How To Create A Successful Forum
Hello I have decided to take a few hours of my time to write up a how to on creating a successful forum, these days there are hundreds if not thousands of forums launched each day and I bet more the 80% of them over the next month will shut down.
This is because making a forum is just as hard as making a web site if not harder as there is no real content to get visitors attracted what you need is a great design and active members to be on your way to having a forum in which you can receive an income and maybe even live off selling advertising and getting members to pay to signup.
Choosing A Theme:
When choosing a theme make sure you are knowledgeable in that area as most users will be looking for someone to answer there questions and if the admin cant it kind of sets the theme for the rest of the board and you will end up failing in your quest to becoming a successful webmaster/forum owner.
Before choosing a theme make sure you have a look at the market I can tell you right now setting up a webmaster forum or domain forum unless you have funds in which to spend then you are wasting your time there are to many out there and the market its flooded but by all means if you have a great idea then go for it as they are very profitable if you manage to get members.
Buying A Suitable Domain:
Okay the second step in setting up a forum is buying a domain depending on your theme this will be different but try to limit the amount of words to at most 3 and try and use the following words after the theme, forum, chat, discussion, board, talk if not you may need to think of a catchy word that goes well with what you want.
Choosing a registrar is fairly easy as there are about a million out there these days but my favourite is DomainSite it provides cost effective and easy to manage features for your domain, they also allow you to use Paypal as a source of payment as well.
Choosing A Forum Software:
One of the hardest things you will come by before setting up your forum is choosing what software you are going to use with your forum, the main 3 which are widely used today are Vbulletin, PHPbb and Invision Power Board. All of which have there goodís and bad points I will give you a brief overlook at them but before going ahead with one I suggest you read abit more about the features before setting one up.
Ill start with VB (Vbulletin) this is used a lot because of its great reputation especially within business and webmaster related sites, this is due because it is a very safe and well updated software which gives buyers probably the most advanced bulletin board on the market to date, although it sounds great it does have some flaws this mainly is its price tag for a leased licence (one year) it is $80 usd and $160 usd for an owned license there are also other optional fees but donít need to be bought.
Another non free bulletin board is Invision Power Board which retails for $185 usd this offers like Vbulletin a well made and updated forum software which you mainly see used in gaming and graphics forums as a lot of the mods and free skins are dedicated to those themes.
Then we have the most used forum software on the web PHPbb it is a free but yet still advanced and well made with updates regular brought out, if you are on a low cost budget this is the way to go.
Overall I prefer to use Vbulletin over the others but this is just a personal choice and offers me the needs that I want from a forum software and I donít mind paying the extra dollars for.
But like I said before making a choice read a bit more about them by searching in google, msn and yahoo to find out what they all offer I can only tell you what I think but thatís not the option every body chooses really depends on your budget and type of forum you intend to set-up.
Attracting Members Without Paying
But before you can do this there are many months of hard work recruiting and getting new members, when I started when there wasnít sites and services such as Google Adwords or Paid Post programs which can help you get steady traffic and members for a pretty reasonable price, so we had to find other ways this usually involved posting on other forums not blatant advertising though as this will usually get you band and have your post deleted not giving much exposure for the time it took you to sign up and post.
I found the best way was to add your site into your signature and post topics and replies that had to do with your subject, forget posting about anything as this will only waste your time and have minimal effect, take your time to make larger and more detailed posts also as more people will read and contribute to your topic on larger forums you can get up to 500 unique visitors from one post not even having your sites link in the text just as a signature, always make sure it is a different colour try reds, blues and greens these arenít to bright that it deters viewers but still catchís there eye.
I also found adding the hyperlink into a form of text this makes the advert look nicer and tells them a bit about the site before going to the forum, this allows you to get only those wanting to be apart of your community and are related to the advertising that you may have on your page.
Over the last few months there has been also an increase of free forum directories try and add your forum to as many as you can this will improve your search engine rankings whilst receiving more visitors in the mean time.
Attracting Members By Paying:
There are many ways to advertise on the internet these days but many donít work and are a waste of time and money thatís why I will try and lead you in the right direction and give you my thoughts on what is the best method of getting a successfully forum for the lowest cost.
First off Adwords, this method of advertising can be great if you have an established forum with regular posters and members its also cost effective (depending on keywords) and easy to do if you have a credit card on hand.
Donít get me wrong this could be a great way to get members to your forum at the early stages but I donít believe itís the best way at this point of time.
Although some places do not provide detailed posts but just 3 word replies which really do nothing for getting members apart from deterring people as the forum will look spammed, and you donít want this so early on you will have enough of this later on in your forum.
Another way is one of the most common seen on the internet Banner Advertising this is where you either buy or trade banner spots on another forum or site, usually you will try and advertise on a site with the main topic related to your forum to maximise your CTR (click through rate).
The best way to go about this is to find a friend or someone via another forum/chat room and purchase a spot for a small amount of team and report how well its doing by the number of click throughs to the number of new members if its not looking to good move on until you find something you think works, thereís no point advertising if you donít get anything in return it will just be a waste of money in the long run.
Making Money From Your Forum:
One of the main reasons people decide to make a forum is to make a profit or a return by doing something they enjoy and have an interest in, this is quite common and a lot of people actual do make a living from doing so but it does involve a lot of time and dedication, donít expect to wake up the next morning with thousands of dollars in your account from setting one up.
There are many ways to make money from your forum it would take me days to list them all but I will list the main ones, first of Google Adsense you would have seen this been used many times before on sites and forums you have seen you may not know it well but it is a box like shown on www.ArcadeBay.com to the top right of screen, it can be seen many ways to find out more please have a look at www.Google.com/adsense set-up your account and simply add it to your board somewhere preferable in sight of your visitors and members this will improve the revenue made and help you put money back into the forum.
It is very easy to customize and edit to suit your forums colour, size and it automatically adds ads related to your forums theme this improving the amount of clicks.
Another way is Yahoo Publisher Network which also provides you with a service that like Googleís, I personally havenít used this but I have heard the amount per Click is higher giving you more money per click but have found to get less clicks, this giving you the choice to use what you think will better fit your forum.
One way that has been used probably the most of the last 4-5 years is banner advertising allowing people to pay upfront for a spot on your forums pages whether it be just the index or site wide this is up to you, there is no current rate for what you should charge this should be up to you depending on amount of members, hits, posts a day.
I found it better to list services, items related to your theme better then other things even though you get the same amount of money but it seems to make your forum look more professional, so you wouldnít list computer games on a car forum.
There are also thousands of referral programs out there where you receive a commission based on item sold and amount of clicks Iím not going to list them all but try searching for referral programs, affiliate programs in your preferred search engine, Iím sure youíll find something that will fit in quite well with your up coming community.