July 10th, 2006
You may not know much of the forum functioning principles if you run a website with no forum, but it is a fact that websites that support a forum are less dependent on search engine changes and traffic – they help your website to function independently to some extent. Many affiliate marketers see online communities as the sole way to keep your website running smoothly and profitably in the future – with every Google update the artificial manipulations (SEO) with the top search engine get harder and harder, I would put it – next to impossible.
So, the above introductory paragraph sounds convincing and you decide to add a forum to your website. I will not discuss popular forum software (vBulletin and phpBB (free) are most popular) and mods (forum additions and plug-ins) that make your forum more advanced and attractive to the users – it is a topic for a separate talk.
I would like to focus on the basics – what you should do correct to attract and keep the users on your forum. I know one excellent place for forum owners and administrators – The Admin Zone – where they professionally discuss all issues related to forums – starting and running, monetization and traffic, software and staff.
The one thing I have found particularly useful for myself is their community review algorithm. You have two ways to go – you can register with the forum and ask professional forum reviewers to critique your new forum (it is a free service). Or you can do the review on your own, but using their process. It helps you to spot most weak points in your young community. And it is of great value if you are new to forums operation.
OK, here is a list of things you should pay attention to while running your forum. Your target is to make it look professional and attract as many members as possible:
Guest’s Outlook: your community aims become clear within a few moments a new visitor arrived to your forum.
Logos and Banners: use this for branding.
Quantity of Forums: always start small and add new forums as you grow.
Advertisements: blend, try not to annoy your visitors. The best solution is to drop any adv while you actively recruit first few hundreds of members.
Color scheme: need to show your web designer taste.
Themes and Styles: there are a lot of free skins in the Internet – find 10-15 minutes to select the one that matches your general website design.
Forum Staff/Contact Points: who does what here?
Points of Registration: make it as easy as possible. In the future when you will be faced with forum spammers you will introduce a few more extra steps to register.
Page and Image Sizes: keep it under control.
Favicon, Buttons, and Other Graphics: custom favicon and graphics are a plus for any forum.
Sense of Community: it is your target to create the group of regular members who will make the place worthy browsing.
Post count and Quality: many web browsers check this before they register – it is a sign if the community is active. Post actively yourself to increase the numbers.
Participation Overview: one thread posts mean no discussions most forums are created for the purpose to discuss and argue.
Quantity and Activity of Staff: be helpful and online as much as you can – later the forum will get moderators that will take over this task.
Contests, Games, and Diversions: advisable
Summary of Recommended Changes
Summary: the above steps will help you to avoid general pitfalls typical of new forum owners. Unfortunately, it does not guarantee success of your community – nowadays it takes much more. You need top website and forum content and discussions, you need to attract and keep great knowledgeable members, you need ideas to innovate all the time, you need keep with the development of your industry, you need… many other things. But the above list is a good starting point.
[tags]forum, community, affiliate marketing, home based business, work from home, google, seo, vbulletin, phpbb, favicon, logo, banners[/tags]