Many business folk know how to create a blog and do so because it’s now an expected part of any website. They appreciate it’s a way of delivering information and reaching and interesting potential customers while also retaining and reminding existing ones. So far, so good. However, what makes a blog stand out from so many others, and be a truly valuable tool, is in its interactivity. This highlights the importance of asking for, even demanding, comments from your readers.
Using Livecity’s superb blog tool, you can quickly create interesting and vibrant content. With this in place, you can then look to ways of building the level and usefulness of the comments received. Here are five ways to help you achieve this:
- Demand contributions - if you don’t, then you’re simply providing information. Inviting people to comment on what is said, ask questions relating to it, ask them to provide like – or entirely opposite – examples from their own experience. In this way, they feel part of the content, rather than simply its recipient. Do be careful, though, your blog is aimed at building business for your company, adding visitors to your website. Beware of the controversial, or covering topics that might alienate certain groups of customers. You are not a shock-jock!
- Respond to contributions – how often are you told on websites that your feedback is always appreciated? Yet, when you then provide it, is it actually acknowledged? Using people's responses in your own future postings is one way of showing that you are actually paying attention.
- Analyze contributions – using the information provided through Livecity’s statistical analysis can help you to form future blog postings based on a clear understanding of your audience.
- Expand your contributions source – shops on main street, or in prime retail locations, attract attention. The principle is no different when you are creating your blog entries. The more places they can be accessed and interacted with, the better the comments response will be. Therefore, apart from your own website, consider where else such postings can be made. Obviously, social media destinations, such as Facebook, and links to your blog on Twitter, are a given. With the latter, do think about how you post the link. Rather than simply announcing a topic, try asking an involving question: “How do you think the mid-terms will affect retail business? Comment on our blog here…”
- Add other posts for further contributions – you are not going to invite your key competitors to be a part of your blog. However, there are many other bloggers out there, and you can add a different voice or two by occasionally importing one of these. Think of this as being like a newspaper or magazine – it would be boring if these only had a single contributor! Your aim is to find those bloggers who can add to the interest of your blog without distracting from its main focus or prime purpose.
Five key areas to consider, each of which can help you build a thriving and vibrant web presence through the blogs you create and use. One final point – you need to be committed to blogging being an ongoing activity. Too many businesses start theirs with enthusiasm, this then wanes, and visitors find an out-of-date and unloved blog. This will hardly encourage them to do business with you!
Sometimes bloggers get so caught up in churning out great content on a regular basis they forget some of the most fundamental factors that are critical for blogging successfully. One factor that every blogger should consider is growing his or her subscriber base. As a blogger, you probably know your dedicated blog readers that keep coming back for more. You also probably know those people who consistently read and share your blogging content through their networks.
Below are powerful steps that will help you convert more readers into loyal subscribers.
Number 1: Use Google Analytics
Checking your Google Analytics will provide you with crucial information on the most visited pages in your blog. According to statistics, the two pages that get the most traffic are the homepage and about pages.
For many bloggers, they prefer to show the most recent blog posts on their homepages, along with sidebar items. Smart bloggers prefer to use the homepage as a “landing page” that will help them get visitors onto their email lists.
Another tactic involves using your blog’s about page. If this is one of the popular pages on the blog, you should seriously consider adding an email opt-in form to it, especially at the bottom, along with a personal message.
Number 2: Creating dedicated sign up pages
One more thing you should do to turn your visitors to loyal subscribers is creating several attractive dedicated sign up pages. Advantages of using multiple pages include:
- You can find out which pages convert the most
- You can increase your overall conversions
- The elimination of distractions such as sidebars and menus from landing pages
- An opportunity to create excellent SEO content for the landing pages
- Ability to add optimized videos and images
- Ability to add testimonials
Number 3: Creation of an explicit subscription button/opt-in form
Remember that you should make it easy for your visitors to find out how they can opt-in to your blog. This calls for displaying clear call-to-action modules that will help them subscribe, along with a one-field, simple opt-in form close to the top of the blog. It is critical that your visitors do not jump over hoops to subscribe. Make it stand out and right in their faces.
Number 4: Provide the value of subscribing
For a new visitor to your blog, you need to convince him or her that it is worth their time to come back again and again. Like any other typical call-to-action, demonstrate the value of subscribing to your blog. Explain what and how the visitor is going to benefit upon subscribing.
Number 5: Offer incentives
To boost subscribers, do a push like a dedicated email, or social media campaign and offer incentives for subscribing such as a coupon, downloads, or an eBook. Set up your dedicated landing page to reward subscribers with exclusive offers.
Number 6: Add footer to every blog article
For every blog article, create and add a text-based footer that will act as a call to action for subscribing to your blog. When your visitor finishes reading your content and finds the article interesting or valuable, you need to capture them while they are still excited.
Number 7: Leveraging social proof
“Social proof” is an assumption that people will be greatly influenced by the behaviors of others. Getting a third-party validation is a strong motivator for your blog’s prospects’ and visitors’ actions. Leveraging your social proof will help boost subscribers by showing the number of subscribers already accumulated by your blog. This makes the visitor think, “If so many have already subscribed to this website, maybe I should!”
Number 8: Make your blog content easy to share
Let the reader do some work for you. One indirect way of boosting your subscribers is by making social sharing of your content simple. Adding social share buttons to every post published will help your reader promote your blog through their networks. This in turn means an expansion of your blog’s reach beyond the current subscribers, followers, and fans.
Number 9: Commitment to high-quality content
In reality, you will never be able to convince your readers to become part of your regular following if they are not impressed by your blog content’s quality. Commit yourself to increasing content quality on your blog. According to expert bloggers, publishing a “quantity of quality” provides you a distinct advantage over all other blogs vying for your reader’s attention.
Number 10: Consistency
One of the fastest ways you can increase your subscriber base is by consistently publishing content. Your subscribers expect some level of regularity, if you do not publish blog content regularly, they will not see the value of subscribing. Failing to be consistent in your posting will also see you lose subscribers that you had worked so hard to get.
These are the top 10 steps for boosting your blog subscribers. If you are not implementing a few of them, the time to start is now.
With over two billion Internet users and counting, it seems like drawing even a few readers to your blog would be a relatively effortless task. Unfortunately, that’s rarely the case; while the readers are there, there are an equally-large number of blogs vying for their views. On top of that, many users in other countries will only see local blogs in their search engines, and a majority of people may not be interested in your content. At the end of the day, you’re left with a comparatively small amount of potential readers. However, don’t let this discourage you; by utilizing a few effective strategies, you can lure in your ideal demographic and make them want to read more!
1. Publish high-quality content
The most essential component of any blog is its content. While this may seem obvious, many bloggers make the mistake of overlooking this, favoring quantity over quality. By creating and maintaining high-quality content, you’ll rank better in search engines and better satisfy your readers. In fact, they might even decide to stick around!
Creating high-quality content, however, isn’t always an easy task. Depending on the subject of your blog, sometimes it may be best to hire a professional writer, while other times it’s better to let your passions do the talking. Whatever you decide, keep your content genuine, relevant, and informative.
2. Establish a niche
With the exception of certain lifestyle and personal blogs, most bloggers stand a higher chance of success if they work around a specific topic or niche. Blogs with an overly-diverse range of subjects may find it hard to retain a regular audience, since each reader may be interested in only a few of the topics covered. By appealing to a specific niche, you’ll build a loyal readership and gradually become an authority in your subject area.
3. Make guest posts on other blogs
One of the best ways for beginning bloggers to get their voice heard is to make guest posts on other blogs. Most blogs are always trying to think of new subjects and better ways to produce content, and many of them will be thankful for a guest post to ease the burden of content creation. This is a mutually beneficial partnership, since the blogger gets free content and you get exposure for both yourself and your blog.
4. Utilize social media
If you’re blogging, you probably have at least a few social media accounts with an active followership of friends, family, colleagues, and associates. While many of them may not fit into your ideal demographic, posting links to new blog posts on your social media accounts is an effective way to let everyone know that you’re producing content. Who knows; some of your followers may recommend your blog to people they know or become regular readers themselves!
5. Have a great website
Without a good website or blogging platform, your readers might not be able to access your content! Thankfully, you don’t need to know how to build a blog or website from scratch to have a great web presence. With companies like Livecity offering easy-to-use website building tools, you can set up a modern and professional blog with only a few clicks.
At first glance, most popular forums seem completely autonomous; active users regularly generate new content and discussions while the community usually finds ways to regulate itself. However, almost all forums require some form of regular moderation to ensure that users stay active and true to the intended purpose of the forum. While forum moderation isn’t always an easy job, it can be greatly rewarding with the right team and a solid protocol.
1. Build a moderation team
The first step in managing any forum is to establish a moderation team. While smaller forums can usually get by with a single administrator, increased activity will warrant a larger team of moderators. Moderators typically have the power to enforce forum rules and even control user privileges, but they usually don’t have the same degree of power as an administrator. Of course, this can usually be configured depending on your chosen forum software.
Some of the best moderators come from within the community itself. Look for users who are especially passionate about the forum and already take an active role in helping users. These people are often the best candidates for maintaining the forum since they already love being an active member of the community. If you’re a business offering support for your products, considering giving moderator privileges to select employees.
2. Establish forum rules and encourage quality posts
Forum rules don’t need to be too complicated nor should they be too lengthy. Most forums have the same basic set of rules, usually requiring that users stay polite and on-topic. These rules can be posted on a bulletin board at the top of each forum for everyone to see. By establishing and enforcing these rules, they’ll typically go unbroken, and the community will swiftly deal with violators.
3. Keep out the spam
Spam can come in two forms: off-topic and nonsensical posts by users or, most commonly, advertisements from automated user accounts. While the former is easily dealt with, stopping malicious advertising programs from taking over your forum can be a difficult endeavor. Most forum software has an option where all new user accounts must be approved by an administrator before being given posting privileges. This can be a very effective way of keeping out spam, but it can often take a great deal of time away from more important moderation activities. Regardless of how you choose to prevent “spambots,” make sure to ban their accounts and delete their posts as soon as they pop up.
4. Stay active and involved in the community
Staying active and involved on your message board builds goodwill among users and helps set an example for others to follow. Administrators and moderators also hold the power and clout to drive new discussions.
5. Monitor forum traffic
While having too much traffic isn’t necessarily a bad problem, it can adversely affect forum performance if left unchecked. Keep a close eye on traffic and purchase more powerful hosting plans if necessary. While hosting fees are often expensive, the rewards from maintaining an active and popular forum will greatly outweigh the costs.
A forum that is search engine optimized will bring more traffic to your forum and your website. Search engine optimization (SEO) basically makes it easier for search engines and people to find you. The forum or message board, and its individual sections, threads and posts, can all be optimized with keywords and phrases just as your web pages are SEO-empowered.
Optimizing the forum to improve your overall SEO efforts is accomplished through a multi-pronged strategy. The first and most important is good content in the forum. Good, high quality content on forums, message boards and the website itself are mandatory to attract and retain internet traffic and convert them to buyers or readers.
The strategy should also include embedding appropriate keywords and meta tags for all pages, including the forum and message board and all threads within the forums. Instead of vague terms as titles for forum threads, use keyword specific titles that are search engine-friendly. How is a search engine to know you have a 52 post thread on Hawaiian luaus exploding with quality content and must-know information if the title reads, “Let’s Dance”? Imagine if Rebecca in Long Island desperately needs to find information on the topic exactly like yours but she has no clue you exist. Whatever will she do? Most likely she will use the search engine to look up “Hawaiian luaus.” If your thread topic is “Hawaiian luaus” and the meta tags match, and the topic title is repeated throughout the 52 posts in the threads, most likely she will find your good content on page one of a search. “Eureka!” she exclaims, and so do you.
Threads are conversations between members of your forum or bulletin board, but they are also invaluable internet real estate and advertising space. Embedding links to videos helps content go “viral” or get passed around to others on the Internet. High quality content, rich with video links and good graphics, will get linked to far more than uninteresting or unappealing content. Make it sizzle and encourage sharing by giving people what they want and need.
Companies like LiveCity.com offer forums and bulletin boards as part of their overall services. With their drag-and-drop website building tool, creating a website and forum are easier than ever before. There’s no need to hire an expensive computer engineer when you can do it yourself using this user-friendly software.
Building SEO into your threads and pages is done with the specific aim, of course, to drive traffic to your website, which in turn will increase sales. But it also helps the people who need this information find you easier.
John Rampton's “SEO Guide for Forum Owners: Dos and Don’ts,” has a lot of helpful hints.
If you’re completely new to SEO, then reading “How Google Search Works” will help you get up to speed on how optimizing your website generates more traffic. Per the tutorial:
“Googlebot processes each of the pages it crawls in order to compile a massive index of all the words it sees and their location on each page. In addition, we process information included in key content tags and attributes, such as Title tags and ALT attributes.”
Make sure that you interlink within threads in the forum / bulletin board / message board to other pages of your own website. Sprinkle these throughout the forum threads. Interlinking between your own web pages as well as linking to relevant authoritative outside websites can help increase ranking, traffic, views and ultimately sales and participation.
There are many reasons why you need a forum on your website, but here are just five that stand out:
1. Forums offer trustworthy advice and recommendations from people who care enough about the business, product or service you’re offering to become a member. That kind of word-of-mouth advertising is invaluable to your business. If it’s carefully moderated, the forum can provide a place for a great exchange of ideas and dialogue that can only help you and your clients or customers succeed.
2. You can also make money with a forum (or bulletin board, which is the older name for the forums of today). Forums are a great way to earn extra income. According to the Q-4 Content-Commerce Report by VigLink, the operators of ForumCon (a global conference for forum owners), the only thing that outperforms websites with forums as moneymakers are deal and coupon sites. By their statistics, forums outperformed editorial sites and blogs by 50%. Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing with VigLink said, “The forum category itself is enjoying an exciting wave of innovation. NextDoor, the red-hot hyper-local online community and social network, is growing like crazy.” How do you make money with those irresistible threads of information on the forum? Many forums use ad revenue, but savvy publishers today are choosing not to inundate their visitors with ads but to monetize loyal customers through affiliate links within the forum thread.
3. A forum provides you with keen insight and marketing data about your customers. Knowing who is visiting your message board and why provides valuable marketing information for your business. You’ll also be able to learn, by threading various topics, what your customers need from you, what are they looking for that you could provide, and so many other insights that nothing but a live forum (or a one-on-one conversation) could provide. Everything from surveys to Question-and-Answer threads are possible on your forum and you can pick topics, establish the thread, monitor the threads, and plan your marketing strategy right from the comfort of your home computer.
4. Forums / message boards are excellent for the search engine optimization (SEO) purposes of your website. Just as you introduce threads to gain marketing insight, you can optimize the title and content of each thread with keyword phrases to increase traffic. So not only do you have the SEO of your individual webpages working to bring in traffic, but every thread in the forum is a potential SEO magnet.
5. Last but certainly not least, forums, message boards and the faithful bulletin board establish community spirit and camaraderie, build trust, and open new lines of communication between you, the members and strangers that otherwise would never meet. The forum provides a place for like-minded people to get together and do great things that can change the world for good. It’s like the corner store or the town center of old. This is the place where minds meet, ideas are born, information is shared, and people are advanced. Yes, your forum can do all that.
Deciding whether or not to put a forum on your website is easy when you consider all the advantages. With LiveCity’s software, forums and message boards are available, and adding them is so easy that anyone could do it. You can start free with their drag and drop website builder and be online in no time. With just a little bit of planning, some dedication to moderating and thoughtful execution of your forum, you just might have the next “red-hot” online community.
So you want to build a forum for your website, and ride the wave of forum revival to a money-making cash machine website, or you just want to build a jumping online community? Great, let’s get started.
1. Building a forum is as easy as child’s play if you choose a webs te-development software such as LiveCity.com. With their drag-and-drop, free website building tools, you can actually create your own website, and select from hundreds of professional templates. Forums or message boards are one of many website add-ons offered by the company, and are even easier to create than the website.
2. Actually creating the forum and bringing it into existence is the easy part. Now you need to optimize it with the proper keywords, alt and meta tags. If you know absolutely nothing about search engine optimization (SEO), you’ll need to read up on it. Google offers free tutorials. In brief, search engine optimization is the science of selecting specific words and phrases that people might use on a search for you, your product or topics. Every page of your website should be optimized, the forum or message boards should be optimized and the individual threads and posts should be optimized. This is not as hard as it sounds. Imagine each forum thread as a mini internet billboard and each section and thread title as larger internet billboards, and then the forum itself as a huge roadside internet billboard.
3. Appropriately name the threading topics so that they are specific and keyword-rich. If a forum thread is about “How to Make Cranberry Chutney” then it should be so named, rather than “Good eats.” One title is vague and the other is specific.
4. Within the message board threads, find opportunities to create links to other pages of your website. Interlinking builds credibility with the search engines and will help you get more traffic. Linking out is also good if you find an authoritative site with similar information. The best links of all are when people find your content so fascinating that they share it with others via social media. That is how traffic is generated.
5. Aside from SEO best practices, there are other ways to build your forum. Invite all your existing customers and website users to the forum. Provide a prominent link on the homepage with information on what it’s all about. Make it easy for people who already buy from you to become a member of the forum. Send out invitations to your mailing list and post it on all your social media accounts.
6. Guest posting on other people’s blogs, in internet magazines/ezines, or commenting on other websites can give you an opportunity to share a live link to your forum or message board. This gives your forum greater exposure.
7. Add the forum URL to all of your marketing materials, whether print, radio, TV or online.
8. Invite your own friends and family members to the forum community.
9. Paid advertising is an option to increase traffic and build your forum. Perhaps one of the best opportunities in this respect is Google Ads. Organic search traffic is free, though, so keep up the SEO tactics and you may place on page 1 of a search engine and get all the forum-building impetus you needed.
10. Actively moderate your forums to screen out spammers and X-rated comments. Nothing turns people away more than a bulletin board or forum that is filled with spam, especially if nobody ever cleans it up or bans the spammer.
Once you have built your forum, you will want to maintain it and grow it by continuously adding high quality content and moderating threads. Encourage video links, interlinking to internal webpages, and participation with specific topic threading. You may find that you want to actually make money with your forum and that is possible too, with ad revenue or affiliate links among the most common forum revenue generators.
Maintaining an online forum is one of the best ways to drive sales, develop brand reputation, and promote goodwill with your customers. Some of the world’s most successful businesses, such as Microsoft and Apple, maintain active forums to provide support and a place for discussion for their customers. Building a successful forum, however, isn’t always easy; in fact, it can be downright daunting when your forum has zero users. While a successful forum can take months – if not years – to build, the following steps should set you in the right direction.
1. Use the right software
The backbones of any successful forum are a functional website and the forum software itself. Today, many companies such as Livecity provide an easy way for people to build a modern and standards-compliant website with little to no coding experience. A good website will not only better promote your brand but also provide a convenient gateway to the forum.
When it comes to forum software, there are a wide range of options. Some of the most popular include the free-to-use phpBB and the pay-per-use vBulletin. While most software will provide the same function, be sure to do plenty of research and find the package that works best for you.
2. Find a niche and stick to it
Many forums make the mistake of trying to cram too many subjects into a single message board. While trying to appeal to as wide of a user base as possible is certainly a good intention, it can result in the forum being overly-diversified to the point where it becomes confusing and crowded.
Instead, try to keep the number of message boards on your forum to a minimum and have them revolve around a single niche. The niche doesn’t always need to relate directly to your brand, but make sure it’s relevant and provides users with a reason to be active on the forum.
3. Reach out to potential community members
Building the forum is only half the battle: The next and arguably most difficult half is finding your users. While starting out can be difficult, remember to stay genuine while user-hunting; posting threads under fake user accounts is not only dishonest, but it can also be very obvious to potential members. To help gain an initial membership, try to reach out to friends or associates interested in your niche and use the forum as a “home base” for discussion.
4. Produce good content
For the foreseeable future, good content will remain the driver of good search engine optimization (SEO). When it comes to forums, developing good content means maintaining a genuine user base and keeping advertising bots – programs sent to maliciously advertise on your forum – at bay.
5. Maintain a good support network
One of the biggest reasons why users go to forums in the first place is for support and troubleshooting. As a result, being an active and helpful administrator while providing your users with good support resources is essential to maintaining an active user base and driving sales. Be sure to maintain an up-to-date bulletin board featuring popular support resources, such as a thread on frequently asked questions about your niche or product.
It’s not so many years ago that no-one had ever even heard of a blog. Now, it seems that every business, and many individuals, seem to feel they can’t function without one! For any company, a properly constructed blog does offer a range of key benefits. Before we assess these, let’s examine one key reason that should never be accepted: “We blog because we have to”. If this is the starting point, the finished article is likely to be uninteresting, even boring, lackluster and rarely updated. Each of these points will harm a company more than simply having a blog could ever benefit it.
The external benefits offered by a quality blog
Obviously, and a key reason why many blogs first see the light of a computer screen, is to help with the SEO results, and therefore improve Google ranking by providing both fresh and regularly updated content. This can be a valuable tool, using the search phrases within the copy brings visitors to your blogs and business website. The terrific Blogging Platform facility that you’ll find here on our Livecity site offers a terrific resource for effective blog creation and updating.
People have arrived at your blog, not only from Google searches and the like, but also from other social media sources. This is the point at which your blog platform starts to truly earn its spurs and be of great value to your business. It should be interesting, lively, and engaging, enthuse and inform the visitor. Achieving this makes them keen to keep in contact with it, but also helps you move them eagerly onwards into your website and to build a productive relationship with them.
An effective blog also expands your prospect base, once again through the use of social media. You can post part of it on your Facebook page with a link to read the remainder. You can tweet a link when each updated blog is published. This is the point where, if it’s a quality product, it can take on a life of its own. Enthusiasts can pass the link to their friends, add welcome thoughts on Facebook, retweet the link with a positive comment, and so on. This could be said to be the 21st century version of good old word-of-mouth!
The internal benefits offered by a quality blog
Within a business, much can also be gained by the commitment to a regularly updated blog platform. The need to find material means those responsible for creating it are spending time considering your products or services and how they can be promoted through the use of a blog. New ideas can come to the surface, traditional thinking be updated, new procedures carefully thought through. This is why many companies encourage all members of their team to be contributors. By doing so, enthusiasm levels can be raised, or even rekindled, within the one or two members who might often feel overlooked or ignored.
Time spent creating and updating a company blog is never wasted, providing it is undertaken with enthusiasm and commitment. The terrific news is that, out there, are a horde of people you have never met who are ready to find your writings interesting and your company worth investigating!
If you are running your own business, sooner or later you have probably received the advice that you need to start a blog. You may be considering it, but are unsure if it is a worthwhile use of your time. The fact is that blogging can be a very effective tool in promoting your business and defining your brand.
A launchpad to your success
Think of your business as a rocket with a potential destination in mind. Whether that goal is doubling your sales or expanding into an emerging market, your blog acts as a launchpad to get your business to its intended result. No matter what industry you are in, you are possessed of expertise. You have product knowledge that others are looking for, and this can make your products more attractive and give your business credibility. Many business owners miss out on this chance to connect with an audience of interested customers. Whether it is just clarifying misconceptions about your product or pointing out how it can be used in new and wonderful ways, your blog is a golden opportunity to increase your standing in your industry and even position yourself as a thought leader in your business sector.
What does having a blog do for my business?
Do you want a website that consistently figures highly in search engine results pertaining to your products? Your blog may just be the answer that you are looking for. These days, search engine algorithms are favoring websites that provide a stream of updates and fresh content, relegating those websites that never change to increasing irrelevance. Your blog is not only a forum to keep your customers informed about your products, but also a place to share the kind of content that will make search engines privilege your site over more static competitors. Every post is bound to organically incorporate keywords that relate to your business without making them sound forced, and this ensures that when your customers search for these keywords you will figure prominently in the results.
Blogging vs social media
If you are already active on social media, do you still need a blog? The answer is clearly yes. Social media is invaluable, but it is not the same as having a social platform that you own and operate yourself. Your blog is more than just a soapbox, it is the only place on the internet where you will be able to promote your business without worrying about complying with the ever-changing policies and terms of service of another business. Social media websites that were formerly the most popular sites of the internet have rapidly become virtual ghost towns, and your own blog is immune to these particular catastrophes. It is a place where you will always have a voice so long as the internet exists.
Do you want more information about how to integrate blogging into your website management strategy? Take a closer look at the outstanding suite of blogging tools that are included with Livecity's Free Website Builder.