Many internet savvy business owners and SEOs reading this will quite rightly ask the question and that's fair enough, we've all seen first-hand dodgy forum comments with links to multiple websites in the actual forum message window or signature, however the aim of this piece is to explain the real advantages of developing a forum marketing strategy with the primary focus being on helping potential customers solve their problems in a non-promotional way thereby building up your online authority. Jason Acidre, a well-respected Search Strategist who works for companies all over the world talks about the ROI of forum marketing - well worth a read.
Forget about doing forum marketing for backlinks, this tactic practiced by blackhat SEO companies went out the window years ago. Don’t be like our friend, Brian:
Let's say you're a local landscaper. You don't have a big marketing budget but you recognise the need to 'be visible online'. You can start building up your online reputation as a knowledgeable, helpful and friendly tradesman by taking time out to answer forum questions, offer better solutions and genuinely helping people out. Over time, people will learn to recognise you, value your knowledge, tell their friends about you and hopefully want to seek out your services. Why? Because they develop trust in you. Forum users deliver highly targeted website traffic. They are at various stages of the buying cycle, too - not just in the research phase.
The long term payoff is that you are positioning yourself as the leading authority in the market. This has a cumulative effect, helping establish you as a key industry influencer. You may be surprised how often journalists scour online forums when doing their story research. If you're in front of their eyes, and they want to talk to a landscaping professional for their next home improvement piece, you may well get a phone call - priceless local exposure!Let's look at an example...
Homeone.com.au is an excellent forum which ranks very highly in Google for an incredible amount of home improvement related search terms. It's a great place to start building up your online reputation.
Check out the forum post below:
At the time of writing this piece, this question about foundation drainage had not been answered.
If I was a landscaper or builder, this is what I would do:
1. Register on homeone.com.au with a username reflecting my business name e.g. expresslandscapes
2. Setup my forum profile to include my real name, website, photo of myself and/or business logo, builder's licence if applicable, list my experience - anything I can to prove I'm legitimate and have the credentials to know what I'm talking about
3. Setup a forum signature to include a link to my website and social networking profiles such as Google+, LinkedIn and Facebook
Here’s an example of how your forum signature might look:
4. Once we have our profile setup, the next step is to dive straight into that forum post and start answering the question. Giving honest advice on what you need to do for foundation drainage best practice. I would not try to promote myself at all. Remember, I want to be delivering value and building up my reputation. I'm hoping people will want to know more about me and check out either my forum profile or even better, click through to my website via the link in my email signature.How do I find forum marketing opportunities?
A great way of finding forum posts you can contribute on can be as simple as searching on Google. To keep with our landscaping theme, you could try something like: ‘landscaping forum Australia’:
Any business owner is strapped for time and forum participation is much lower on the list of things to get done. However, unless you are so busy with work lined up for the next 12 months, you need to make time for marketing and by dedicating one hour a week to forum marketing, you will start making inroads into building up your influence. You may even be able to delegate these tasks to someone in-house.Forum marketing is not just for small business
Larger size businesses can implement forum marketing strategies for bringing in more qualified, targeted website traffic In fact, they are often better resourced and may have a dedicated marketing department. These guys can be trained up on the basics and should be able to handle most queries. Sales teams are only an internal phone call away and they'll be able to help guide the marketers on what to say - but remember to leave the self-promotion at the door.Moving away from a 'Google only' view
Not only does forum marketing deliver highly qualified website traffic, it is adds another string to your inbound marketing bow, and working towards the longer term approach of multiple traffic sources, not just relying on Google. While we can’t argue Google's dominance worldwide and in particularly here in Australia, we need to be thinking about how else to get people to our site. Forum marketing is just one of many examples of inbound marketing channels of which others include maintaining a regular blog, guest blogging on relevant industry sites, White Papers, Webinars/Webcasts, eBooks, podcasts, presentations and more.
If you'd like to learn more about how you can work to increase your website traffic, why not reach out to the team here at White Chalk Road. We provide a free consultation where we can discuss your market research and online marketing needs.
by Jamie Press