There seemed to be a time where everyone congregated on forums. Forums are not dead but certainly are not booming as fast as full-featured social media communities.
The leader in the forum space depends on the niche, and the number of communities around a given topic varies widely. You will have to research what the biggest forums are in your area of expertise but there are great rewards to be had if you can connect to other people passionate about sharing their ideas and asking questions online.
Pros and Cons of Having Your Own Forum
- Grow or engage in a vibrant community
- Establish relationships
- Convert visitors to clients
- Ask users to make suggestions
- Help others
- Huge volumes of SEO-friendly user-generated content will get added to your website
- Monitoring for spammers
- Monitoring content
- Hosting responsibilities and the bandwidth required
Forums might be a static throwback of the last decade, but they are still a great knowledge resource. Well-run forums come with built-in trust because the users know that the moderator will drive conversations toward constructive topics. Therefore, when you do put in links to your site (only when appropriate after sharing something relevant) and they stick, you are more likely to receive quality, well-targeted traffic. Just don’t do this unless it is about building high-quality relationships or you run a substantial risk of penalties post-Google Penguin. If you can build a forum on your own site and create a community, Google will see it and give you credit for being an authority, as long as the content is real and engaging.
User-generated content of various kinds is great for differentiation because it can add engaging content to your site that your competitors don’t have. Engagement is essentially an SEO ranking factor, and the influence of engagement metrics will almost certainly grow. So getting users engaged, whether it’s through blog comments, forums, or shares, will help you considerably moving forward.