There is a common misconception that, if you practice SEO, you need to get on forums so that you can create links (usually in the signature line that shows below each post) because SEO is all about link building.
The truth is that in terms of link building those shown on forums have a very small significance but they can have a much greater value in another way.
A forum is a place to demonstrate your expertise. If readers are impressed with what you know they will click on a link in your signature, come to your site and (if your site is well made) do what you want them to do - buy a product or service, subscribe to something, click an advertisement, etc.
Obviously sharing your knowledge with people on a regular basis takes time so it is essential to plan this activity carefully by finding the right forum and then using it to its' maximum potential.
So here is the "how to" do all of that.
Finding the right forum
In almost any field you will find a number of forums so before you jump in it is worth taking some quality time to review each one and find that online discussion board that is right for you.
Avoid the following:
- forums with very little activity, it is a sign of few visitors
- forums where many posts are obviously spam such as lots of comments like "I agree with you"
- forums where members are overly abusive to each other, this does not make for constructive discussions
- show that you are an expert in your field
- show that you are passionate about your field, that you “live and breath it”
Ideally you also want to find a forum where you can “earn reputation”. This means members can give each other points if they agree with a comment and it is very clear who is well respected and who has just arrived (or is just about to be banned!).
A good example of this, in my field, is SEOChat. Here is the membership list:
As you can see there are over 160,000 members but only 150 of them have got any real reputation. This helps visitors know who to listen to and, hopefully, whose site to visit and whose products and services to buy.
After all in the world of SEO, if other SEO professionals are giving respect to person X, person X must be talking some sense!
How to post
In the first instance forget any idea of trying to sell your product or service. When replying to questions or comments imagine you are talking to a friend. Be open and honest and do not be afraid to admit to the limitations of your knowledge.
Remember you are trying to achieve two goals:
Visitors and business will flow naturally from this through the links in your signature.
Members who hide knowledge – e.g. “I know what you need to do, visit my website which explains it all” - not only risk being banned but also annoy visitors to the forum.
If you love your field it is very easy to get sucked into forums and spend far too much time there whether it be answering questions or getting hot under the collar because you disagree with someone else's line of thinking.
Remember it should be a part of your overall strategy so decide how much time you will devote to it every day and then put a lid on it. If someone else makes a comment that you want to reply to, 24 hours is not going to change much!
Joining a forum is not so much about building links so that search engines are impressed, it is about giving visitors to those forums (which often rank highly in the search engine results) a reason to click on the links, visit your site and feel confident to do whatever it is you want them to do!