Many bloggers are members of forums, and tend to be quite active members at that…! But many forums prohibit or curtail promotion of your blog in posts. However, it is possible to promote your blog alongside any posts you make… how? In your signature!
No, it’s not your name. It’s text that appears at the bottom of posts that you want to tell the world about. It can be anything: from links to text to images… Whatever.
In PHP, SMF and VB forums, there is usually a space for your signature, and in that signature you are typically free to include text, links, html (on occasions), and graphics. The only restrictions tend to be: using the BB code formats, and the length. BB code is a simplified way to enter basic codes using square brackets and special tags:
[u]underlined text[/u] will produce underlined text and so on.
To create a link in BB Code, you simply type:
[url=http://yourdomain.com/article]Post Title[/url], so in BB Code I’d type the profile area in ‘edit signature’ (VBulletin)… (note that the tags have to be closed properly).
Which will produce this profile…
And this looks like…
See how the code looks like a clickable link, and the title takes you to a post in my blog!
What do you link? Where?
Of course, this isn’t really anything special. But if you have been blogging for a while, and your membership of forums covers your blog focus for sure (at least in part), then you will likely have posts that would be of relevance to readers of your blog. In this blog, there are nearly 900 posts that I can draw on, though I’d prefer to choose something more recent and more relevant.
So for example, the Forum above is called Forumosa and covers a wide range of issues related to Taiwan. I noted that many readers are likely to follow Taiwanese blogs and blogs about Taiwan, so I added links to some of my posts in this blog about Taiwan. In another forum, on business, I’d choose some with a technology or business theme. In a third forum about education, I’d go with those posts.
So much in so little space?
The real challenge though is on some forums cramming enough links into the allotted space. Forumosa allows 1100 characters, but some forums only allow 500 or even 300 characters. Steve Pavlina’s forums really challenged me to create a meaningful array of posts in my signature in 300 characters, but it can be done. I had to cut the ‘www’ part of each address, shorten the titles to key words, and cut additional padding, but I managed to cram four links into my post… that was 295 characters, in all.
The real challenge was to create appealing ‘titles’ in just four words or less! But it can be done…
A Useful Friend (updated)
Additionally, one tool I found quite useful was OpenOffice’s Word Count Tool which can also count characters. That saved a lot of unnecessary editing! It’s easy to find in the Tools >>> WordCount submenu. It is instant, and accurate. I am guessing that MSOffice also can do this, and it may be in the same place.
And the results.
While my traffic from my forums really depends on how much I post, even posting just a couple of times a week in prominent threads, and making relevant points in the discussion, can benefit. In fact, traffic from forums account for about 4.7% of my total visitors in the past 30 days. It’s not a great deal, but that was before I really optimized my signature. And I didn’t take much part in discussions. But with regular posting it should be possible to generate even more visitors. And compared to my Google Traffic (just over 10% in the last 30 days), it’s not to be sneezed at. Over the last eleven months, it has attracted just over 7% of my total traffic! That’s quite respectable.
(update: in the last 24 hours, since I updated my signature on Forumosa, and posted three times, I’ve attracted 14 click throughs. So it works quickly.)