One of the best ways to boost your website to allow your visitors to interact with each other is to introduce a forum to your website which can then be used for the discussion of topics either of your choosing or your visitor’s choosing based on the threads which they create in your forum.
Many websites now have forums and indeed some websites are based entirely around forums and user-generated content; it is important for you to take into consideration the fact that a website forum will only be of use to you if your website receives a large number of visitors, and these visitors need to be returning visitors so that you can be sure that they will continue to contribute content to your forum for a sustained period of time. Setting up an internet forum doesn’t need to be hard and can be done on the most basic of web hosting packages; if you have a Windows web hosting package then all you need to do is find a simple classic ASP or ASP.NET based forum package to use, whilst if you’re using a Linux web hosting package of any kind then any PHP based forum package such as PHPBB or SMF should be suitable for your requirements.
It is a good idea to place adverts on any internet forum that you setup since you can then capitalize on the content that is created by your forum users since search engines are going to be indexing the threads created and promoting them to users; similarly you will also have your own user base if you create an internet forum who will return regularly and these users will also help to boost any advertising revenue that you will be able to receive from your website. Internet forums work on the basis that the user’s of the forum are going to create threads over time based on specific topics – the other users of the forum can then respond to these threads and create new threads as necessary, allowing communication between all the users of the internet forum concerned. Internet forums are a popular way of increasing the number of visitors that your website receives since people will have a reason to return to your website, but as well as that search engines are more likely to index your web pages and forum threads and the more content that your users generate the more that will get indexed and the higher your website will appear in search engine listings for specific keywords.
How can using a forum benefit my website?
Creating a forum for your website will provide you with many advantages and is a good way to get people to return to your website in the future, and if you are able to setup and manage your forum correctly then you can be very successful. The main advantage of adding a forum to your website is the ability to create another source of income for your website since if you set your forum up correctly then you can add adverts to it which will in turn will generate income for you every time someone visits your website, and at the end of the day it will be beneficial to you if you can make money from your website where possible; adverts can be added either manually or depending on the forum package that you are using you may be able to find a plugin which can do it for you.
A forum will also allow you to build up a good base of returning users which means that you can be sure that new content will be added to your forum regularly and as long as your forum is based around an interesting topic then existing forum threads should be kept alive by your users for a long time to come; returning visitors are important for any website since it ensures trust in your content but also means that they are more likely to refer your forum/website to others who are interested in the topic concerned. Search engines will also look more favourably upon your website if you have a forum as part of your content since as long as your forum is popular, new content will be created regularly in your forum and search engines will generally give websites a higher ranking if they have some method of ensuring that content is added on a regular basis; if your website is able to achieve a high search engine ranking overall then all of your pages are likely to appear higher in results for specific keywords which you may be targeting. In summary, the main advantages of using a website forum include:
- Extra source of income – you can add other forms of media to your website forum which will allow you to increase the amount of money that you are able to make from your website, and a popular way of doing this is by adding adverts to your website forum – depending on the type of advertising which you decide to go for you will find that adverts will provide you with money most times when someone visits your website, and if your website is able to build up a good number of impressions then you will find having adverts on your website to be very beneficial financially – running the forum itself may also cost you money which means that if it is going to do so, it is important to make sure that you are able to make your forum pay for itself
- Returning users – you will find that in order for your website to be successful it is going to be important for you to build up a good number of returning visitors since it is such visitors who are more likely to refer your website to other people who may be interested in it – when running a forum you will find that it is the returning users who are the more important to your content since they are going to be the experienced members who create new content regularly, and when you have new forum threads created you are going to get people signing up purely to reply to them which means that over time you will find that a forum can help you to build up a good number of returning users just as long as your website and forum are based around an interesting subject
- SEO benefits – adding a forum to your website will also make your website more favourable to search engines since a forum will mean that you can have new content added to your website constantly without you as the website owner having to do anything yourself – search engines look more favourably upon websites which have new content regularly since it shows that the website owner/webmaster has paid attention to the finer details of their website, but it also means that the content on the website is more likely to be appealing to users meaning that search engines will generally give websites which have forums higher priority in search engine listings for specific keywords.
A forum can be very beneficial to your website, especially financially if you add some adverts to your forum. You will also find that having an increased presence in search engine listings will also mean that the number of people finding your website and forum through search engines will increase which will benefit you further.
How do I setup a forum for my website?
Adding a forum to your website is very easy although how difficult you find installing a forum package in your web space will depend on your level of experience, and at the end of the day if you are inexperienced then you may find it hard. In order to setup a forum you will first need to select the forum package which you are going to base your forum on, and your choice of forum software should be based on the specifications of your web hosting package as well as any preference as to which scripting language you prefer to use; if you are using a WIndows web hosting service then the likelihood is that you are going to go for a classic ASP or ASP.NET based forum package, and for Linux web hosting services there are many PHP/MySQL based forum packages available for use.
Once you have your chosen forum software installed in your web space you can then proceed to install any plugins which you feel may help to improve the performance and usability of your forum for your users, and some plugins can also help you with the management of adverts and the implementation of certain SEO techniques; most popular forum packages will have a large collection of plugins which have been created by third party developers, and in most cases such plugins will be free to use. Finally you will find that you will need to apply some sort of design or theme to your forum so that it matches the rest of your website, and this can be done by simply creating your own theme based on the style of your existing website or alternatively you could choose to use a theme which has been developed by someone else; similarly to plugins, popular web forum applications will also have large collections of themes which can be downloaded and easily integrated into your forum if that’s what you require. In summary, you should follow these steps if you wish to setup a forum for your website:
- Choosing a forum package – the first step to setting a forum up in any situation is to choose the forum package which you are going to use for your forum since you need to have the right base on which you are able to develop your new project – if you are using a Windows web hosting package then you will be able to choose from a number of different ASP and PHP based forum applications, although for the best performance it is a good idea for you to consider an ASP.NET based forum application for use in a Windows web hosting environment – if you are using a Linux web hosting package then you can only use PHP or Perl based forum applications, but you may find that PHP based forum applications are amongst the most powerful available
- Installing plugins – in order to make the most of your new forum it is a good idea for you to consider using some plugins which are compatible with your chosen forum application since these will allow you to expand the uses of your forum – the number of plugins that are available for your chosen forum package will depend on how popular the application itself is since most plugins are created by third party developers – in some situations you may not find plugins to be of any use to you but there are normally many plugins available that have been designed to do different tasks, and at the end of the day if you can improve the usability of your forum for your visitors or make the management of your forum easier for yourself then it may be a good idea to implement such plugins
- Themes – most forum applications come with a default theme which is normally very boring and plain, and at the end of the day you want your forum to look appealing as appearence is one of the key factors which will affect whether or not someone returns to your forum in the future – as is the case with plugins, the most popular forum applications will have large collections of themes for you to choose from which can be easily installed into your web space so that you can simply change the theme of your forum to your chosen theme without the need for any messing about – however, you may also wish to use the ‘themes’ feature of your chosen forum application to create your own theme to make the design of your forum match that of your existing website.
You will find setting up a forum very easy to do regardless of whether you are experienced or not. Some of the best open source forum applications come with a lot of documentation which will allow you to setup your own forum seamlessly, although if you go for a commercial forum application then you can pay someone to install your forum package for you.
In conclusion, by adding a forum to your website you will be able to improve how search engines look upon your website since you will be able to use a forum as a way of making sure that new content is added to your website regularly. Similarly, a forum can also be beneficial for increasing the number of returning visitors which your website receives overall.