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    Web forums: road to success
       August 24th, 2006

    A few past days I was researching websites and online communities hungry for the algorithm how to make a forum successful on the Internet.

    As a result, I have made a sort of program – list of steps that are likely to increase my chances to succeed with my forum ventures.

    I will publish the entire list. As I use phpBB for forum software some steps are applicable to this software, but I am sure that they can be transferred to any other forum software.

    The most important step is CONCEPT. How are you planning to be different from your competitors, what content or services to offer, how to make your users your forum addicts. All additional steps are supplemental if you have a great concept (wish I had at the moment) – they will be a kinf of natural continuation of your key ideas.

    0. How to build a forum from scratch:

    plan it – main topic,

    the concept (users, compretitors, your goals, give us a reason to come and participate),

    build the project (code, design, mods, content, backups!),



    properly run it

    1. Setup:

    - select a skin;
    - use mod_rewrite;
    - page “title” meta tag = post title;
    - assign forum boards (start small);
    - run through the entire admin panel & make the adjustments (posts allowed to registered users, etc);
    - add AdSense & CPM & integrate;
    - feed recent posts to the website pages;
    - don’t display or remove the memberlist.php;
    - check the forum user end (registration, settings, talk, PM, sig, etc);
    - monthly back-ups;
    - enable Visual Confirmation from Configuration in Admin Panel;
    - disallow HTML, smilies & graphic sig files;
    - edit overall_footer to delete the version #;
    - set of rules

    Hacks – depending on your forum topic; in my case I need: attachmnets, user started threads, similar threads, community newsletter, user reputation, refer a friend, chat room. Need a list of available hacks? Check it here

    Must-be sections (start with a few, increase with time if required)

    Administration & updates, news and announcements

    ‘Specialized’ categories

    Off topic

    Hidden administrative area

    Key elements:

    Setting Up and Launching a Bulletin Board Community

    Choosing and Managing Your Team

    Managing Community Issues

    Servers – Hosting – Software Choices

    Site Security

    Increasing Traffic – Attracting Members

    Revenue Sources – Advertising Methods

    Forum Organization and Layout

    Community Review

    Professional forum reviewers check (TAZ algo) – have a look at your forum as a stranger:

    First Impressions
    : Guest’s Outlook, Logos and Banners, Quantity of Forums, Advertisements, Color scheme, Themes and Styles; Rules, FAQ, and Privacy Policy; Forum Staff/Contact Points, Points of Registration; Page and Image Sizes; Favicon, Buttons, and Other Graphics
    Feel: Sense of Community; Postcount and Quality; Participation Overview; Quantity and Activity of Staff; Contests, Games, and Diversions
    Overall Impressions

    Summary of Recommended Changes

    2. Promotion & Monetization:

    - use adsense heatmap for forums;
    - ad rotating script;
    - run weekly or monthly contests for prizes (1st to make 100 posts, refer most new members, more samples are posted below);
    - revenue sharing with hack;
    - hire forum posters (ex.;
    - PPC;
    - add your community to forum directories. Nice list is here
    - seeding;
    - immediate response (mods 24/ 7);
    - reward your superusers (make them mods, member of the month, etc);
    - link development; follow news;
    - exchange posts with other admins (direct contacts, say 5 threads & 15 replies);
    - mention your forum in the signature on other forums;
    - post questions, not news feeds;
    - plan to post, say, 5 new threads daily (each of office staff)

    Contests are considered to be one of the most efficient ways to promote your forums. Samples of contest ideas: offer 2 months free advertising on your site for the first 10 registered users, the first 3 registered members with the highest post account once your community reaches 100 members will get 6 months text link advertisement, the first 25 registered members to reach a post count of 30 will receive 1 month free banner advertisement on all forum pages. Spend 300 bucks to have 600 site-branded beer bottle openers made. Run a contest called “Mega Posts” and the first 5 people to reach 500 posts wins a t-shirt. Referral contest work well (check vBulletin hack). If any of your site has “premium” or “pay” content, an idea would be for the leading referrer overall to maintain free membership, and for each month, the member with the most active and legit referrals for a month could get a determined amount of time of free membership to the premium areas. Give away DVD’s of reality shows infrequently. The members like them. Give them an Amazon gift certificate for the amount of the DVD, so they can buy whatever they want. Ask your sponsors if they were interested in giving away anything.

    3. Forum Management:

    Forum content: news, articles, interviews, images, surveys, games, quizzes, downloads, tutotrials, polls, debates, reviews

    Moderators forum: to bond a mini-community

    Community awards, member of the month, active news and announcement section, staff structure, t-shirts

    Constant e-mail communication: your post featured, offer accepted, newsletter, etc

    Community newsletter – learn here (Seth Godin says those who build e-mail and feed lists will succeed in the long run)

    Feature top members, forum posters, photographers, reviewers.

    Reply to all suggestion and feedback.

    Participation: no one-post threads

    Why people contribute their content? Money (contests, prizes, giveaways), recognition (graphics, top poster list, points system), advancement (ranking system, staff), self-worth

    Have a forum? Make it a community: target your audience and understand it; pick your staff carefully (must be members, knowledgeable about the topic, mature); be unique (topic, design, features); give users a way to idenity (added to CP and avatars host photos, their blogs, subdomain, feel home on your site); get users addicted; reward good members (with graphics); get out of the forum (meet in real life); special e-mail invitations, a forum newlsletter.

    Member stereotypes: clueless newbie; 1337 chat speaker; post happy spammer; snakster (=always unhappy); role player (a few id’s, bad intentions); etelist regular; line skirter

    How to build good staff: keep in mind the forum goal; have a list of expectations; be familiar with your members; trial period; staff must work well together

    Forum moderation training kits:

    Moderator’s manual:

    Summary: This is a program that hopefully will give me a clue how to run successful web forums. As I have mentioned in some previous posts at this time I consider forums and social websites as two most significant alternate ways (to traditional search engines) to get traffic to your websites.

    It is hard for me to imagine that there are many websites that rely on natural traffic only and do not get into trouble now and then when there are some Google changes. I primarily talk about new websites. I am quite new to this game – just over one year. All my projects have poor rankings in the search engines. The one that is doing fine and gets a relatively good amount of traffic from Google operates in some low competitive niche with low earnings.

    So I have a clear target to make my projects profitable while they can hardly compete for search engine rankings with the websites that were started 5-7 years back. I see the solution in this way – as I can’t get enough traffic from search engines I should get it from other sources (yes, I consider a project successful and profitable if it gets enough visitors. For me, traffic = revenue).

    [tags]online communities, forums, web forums, traffic, link bait, social bookmarking, web 2.0, domain names,, adsense, adwords, ppc, text-link-ads, links buying, myspace, seo, internet marketing, affiliate marketing, blogs, content generation, ebay, google, make money online, work from home, home based job, duplicate content, links, earn your living online[/tags]

    Social websites: why you should care
       August 22nd, 2006

    I have already discussed the value of social networking websites for getting links to your online projects. I also mentioned other benefits you get using this type of websites while promoting your own:

    a. Traffic (it does not turn into cash at a normal rate, but you can monetize it with CPM banners)
    b. Branding (your website has a good chance to get noticed)
    c. One way links (natural – most valuable links that will result in a better search engine visibility of your website)

    My recent experiments prove that one should spend more time to explore these social websites and opportunities they provide for online entrepreneurs. I have realized that I can get traffic, good traffic from other sources besides search engines where it is next to impossible to rank high for popular keywords if your website is new (under 2 years).

    What is a social website? It is a public website where its members save their bookmarks that are (as a rule) accessible to other members. Members use keywords to tag their submissions. Other members use tags to search for the information they are interested in.

    In fact, it is a new approach of organizing information that is completely different from traditional search engines (Google, Yahoo!, etc). The good news is that the social websites gain their popularity and are likely to shortly compete with Google and other SE in traffic. It makes us less dependent on Google updates and fads.

    Three key elements of social websites:

    - members
    - tags
    - URL’s

    You should focus on these three elements while seeking ways to succeed with this new source of traffic.

    There are new social websites that come online practically on a monthly basis. They are not equal and one can’t keep track of every new service. And I think there is no reason for that. I use the below social websites that are most popular at the present time:

    - – in fact it is a service that allows you to submit your new entries in seconds to an entire number of social websites (Backflip, Blinklist, Blogmemes,, Feedmelinks, Furl, Linkroll, Looklater, ma.gnolia, Maple, Markaboo, Rawsugar, Shadows, Simpy, Wink). To start with, you need to open an account with every service. Later on you will be able to make submissions to all services via one interface –







    There are popular sites that are specialized in particular industries (for instance, or I do nt mention as I have not so far explored the service to the level I would like it. I have an account and friends, but no successful promotions.

    Summary: It takes me in total 10-15 minutes to add my new articles or posts to every service. The result is not always the same and as expected, but I know that I will get a few hundred visitors each day thanks to these websites solely. Plus some possible links, plus branding aspect. It is definitely worth my 10-15 minutes.

    These are my first steps with social bookmarking websites and I think that my best posts are still to come. It is not a secret that you can expect 30,000-50,000 visitors per day if you really make it big with these websites. In that case you should be prepared to properly handle that volume of traffic; otherwise the website will go down.

    [tags]social websites, traffic, link bait, social bookmarking, web 2.0, domain names,, adsense, adwords, ppc, text-link-ads, links buying, links selling, myspace, seo, internet marketing, affiliate marketing, blogs, content generation, ebay, google, make money online, work from home, home based job, wikipedia,, technorati, bloglines, duplicate content, links, earn your living online[/tags]

    How to gain online reputation
       August 21st, 2006

    You work online, start earning your first money, want to progress – sooner or later you realize that you need contacts in the online world in your particular niche otherwise you exist in some kind of vacuum.

    As a sample I will talk about search marketing industry in this post. If we talk about Internet search marketing there are names that everybody knows: Jim Boykin, Aaron Wall, Rand Fishkin, Bill Slawski, etc. And there are names that are unfamiliar to the industry players. In fact, there are two great lists of the top industry experts that were recently posted on Rand Fishkin and Barry Schwartz’s blogs.

    It would be great to see your name and blog on that list. Of course, there is an alternative way – the lists are not exhaustive and there are hundreds of other talented Internet search marketers. You can build ‘your own circle’. But before you know their names and they know yours it is a good idea to target best.

    To begin with, read what reputation and image are to know what the target is.

    The question is what it takes to get to that list?

    - to start with, display your name and contact details at the website

    - become an expert. You should be an expert in your industry and prove your status all the time (in your blog, online communities, conferences, projects you run, etc)

    - generate unique ideas and some buzz. When you are a newbie you copy best experts in your niche. If you would like to join the expert list with time you need generate your own ideas. Good ones.

    - time. It obviously takes time to become an expert and to let others know that you are one

    - testimonials. Show customers happy with your services and products.

    Probably, you will not get to the top list even if you follow the above guidelines. But you are likely to get contacts with other persons in your niche who are less known – by this you will achieve your target to find great people to communicate and build relations with in your niche.

    Once you gain some reputation online (preferably, positive) you need to monitor and influence it. How to do that? The best way I know – make use of this Online reputation monitoring beginners guide where it is explained what and how to track. It is hard to gain a good online reputation, but it is easy to ruin it – a few forum posts and blog entries more than enough – take care of monitoring your hard earned reputation.

    Summary: This post is about online reputation in search marketing – it is a sample. In general it applies to any industry online.

    It is not easy to combine all aspects of your online work: you need to run your own website, regularly update it; you need to market and promote it; in addition you need find time to develop your online reputation. But it is a fact of life that these three components are a must if you would like to succeed online.

    [tags]how to gain online reputation, user generated content, forums, free, link bait, social bookmarking, web 2.0, domain names,, adsense, adwords, ppc, text-link-ads, links buying, links selling, myspace, seo, internet marketing, affiliate marketing, blogs, content generation, ebay, google, make money online, work from home, home based job, wikipedia,, technorati, bloglines, duplicate content, links, earn your living online[/tags]


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