|Blog or Forum - what are the pros and cons in 2013|
I know this question has been asked in the past (since I read all the related posts), but I'm looking for some up to date ideas.
I have a large web site with lots of pages and 6,000,000 unique visitors a year. We focus on career testing and career counseling.
But I am considering adding a blog or a forum and not sure of all the pros and cons.
Here is what I want:
1) A place to write short thoughts - maybe a paragraph or two. These days when I get creative I write a new web page. That works fine but I can't get any user feedback or discussion going.
2) I answer a lot of career questions for free via email. I'd like to post these where they can get indexed by Google and Bing - I want to keep the user anonymous because career questions should be private. You don't want your boss or HR reading that you are thinking of leaving the company.
3) I'd like to generate some user discussions. Have other people post their thoughts.
4) Finally, I want to get some of this content in the SERPS to generate traffic and sales.
I already have ideas about the software to use whether it's a blog or forum. I just don't know which one will fit me better?
>>2) I answer a lot of career questions for free via email. I'd like to post these where they can get indexed by Google and Bing - I want to keep the user anonymous because career questions should be private. You don't want your boss or HR reading that you are thinking of leaving the company.
well i have a site with a completely different topic to yours, where i get a lot of emails requesting help or information - i set up a forum on a differnt domain, where i now direct people to ask their questions - which i always answer there, not sure if it helps me, but i do get traffic to the forum and the occasional click through to the primary website.
I came across an interesting graph by Akismet, tracking the numbers of comments on blogs. They fell off a cliff for most websites in 2009, about the time Twitter and Facebook took off. I don't know how that relates to forums, but social networks are where most people are having discussions now.
I don't see anything wrong with your plan to have a blog that answers common questions. Just bear in mind that you may not get as much feedback as you expect given your traffic levels, and that people will make comments where it suits them, not necessarily where you want them to.
I am a fan of setting up the content side first, cultivating traffic, and afterward, after traffic has been established, setting up the forum to handle questions, funneling from the content side to the forum side. You can write content all day long on a blog but you will never think of all the variations and trends different people all over the world are experiencing, consequently missing out on that traffic. Forums are excellent for the longtail but also for current trends, current lingo, etc.
Have a road map and plan for forum moderation, how to curate the community in place.
So my main web site has a lot of content (over 20000 pages) and >6M visitors a year. So the content side is taken care of. I've spent 15 years building quality content.
I just need a way to have discussions with visitors.
The discussions are more than 140 characters so twitter is out. right?
Facebook or Google +1 might be a possibility. But when people ask for career advice, they want their identity hidden. I don't think that works on Google +1 and Facebook. I think on those sites, unless you have a special app of some sort, people's identities are visible to all?
Thus blog or forum?
Coincidentally, I was just checking out a new forum software called Discourse. It's beta beta but you may want to check it out if you're planning for the future. I thought it had some nice features.
Blog is better than a forum for a site, as these blogs can be used to post thoughts, questions, etc. and these content also can be used for futher site promotion that submitting to social bookmarking site, sns, etc.
I'll be adding a blog to my collectibles ecommerce site. I thought of a forum but IMHO that can be "hijacked" by participants and even detract from business. A blog can serve as a platform for dialogue with readers but can also just be a convenient way to add and organize new content.
I am leaning towards a blog, for many of the reasons you mention.
I have a career advice site and used to run a forum on it and it was a headache. You'll probably find the handful of requests you get by email turn into hundreds or even thousands of requests as forum posts. Unless you are equipped to handle that volume (even with moderators to help out), you might find unmanageable.
Add to that, people complaining about companies (legal minefield) and quite a lot of spam to manage, running a forum is tough. Career advice is an emotional topic and giving people an open forum to vent their frustrations can be an eye opener.
I ended up removing the forum due to the volume of requests it was receiving - it was taking up far too much time to manage, even with some volunteer mods helping out (and the ad revenue was pretty poor).
It's also worth thinking about the effect not being able to answer more niche questions might have on your brand. I was woefully ill-equipped to deal with anything but basic queries, which left a lot of users having a bad experience (not having their questions answered satisfactorily).
You'd also get a lot of quite delicate topics being raised. It's not like a tech forum where everything is a professional topic - reading heart-wrenching stories of people losing their jobs, facing becoming homeless, dealing with bullying and so on - it can really take its toll and you've got to be prepared to manage that appropriately.
Aside from the really extreme stuff, you'll also need to deal with the community in general - keep a hold on arguments or other behavior that may cause issues (I used to have problems with resume writers arguing with each other about the best advice to give out - it got real messy!).
On the plus side, it can be rewarding and there are always loads of good people willing to help out moderating (look at all the mods here for example), and if you can setup a model that can be managed and maintained, they you're creating an immensely useful resource for people.
I think forums can be a pretty awesome tool - just need to proceed understanding just how much work is involved keeping a community alive.