Every few months, I wonder how I can take this blog to the next level? Whilst there has been occasion tweaks here and there, the first major step was allowing other bloggers and writers to submit guest articles. Although, that decision has improved the site in terms of content, quality, and traffic, it also came with its own challenges, most notably the menace of registration spam. However, following the decision to accept guest contributors, it has not been easy to identify what the next major step should be until we received an email from one of our regular readers, Andy Steacy. Alas, Andy’s suggestion was what I have been waiting for all this while: “why don’t you consider hosting a forum on your blog?”
Oh, yes. How did we not think of that? An online forum…hmm? What does an online forum bring to the table? Is TechSling ready to host an online forum? Are there any disadvantages of hosting a forum in addition to a blog? What are the differences between a blog and a forum? Is WordPress even compatible with a forum? These and many more questions wondered through my mind… Finally, we came to the conclusion that hosting a forum is actually how to take this blog to the next level and this is how the decision was reached.
The purpose of online forums are quite simple. A forum is pretty much a discussion or message board that makes it possible for Web visitors to interact with one another. Users can discuss topics related to the site niche or simple exchange tips or ask for help. TICK
At the moment, we are receiving thousands of visitors per day, sometimes running into hundreds of thousands a month. Whilst this shows that we are definitely ready to give it a go, these numbers can be considerably improved by hosting an online forum. In particular, because online forums allow Web designers and developers to create robust online communities, users are more likely to return to the site on a regular basis to catch up on interesting discussions and activities. In order words, you are likely to see an increase in traffic, repeat visitors and a reduction in bounce rates. TICK
Increase in participation and user-engagement is a natural by-product of having a forum in a blog. Web administrators can also build stronger relationships with users as your site becomes more of an information hub that keeps on giving.
The fact that a site has the potential to become an information hub with a forum can help you become an authority in your particular niche. This means that for example, as a result of an increase in credibility, your opinion is valued when it comes to information, advice or help in the chosen field. Thus, the value of your blog will be increased as users turn to other knowledgeable forum members for useful tips and information. TICK
Apart from the above, it is important to consider your hosting platform when thinking about hosting a forum on your site. Fortunately, the WordPress platform is a friendly environment when it comes to forums. Indeed, there are many examples of forum software available to Webmasters. Whilst some are in the form of plugins, others can be tweaked where necessary. Examples of forum software and plugins include Vanilla Forums, Simple Press, vBulletin, phpBB, AEF, PunBB, SMF, bbPress, Tal.ki Embeddable Forums, Wp2BB, ccForum, Mingle Forum, Zingiri Forum + myBB, and WP-Forum Server. So there it is. When it comes to forum software, we are spoilt for choice! TICK
Whilst there are many pros or advantages of having a forum on your blog, it is important to note that there are also potential challenges. For example, it is almost like starting a new blog from scratch. This requires a lot of effort, to promote it, maintain a steady flow of topics and replies, and attract users. In addition, a lot of time will be required for moderation although as time goes on this part could be shared by some of the more regular users. Finally, there is the ever growing threat of spamming on your forum. In some cases, forums have been forced to close or restrict to private members who pay a fee as a result of excessive spamming. However, in spite of all, we would like to believe that with careful planning all the above challenges can be overcome. TICK
Overall, the decision is yours but we think it might just be the right time to host a Web forum and see how it goes. Over to you! We want to know what you think.
What do you think of hosting online forums on blogs? Are you aware of any particular forum software that is compatible with popular blogging platforms such as Blogger and WordPress? Do you spend more time on forums than you do reading articles and commenting on blogs? Let’s have a discussion.
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