic generation methods. It’s free, it delivers targeted traffic, it brings conversions, and has a whole host of benefits that accompany it.
Some marketers, however, are a bit wary of forum marketing. Unfortunately, the term “forum marketing” and “spam” have become somewhat correlated, especially since spamming forums is relatively easy to do. The truth is, when forum marketing is done ethically, it benefits three people: you, forum readers, and forum owners. Win-win-win.
If you don’t know how to market yourself effectively on the forums without spamming, you’re at just the right blog post.
Forum Marketing Benefits
It’s a good idea to know why you’re doing something before you invest a lot of time into it, so here’s a quick look at the benefits you get from forum marketing.
Targeted traffic – this is probably the first benefit that came to your mind – traffic. Leveraging the traffic of a very popular existing forum turns about to be rather simple. Additionally, you’re not getting just any traffic. You’re getting targeted traffic – the type of traffic that brings conversions, sales, and revenue.
Branding – one of the best free branding techniques is to build a name for yourself and your band is to get on the forums and regularly contribute. By using your logo as your profile image, you are increasing your brand visibility and leaving a lasting impression on viewers’ minds. The next time they see your logo, they’ll know it.
Authority – this one is probably my favorite benefit. Authority. As you regularly contribute helpful, meaningful posts and threads that not only teach readers but also engage users and create more talk on the forum, you’re building a name for yourself as an authority in your respective niche. However, you must be careful with this, as what you say and do on forums can go both ways.
How To Find Forums In Your Niche
If you don’t already know a few of the popular forums in your niche, then you don’t know your niche very well.
Luckily, forums are rather easy to take over in the SERPs, so if your primary keywords consistently get forums topping the search results, chances are that the keyword will be rather easy to dominate.
To find a list of popular forums in your niche, search Google for “your niche keywords” + forum. Include the quotes around “your niche keywords”, but replace them with your actual niche keywords, of course.
Filling Out Your Profile
If you’re looking more to build your brand rather than to build your name, then you should use your company’s logo as your profile image. Never leave the profile picture empty – pictures help to build connections with other forum members and they also set your posts apart from the rest of the members’ who don’t have images.
Fill out your bio – it should be a short, elevator-style pitch with a link to your main website, blog, and/or social media profiles.
Use either your real name, your company’s name, or the nickname you’re using for all your branding. It’s important to be consistent, so make sure that what you use on the forums is same as or similar to what you use with the rest of your branding and traffic generation methods. In any case, your username should be easy to remember and brandable.
Adding Your Signature
Some forums don’t allow links in their signature. If this is the case, you do not want to waste your time on them. Even though you might get the branding and authority benefits, you won’t get any of the targeted traffic or conversions you would from a forum that does allow sig links.
VERY IMPORTANT: You should not, for any reason, use your keywords as anchor text for your signature link. Instead, include your keywords before or after the link, but the actual anchor text should be one of the generic phrases, such as “click here”, or “learn more” or something of that sort.
Use formatting (bolded and centered) to make your signature stand out from the rest. If allowed, include your logo once more or an image somehow related to the services or goods you provide.
Your signature must draw viewers in and induce clicks. The higher the clickthrough (clicks per post), the more attractive your signature is. Give a small hint at what you do, and lead them in to click on your signature and learn more. The following is an example:
We build your authority, increasing your search engine rankings, and improve your traffic & visibility all at the same time. See how we can help you.
Your signature is the most important aspect of forum marketing, so you want to make sure that you get it right. Split test, see which versions receive more clicks, and keep testing.
Creating An Introduction Post
Quite a few forums will have an introduction thread, where all those who are new to the forum drop by and introduce themselves with a line or two. If there is no such thread, create one introduce yourself in the off topic forum. You can say something along the lines of:
Hi there! My name is JR John and I’ve just joined this forum! I look forward to contributing my knowledge in <forum niche> and learning from fellow members and getting to know all of you.
If any people respond to your thread, say hello and thank them for the response. When you do that, you begin to build connections with members right away.
Posting In The Right Boards
Forums are split up into different boards, or subforums. For example, in the average Internet marketing forum, you’ll find individual boards discussing SEO, advertising, conversion rate optimization, copywriting, etc. and a main forum for all things Internet marketing that don’t fit anywhere else.
If you’re a copywriting firm, then you should be mainly posting in the copywriting board. This does two things – it builds your brand better than if you posted in any other forum, and the resulting traffic is a good deal more targeted.
However, if you are look to market your actual service and not just generate traffic, then you’ll have to expand your posts to other boards as well. The reason for this is because mostly copywriters will be posting in the copywriting forum. They aren’t prospective leads – they’re competition. On the other hand, if you were to post in the advertising forum, you might get a few more conversions as a result, since the people posting there are unlikely to be skilled at the service you’re offering.
The majority of your posts on a forum will be replies, obviously. Whenever you reply to a forum, you should make sure that you’re not restating something that has already been said or saying something irrelevant. Make sure you read the original post a couple times through.
Spend a little bit of time on each post to ensure that it truly is helpful.
Creating New Threads
Creating a new thread gives your signature link far more visibility than if you were to merely post the 51st reply to a topic. The reason for this, as you would expect, is that everyone who views the thread has to view your post, and therefore, your signature link.
If your post was the 51st reply though, chances are that very few of those who viewed the thread viewed your signature link.
Create threads in moderation – posting five one-liner new threads a day is likely to get you banned before you can say “SEO Service Group”. Whenever you post a new thread, you should be either offering advice (builds your authority and generates traffic), asking questions (don’t do this often, as it makes it look as if you don’t know the niche), or sharing an interesting article/video you might have on the web somewhere (as long as it’s not from your blog).
Forum Marketing Tips & Tricks
Always be helpful – if you don’t have anything to say … don’t post on forums. Don’t try to increase your post count with weak posts, outdated info, and one-liners. If you’re going to contribute to the forum, contribute something useful.
Be the first to reply – either that, or get there as soon as possible. The fewer posts it has, the more visibility your post gets.
Be controversial – don’t just say what everyone else is saying. Make a name for yourself by standing out of the crowd, and testing something thoroughly before buying into it.
Be nice – this goes without saying. Be polite and professional.
Pick your forums carefully – only post on the best. You might think that you’d get extra exposure on forums that have lesser members, but the truth is that you get much more exposure when you go for the forums that have been around for a long time, and regularly figure in the SERPs.
Concentrate on a couple – it’s very unwise to try to post on any and every forum you come across. Rather, spend your time building a reputation and increasing your post count in a few forums. Don’t spread yourself too thin.
Outsource – for the most part, forum marketing is both easy and menial. If you do take the outsourcing route, you’ll find yourself with a lot more time to complex on the more complicated ways to market yourself. However, be very careful when you choose the person to run your forum profile. If your employee builds a bad reputation for you on the forums, it’ll be very hard to clear your name and regain the credibility you might have once had.
Forum marketing is definitely one of the easiest traffic generation methods out there. Plus, it’s free, so you can’t argue that you’re not getting bang for your buck.
To recap – find and target high-traffic forums, complete your profile with a high CTR tried-and-tested signature + link, be helpful, be ethical, DON’T spam and make money!
All images courtesy SXC.HU.