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About one-third of Internet users read and participate in online forums. This is an incredible engagement rate, and an area in which businesses can enhance their SEO efforts. There are forums related to everything from white and blackhat SEO to medical issues to hobbies to tech help. Becoming an active member in forums related to your industry can be very helpful in boosting visibility, increasing traffic, and establishing your position as an authority or thought leader. Here are some tips for using forums effectively.
Be a member of the community. Remember, forums, like other types of social media, are about community. They’re not about you having a captive audience to sell yourself or your business. This is a good way to alienate the same users that you are hoping to convert into traffic. Don’t take over; participate. Build your authority by posting thoughtful and high quality content, sharing important and relevant information, and listening to others.
Check the source code. Does the forum give a “dofollow” option? If it does, it can be a good place to focus your efforts. Nofollow codes are intended to reduce forum and blog spam, so finding a forum that does allow links to be followed is important. Google, and forum members, are watching, though, so do not spam these sites with links.
Check the visitor count. How many people visit and participate in this forum? If there are more, you obviously have a better chance of reaching people and converting them to traffic. In a smaller forum, you can become more visible faster, so it may be worth your time to cultivate these, if you have time.
Follow the rules. Forums typically have a clear set of rules that you need to follow. Do yourself a favor and listen to these. Spamming users, using improper netiquette, and other infractions will reflect poorly on your site.
Be real. Don’t sell; don’t desperately try to get people to go to your site and buy. Instead, focus on the social nature of forums and be a participant. People are naturally turned off by hard sales, particularly if they are genuinely looking for information or help.
Forums can be a big part of your SEO efforts; follow the rules and get involved!

Posted by Ed Shutenko, SEO Manager at Bullseye Media

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