If you’re overlooking forums as a serious traffic source, you’re leaving a lot of visits on the table. Do this right and you’ll get thousands of clicks without spending any money.
I’m not talking about using signature links or spamming forums for traffic. If you’re doing that, you won’t be very successful.
Very few people know how to market on forums the right way, which leaves the door wide open for you to swoop in and steal the show. I’ve used this strategy to launch 8 successful blogs that still get loads of new traffic from old posts.
In this post, I’ll show you how to:
- Develop a forum traffic funnel
- Find the best forums to use
- Funnel users back to your site without being spammy
- Make really cool posts that get clicks (or even stickied at the top)
- Avoid getting banned
- Get tons of traffic without using signature links
- Use forums to get search engine traffic
Why Forum Traffic?
Forum traffic is highly targeted and visitors are very passionate about the subject at hand. If you’ve ever frequented a forum, you’re probably really into that topic. You probably even spend money on it.
Even better, forum traffic has little to do with Google. You don’t have to outrank other sites to get clicks or build links or research keywords. This makes it perfect for highly competitive niches, like weight loss or online business.
Even if your site is blacklisted from Google, you’ll still be going strong.
Forums get insane amounts of traffic. Here are a few examples:
- Bodybuilding.com (Fitness) – 130,000,000+ Posts
- HardForum.com (Computer Hardware) – 13,000,000+ Posts
- DigitalPoint.com (Online Marketing) – 17,000,000+ Posts
Even very specific forums get tons of traffic. CamaroZ28.com has 5.4 million posts – and that’s a forum about one car model. Not enough? Camaro5.com has another 8.4 million posts.
MP3Car.com has over a million posts about building a computer into your car. MakeUpTalk.com has 2.3 million posts about cosmetics.
And these are just posts – traffic figures are much higher.
Ready to get a slice of that pie? Let’s look at how this strategy works.
Forum Traffic Funnel
The “Forum Traffic Funnel” is a term I coined after I noticed hardly anyone else knew about this strategy.
Here’s an image to demonstrate a basic overview:
Your regular forum posts reference your own (highly detailed) tutorial threads on the same forum, which in turn link back to your site for even more detail. You end up with a lot of traffic when this is done right.
This looks simple, but when you see some examples you’ll understand how awesome this method is.
Let’s jump to the middle – tutorial threads are the engine behind this tactic.
To kick things off, you need to formulate an awesome, super in-depth guide that is immensely helpful to forum readers – something you can post as a new thread.
This guide will take some time (content marketing is amazing, but it requires you to provide some value up front). The good news is that once you crack the code and write something cool, it can bring you traffic for decades.
To get an idea of what kind of content this is, you can look at “stickied” threads that are pinned to the top of popular forums. Sometimes these are just announcements from moderators, but lots of them are stickied because they are the most helpful posts:
These are long, really helpful guides that have been sticked because they are so useful.
Note: You do NOT need to get your thread stickied for this method to work. You’ll see why in a minute. This is just an easy way to see examples of helpful tutorials. Use them to get ideas of what kind of content you’ll be creating.
Here are some other popular tutorials on various forums:
And finally, one from FocusFanatics.com:
You can use this process to get traffic from nearly any niche. If you can find a popular forum on the subject, your chances are good.
Let’s look at a more detailed example from Matthew Woodward. He’s an expert marketer who built a 6 figure blog, and it all started with forum traffic.
He was kind enough to give me a quote:
“I have seen many people fail at forum marketing and that is usually because they try to get away with the bare minimum and are then banned by the moderators. When you start posting on forums you must treat it like a long term relationship. Spend significant time helping people so you become a familiar face in the community and THEN start pushing traffic to your site. That way people will love you and the moderators won’t ban you :)” – Matthew Woodward
Here’s one of his tutorial threads on the Traffic Planet forum:
Immediately, you’ll notice a few things about this thread:
- It’s incredibly helpful to nearly anyone who visits the forum.
- It’s VERY detailed – 2+ hours of solid video takes ages to write and produce.
- It addresses one of the most common problems people on the forum face (getting links).
- It’s too much content to post in the thread, so it must be linked to (on his own site and YouTube channel).
That last point is very important. The links to each video are what funnel readers from the forum to his own blog, where he can collect their email addresses and build his following.
You have to present a good reason for linking back to your site for the content, so make it very interactive (with lots of images and embedded material) and/or just so long that it reasonably needs to be linked.
His thread is so helpful that not only do the moderators allow him to link back to his site for the core of the material, they even stickied it at the top of the sub-forum.
Your guide doesn’t need to be this detailed, but more work will yield better results. You definitely don’t have to get your thread stickied, but you should aim to “wow” people with unique advice. A simple article isn’t going to cut it.
Don’t worry, in a moment I’ll walk you through this process step-by-step.
Once you have a solid tutorial thread posted with links, you have something you can reference all the time without getting banned.
When you browse the forum and find a question that can be answered or expanded on with your content, you can post a link to your thread:
These posts will be easy to find since you’ll formulate your tutorial around the most popular questions on the forum (more on that below).
You can post your link a lot, since it’s just an internal link to another thread.
When your thread is helpful enough, other people will even link to it for you:
This creates an ongoing feedback loop – when new people find your thread, some of them will post in it, bumping it up to the top and getting you even more traffic.
Here’s why this forum traffic funnel works so well:
- The vast majority of your posts link to a thread on the same forum. You can’t get by with posting a dozen links to your own site every day, but literally nobody minds if you link to another thread on the forum. No moderator would ban you for that.
- The threads you link to are packed with so much in-depth, legitimately helpful content that they provide immense value. They will continue to get traffic for years, and you can promote them all the time. You only have to do the hard work (creating the tutorial) once – although you have the option of scaling this up with multiple tutorial threads.
- The content on your site (or even YouTube channel) expands on your thread in such a way that it makes sense to link to it, so you get away with funneling visitors off-site even when others might fail.
So… How do you make a KILLER tutorial thread?
A good plan takes a little legwork. A few hours of research will give you 1,000x more traffic than if you just dive in blind.
Step 1: Finding Forums
We need to find relevant forums to post on. There are usually multiple forums on any given subject, so don’t limit yourself to just one.
There are some dedicated blog search tools / directories, but I like to keep it simple and just use Google. A search for “your industry + forum” is easy enough.
You can also find forums based on the popular Vbulletin platform by using the query “inurl:showthread.php”:
If you scroll to the bottom of most main forum pages, you can often see visitor statistics posted:
This gives you an idea of how popular a forum is. Try to find as many forums as possible so you can expand later on, although you’ll want to start with just one.
Register an account and spend a few days making quality posts and answering questions. This will give you some validity when it comes time to post a new tutorial thread. New members with few posts raise a lot of suspicion upon posting threads containing links.
Step 2: Gather Data
It can be tempting to just “go with your gut” and make content you feel people will enjoy – but intuition is no substitute for real data.
Spend an hour or two browsing threads and get a feel for the biggest problems / questions users have. You’ll want to keep an eye out for the most frequently asked questions.
While I’m at it, I also like to use some advanced search options to find the most popular threads posted in the past year:
That gives me an idea of what content has been the most popular in the past.
As I find the most popular topics (preferably ones that have yet to be answered in great detail via a definitive guide), I keep notes in Excel. I’ll group questions into categories to help get an overall feel.
Eventually, I end up with something like this:
The best topic is one with a lot of views that also lacks definitive information. It has to be something I can produce a guide for that provides information that isn’t easily found elsewhere.
Step 3: Making the Content
Before it’s time to post your thread, you’ll need to make something awesome that’s worth sharing. Aim not to promote yourself or your site with this content, but to legitimately help people – that’s what makes a content marketing campaign successful.
This kind of content will build trust, establish you as an expert, build your following, and place you in a position to sell a lot of products down the road.
Also, remember the goal here: It needs to be content that warrants you posting links to your site to share it. A simple blog post can easily be pasted into a thread, so it’s hard to sell the idea that you have a real reason to use external links to share it.
This leaves you with a few obvious options:
- An in-depth video series
- Super-long (4k+ words) content with lots of embedded images
- Guides with separate chapters located on different pages
- A podcast / audio series
Less obvious options might be custom software tools or downloadable software, but these cost a lot more to produce.
Videos are my personal favorite. The production value doesn’t have to be high if it’s helpful content. I use Camtasia Studio to record my screen or a Powerpoint presentation along with a cheap USB microphone.
Matthew Woodward’s video tutorials posted above are excellent examples of this strategy.
Whichever you chose, do a lot of research and make your content as helpful as possible. It will go on your site after all, so it will help grow your following far beyond this forum traffic funnel.
Step 4: Post Your Thread
Once everything is uploaded, it’s time to share it with the world!
Make your thread as genuine and helpful as you can:
When you link to your site, you want to make sure those pages continue the funnel. That means using lots of internal links to your other content and using email opt-in boxes to capture users and turn them into subscribers.
That will ensure they come back to your site to read more content and click ads or purchase your affiliate products / more advanced courses.
Good content will also get a lot of replies and follow up questions. Make sure you check in regularly to respond to people and keep building your following. This will also bump your thread up each time for more exposure and clicks.
You will have put some solid work into creating this content, but you can probably see how this will bring you continuous traffic for many years. This kind of work sets you up for the long haul.
Continuously Promoting Your Thread
Once your thread is up, you can use it to answer questions. Since you did your research in step 2, you know you’re answering a question that is brought up often.
Simply respond to people who ask this question in the future and provide the link to your super helpful thread.
Since constantly browsing forums takes some work, you can do a search once a week on the topic – or even better, setup some custom Google Alerts to notify you when new questions are posted. Forum posts are usually indexed by Google within hours. Then you can answer right away with your link.
Here’s an example of using a “site:” search to alert to new posts on a forum:
I like to setup several of these for different queries. You can also change the “Sources” option to setup alerts for all sites or new blog posts you can comment on with your links.
You’ll get a nice, organized email each day full of new opportunities.
Forum Traffic Funnel Tips:
- If external links aren’t often posted, it never hurts to drop a message to a moderator first to make sure they are cool with you posting your tutorials. Just the act of asking up front can increase your chances of making your thread stay online.
- Target multiple forums. You can use the same content, but write a new thread for each forum (some consider it disrespectful to copy & paste to cross-post).
- If you have trouble getting your threads approved with links, consider posting a shorter tutorial first. Then edit your post to expand on it once it’s gained some traction and has proven to be legitimate. You can then add the links to your site and complete the funnel.
- Don’t stop at forums – if your content is truly amazing, you should reach out to bloggers and other communities to ask for a share.
While we’re at it, if you found this post helpful, please share it with your communities. And let me know your thoughts in the comments below!