How to Leverage Online Forums For Blog Traffic

There’s a very good chance if you are a regular Internet user that you spend a fair amount of time at online forums. For the people reading this article who don’t know what a forum is, here’s a brief introduction.

Online forums or “community forums”, are dynamic websites that allow users to start discussions by posting new topics, which other members of the forum can reply to. Forums are available for any topic with a following from hobbies, to business, to gossip, entertainment – virtually anything!

While forums come in different sizes, from the brand new that resemble ghost towns because no one uses them (yet), to large uber-communities, with tens of thousands of new posts made every day.

I won’t go into more detail because forums, while being simple in concept, are complex in features, you really need to go check some out if you have never seen one. Forums bring together like minded people with a common interest. If you are a forum virgin I think you will quickly become addicted once you join one full of people who share your interests and passions.

HOW TO USE FORUMS TO PROMOTE YOUR BLOG

Let me start with how not to use forums to promote your blog. DON’T join a forum and make your first post something like this

Hey check out my blog, it’s great -

www.myblog.com
Blatant self promotion doesn’t go down well in forums, especially if you are a new member. Forum communities have rules for conduct and won’t tolerate bad behaviour. Often rules are available as “sticky” posts, which are at the top of each forum page, so read them if you are unsure of what is expected from members. Even if there are no specific rules, it’s never a good idea to start off your membership in a community by trying to sell or promote something. Would you start a new friendship by trying to get a person to buy from you? No you wouldn’t, so don’t try it in a forum either.

Credibility, as I’ve mentioned before, is important, and when using forums as a traffic tool for your blog, your credibility is important again. Forum communities often have what I like to call “elders”. These are members who have made thousands of posts and have a lot of respect in the forum. They may be moderators who have been members of the forum for many years. Elders have a lot of credibility since they have devoted so much time to the forums.

ADDING VALUE TO A FORUM

You don’t have to become an “elder” in a forum, although if you find a forum which has the perfect audience for your blog, becoming an “elder” it may be one of the best traffic strategies for you to aim for long term.

The important concept to grasp is — to actually get someone to click through from an entry you make in a forum to your blog you need to have credibility and add value. The more often you add value, the more credibility you gain.

Adding value to a forum is just like adding value to your blog. If you help people to solve problems, gain insights or make money, you add value to their life. How you eventually gain traffic is simple – you leave links to your blog in posts you make in forums.

Here’s how I do it

Step 1: Forum signature and photograph

Your forum signature is the most important tool for gaining traffic from forums. In your signature you leave a link to your blog and for most forums your signature can be automatically added to the end of every post you make. Once you set it up you’re done – every post you make to a forum is a little advertisement for your blog.

Make sure, if the forum rules permit it, that you set this up first. Some forums only allow you to have a signature after you have made a certain number of posts or restrict what content and style you can use in your signature. Be aware of signature policies before creating your signature.

You should also include an avatar/photograph in your profile which is displayed in every post you make. If you are into personal branding like I am, and you should be if you want more blog traffic, it’s important you start exposing your image and name in as many places as you can. Posts made to forums help increase exposure and public awareness of “you”.

Step 2: Add Value

Once you have the basic profile data set up you need to start adding value to the forum. This means you can’t be a lurker – just reading the forum isn’t going to get you traffic. You need to start making posts, demonstrate your knowledge, expertise and personality by helping people, interacting and making friends.

Step 3: Indirect Self Promotion

Once you have built up a little credibility you can start to subtly self promote your blog outside of your signature. It’s still not acceptable to spread links to your blog everywhere, but what I like to do is offer links to my blog pillar articles when one of them is relevant to a question or discussion in a forum. This is a great way to add value to a forum and send traffic to your blog – just remember you have to get the context spot on or you will appear to be self promoting.

SIGNATURE POWER

If you just focus on making 10 value adding posts to forums every day by the end of the year you will have over 3500 links pointing to your blog, sending a nice consistent trickle of traffic to your blog. The more credibility and respect you have in a forum the greater the potential for that trickle to become a stream or even a torrent of traffic.

Digital Product Creation System

Digital products are everywhere you look. Even “physical” products like CDs and DVDs are, in essence, digital because the tracks and other information stored on them is in digital format. But increasingly products like books are being turned into digital products with devices like the Kindle.

Digital products have the advantage that they are cheap to deliver, costing only a few cents in bandwidth.

But if you want to create them, you need a system otherwise they will be chaotic and you won’t be likely to get repeat orders.

Here are the basic steps for your digital product creation system:

1. Make an outline

This can be in any format you want. A Word document, a spreadsheet or a mind map.

Play with each one and see which works best for you. Personally, I find spreadsheets easy to work with as each section of the product can be in a column with the subsections in the rows below it.

For more complicated products, I find a series of mind maps is also easy to use and can be more “at a glance” than a spreadsheet.

2. Decide on a format

This may sound as though I’m teaching you to suck eggs but take a step back and think how your information is best presented.

A PDF book can be good if your subject matter is fairly complicated. But in common with its physical counterpart, it tends to be the lowest retail price.

Audios are next in price value and can be convenient for your customers as they’re not locked into using their computer to listen to your product.

Videos are typically highest price and with screen capture programs such as Screencast-o-matic they’re inexpensive to produce. Or you could use your webcam or the video on your phone.

3. Create your product

Using your outline and preferred format, start creating your product.

Especially if it’s a written product, treat the writing and the editing processes as entirely separate. They use different parts of your mind and if you succomb to the temptation of editing as you go along, you’ll reduce the creativity of your product and it will run the risk of sounding more like a text book than something people want to read.

Save the sections of your product with different file names. Ideally ones that will make sense in a few months time when you go back to create an updated version!

4. Create a sales page

The complexity of your product and where you’re selling it will jointly determine how long and how “flashy” your sales letter needs to be.

There are free sites out there which will help you to create a passable sales letter without too much blood sweat and tears. There are also software programs available which will take this to a higher level. Or, if your product is likely to sell in quantity, you may prefer to use a copywriter.

Once your sales letter is written, you’ll need to upload it to your web host along with any associated images.

5. Upload your product

Use the control panel in your web host or WordPress or an FTP program to upload the files to your website host.

Depending on how paranoid you are about people stealing your product, you may or may not decide to include some form of protection for this. Remember that Hollywood have a much bigger budget than you and they can’t stop piracy so don’t put in so much protection that you annoy your purchasers.

6. Promote your newly created digital product

Promotion of your product is essential!

You can drive traffic to it in lots of different ways including articles like this one, forum posts and signatures, a Facebook page, your LinkedIn profile, pay per click advertising, affiliates and much more.

Five Tips for Selling at Live Auctions

Ah, the old-fashioned country auction! The idea of a country auction conjures up certain images for people. The image of a fast-talking auctioneer offering up an antique table or chair is a popular example.

People who are buying household goods or collectibles are looking to get their items at the lowest price possible. However, the people who are selling their items at auction are hoping for the highest price!

Unless a person is in the business of buying and selling antiques or other items, not a lot of thought goes into how goods are prepared for sale via the auction process. However, if you are one of the growing number of people using auction venues to sell your collectibles or other inventory, there are a few things to learn first about how to sell at auction before you bring a truckload of stuff over to the next event.

Tip 1: Make sure the things you want to sell are a good “fit” for the auction house you’ll be using.

Never bring a load to an auction house without actually having been to one of the previous auctions. It’s important to get a feel for the type of goods that the house sells. For example, at one very rural country auction it was common for the owners to sell live chickens, pots and pans, car parts, and farm equipment.

After close investigation, this would not be the right venue for selling your daughter’s “Hello Kitty” collection. On the other hand, the spare John Deere parts that you bought at last week’s yard sale might be just the right thing for the buying crowd at this auction.

Tip 2: Be sure you clearly understand the terms and policies of the auction house.

Visit with the auctioneer ahead of time. Call to find out what the best days and times are to visit. One of the worst possible times to drop in for an informational visit with an auctioneer is the day of the auction. Call ahead and ask. While you’re at it, find out what are the best days and times to drop your stuff off.

Once you have a little time with the auctioneer, you’ll be able to find out what type of commission he or she takes from consigners (which is you), and what type of paperwork might be needed. Some auction houses send out Form 1099 tax forms at the end of the year. An auctioneer may need to see your identification and have you fill out a W-9. Be prepared.

Find out what happens to your items if they don’t sell. For example, some auctioneers may have a minimum starting bid. If, for some reason, one of your items does not sell, it may be grouped with another one of your pieces. Know the auctioneer’s strategy beforehand so that you aren’t surprised on pay day.

Tip 3: Make sure the auctioneer knows what you’re selling.

It might be perfectly obvious to you that the signed print you are consigning is a rare and valuable piece of art. However, the auctioneer may not know this particular artist. Make a note of anything particularly special about your items, and leave the note with the piece. Be sure to tell the auctioneer about it as well. He or she might determine that this is something to highlight on the company website or in the newspaper listing.

Tip 4: Present your items neatly.

No one likes to have to dig through a box full of grimy and greasy car parts to see what treasures might be in there. Separate the parts and lay them out on a flat, or use more than one box to de-clutter the lot.

There is no need to buy fancy display boxes. It’s easy enough to go to the local convenience store or supermarket and ask if you can have the emptied boxes or flats that they are discarding.

While it’s good to present clean items, take care not to ruin the value of anything by over cleaning. For example, if you find some old cast iron cookware, clean the obvious dirt and grime, but don’t scrub it to its original finish. For many people, this ruins the value of the item. So, clean and tidy and organized is the key here.

Tip 5: Don’t complain to the auctioneer if your stuff doesn’t sell for as much as you’d like.

The phrase to remember here is, “You win some; you lose some.” That’s just the way it is. There are some days where an auction house is loaded with people who all seem to want what you’re selling. There will be other days where the crowd is sparse, and the bidding is simply not competitive.

Remember that it’s in the auctioneer’s best interest to sell your things for the highest possible hammer price. But sometimes, it’s just not going to be a stellar sale. The auctioneer is only human, and is also disappointed if a sale doesn’t go as well as planned.

If you notice that every time you bring a bunch of goods to sell that you’re not realizing as much as you think you honestly should, try another auction venue and compare apples to apples. That is, bring the same types of items to the new auctioneer and compare the results.

Unless the auctioneer is particularly disagreeable or inconsiderate to you or buyers, there is no reason to confront him or her about a sale. If you find you just don’t care for an auctioneer’s style or methods, find another one. Believe me, there are plenty of them out there!

The primary thing to remember as you learn how to sell at auction is that the business is unpredictable at best. You will have good days, some not-so-good days, some great days. The more you sell, the more experience you will gain, and the more enjoyable the business will be.