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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

    
Does your site really need a forum?
Karma




msg:3498220
 10:47 pm on Nov 6, 2007 (gmt 0)

Back in the days before Web 2.0 and more importantly; user created content, the standard setup for any website was a bunch of static content pages and a community forum.

Now, towards the end of 2007 itís becoming pretty hard to find a content management system that doesnít come bundled with a means for your visitors to leave their thoughts and opinions (aka content) on your pages.

After some thought, I decided to remove the forums from one of my sites. Iíll be the first to admit, my forums werenít really that successful but it got me thinking; do we really need forums these days?

Obviously there are some sites that are based on forum software (such as our very own webmasterworld) and then we have the community portals etc, but apart from the obvious example - are they really needed like they once were?

Here are the deciding factors that prompted me to remove the forums from my site:

- I didnít really have the time to be an active member/admin of my own forum
- Forum members would discuss the same topics that were on the main site, rather than using the comment/feedback forms, potentially diluting my main siteís content. Once I removed the forums, the number of people commenting on the main siteís pages increased as did the pageís ranking.
- A largely empty/inactive forum gives a bad impression on the main site
- Adsense didnít convert as well as it did on the main site
- There are around 10,000,000 more active and more general forums than mine.

As you can tell, forums probably werenít right for my site in the first place but I also realised that things are changing fast and people are more willing to use comment boxes than sign up to commitment software like forums, and I think that for some websites thatís probably a good thing.

So next time you launch a new site and immediately upload the latest version of your favourite forum script just out of habit, just give a little thought to if itís really needed.

[edited by: Karma at 10:51 pm (utc) on Nov. 6, 2007]

 

King_Fisher




msg:3498317
 1:48 am on Nov 7, 2007 (gmt 0)

Scrap it! If its not a first class, active forum let it go.

There are more beneficial ways to use your time...KF

rogerd




msg:3500087
 9:58 pm on Nov 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

That's a call that needs to be made on a site by site basis. No forum at all is better than a dead, or nearly dead, forum.

A blog may be a good compromise to allow some visitor interaction but without the maintenance issues of a forum.

londrum




msg:3500089
 10:00 pm on Nov 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

a lot of people have switched to blogs in the past few years. blogs always look full even if your members don't post. and you end up with better pages for the search engines as well.
[edit - just noticed rog just made the same point. posted at the same time]

netchicken1




msg:3500155
 11:37 pm on Nov 8, 2007 (gmt 0)

Blogs are a fad.

They are no good at monotorising old posts, whereas forums give each post and comment equal standing in adsense.

For example 1 blog = 7 posts yet only 3 adverts. Key words are diluted by the multiple posts, and people rarely read below the first 2 anyway.

With blogs you run on the spot making new posts just to maintain your viewers, the bog itself doesn't 'grow' as a resource. You have to provide ALL the posts and information, which makes more work for yourself.

Peoples comments are not rewarded with equal standing to your post or equal visibility and cannot generate discussion threads.

Feedback for the commenter is poorer than forums so you get less visitors posting.

I predict the net will move on from this inefficient and problematic system and blogs will return to its niche markets.

lynder




msg:3504615
 1:36 pm on Nov 14, 2007 (gmt 0)

It is really hard to maintain a blog! People hire SEOS all the time just to maintain it

rogerd




msg:3507675
 7:48 pm on Nov 17, 2007 (gmt 0)

Lynder, it's been my experience that blog maintenance is almost zero. Once the underlying page code has been tweaked for SEO purposes, future posts are fairly well optimized. Obviously, the things the author does with title, page name, and text content will influence how well the page does for particular keywords.

I like forums too, but the key distinction I make is that a blog is better for sites where low user participation is likely.

walkman




msg:3507923
 6:00 am on Nov 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

The idea is that you can get 1000's of free content pages as you do nothing if the forum picks up. On the blog you must enter each one...

bouncybunny




msg:3507981
 10:15 am on Nov 18, 2007 (gmt 0)

I killed off a forum (due to lack of moderating time, rather than user inactivity) a fw years ago.

Initially visitor numbers dropped. After a few months they were almost back to normal despite the loss of a few thousand forum threads. I was adding some new content, but nowhere near the same quantity as when the forum was up and running. Yet I still get good visitor numbers. However, the content that I was adding was of a much higher quality than 90% of the forum topics.

The lesson? Running a forum is good if you want to run a forum. It is not, in itself, a tool for SEO or necessarily the way forward for building a good website.

grey259




msg:3519563
 7:53 pm on Dec 3, 2007 (gmt 0)

I definitely agree that this is a decision to be made on a per-site basis. Ask yourself what value your community brings to your site. Does it provide relevant content, useful feedback, or your own personal enjoyment? What about the work involved and impact on your site's image and traffic?

Forums themselves are difficult top convert into viable ad generating traffic. The demographic (in general) is less likely to click and act on advertisements and consume more of your resources (mainly your work hours, bandwidth is cheap). Getting your pages well-indexed by search engines is difficult due to limitations of available forum software.

It takes a lot of effort to build a community that is dedicated towards quality discussion. That requires stricter guidelines than most people are accustomed to and a core usergroup which will lead by example and enforce your quality standards.

A few ways to make it worthwhile:

  • Make sure your community moderators are in line with your ideals; delegate.
  • Invest in quality forum software. If it's worth your time, it's worth the money.
  • Find forum software plugins to parse outgoing links. Insert your code automatically into sites you'are affiliated and make your forum members' recommendations work for you. Put an explanation in your forum FAQ, because someone will notice evventually.
  • Be aggressive in promoting your new content to your forum users
  • Use your forum to recruit free authors for your main site. Some people aren't interested in the money, they just want to contribute.

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