I’ve worked on several projects over the years that involved setting up online forums. These electronic bulletin boards can be a beneficial addition to your web site, and a helpful feature for your visitors. Unfortunately, they can also be a total waste of time and/or a royal pain in the ass. Like so many other things, preparation is the key. Before jumping to add a forum to your web site take this simple test and see if it’s right for you.
- Is your site currently ranked and receiving traffic from search engines?
- Are your visitors looking for specific information or answers to a question?
- Can your site visitors, or yourself, supply the answer they need?
If the answer to all three is yes you have a very good chance of deploying a successful forum! If you answered no to any of the above, well… you may want to consider why your site needs a forum. Let me explain why.
Many people make the mistake of setting up a forum to generate traffic and bring people to their web site. This is rarely effective. If you don’t get much traffic from Google right now, a forum will most likely not increase it much. In fact, there are cases where forums actually hurt a site’s search engine ranking.
Bottom line: concentrate on your site’s content first. Once search engines like your site they will tolerate the addition of a forum.
What are your visitors seeking? This is important to know because you’ve spent a lot of time creating a web site about… oh, let’s say Britney Spears’ collection of sunglasses. You need to know if your site is attracting people because they are interested in that specific topic or just because it’s in the general vicinity.
Are your visitors arriving at your virtual doorstep because they want to see all those sunglasses? Are they seeking out information on the latest Armani shades? If so, that’s good. People are seeking and, chances are, finding what the want on your site. On the other hand, if they’re just hitting your site because they’re trolling for candid images of Britney it’s not so good. If your visitors are looking for the specific content you provide, then a forum is probably a great addition to your site.
Finally, who can answer the questions your visitors are asking? Can you, or other visitors to your site, provide people the information they are looking for?
Some information is only available from a manufacturer or directly from one single person. Forums work best when people are looking for something that other forum users can provide. If nobody else has any answers it just becomes a cyber bitch session that your visitors will eventually find tiresome.
Hopefully these guidelines can help you decide whether a forum is a worthwhile addition to your web site. Either way you decide to go– be sure to do your homework first!