Don Resh asked:
You’ve built the perfect web site (in your eyes at least) and that most-important traffic is out there just waiting to visit you. You’ve done your research and followed the customary methods for making people aware of your site, and you’re now sitting there playing with your Slinky, regularly checking your traffic stats analyzer in case you get a sudden gush of visitors. Of course, unless you’re a big business with massive promotional effort behind you, those days of awe-inspiring traffic are quite a ways off. So while you wait for your search engine submissions to garner their reward, is there anything else you can do to help yourself?
Short answer. Yes, there is. And it’s a technique that isn’t discussed much. What is it I’m talking about?
Forums. Now don’t run off in a huff just yet. Not only will you build up a small amount of traffic in the first few days of launch (a few hundred visitors easily) but you’ll acquire a ton of priceless feedback about your site that can help you to make changes before the search engines send out their spiders. What could be better than free evaluation?
But, first things first. If you’re not familiar with forums they can best be described as the collective discussion area of a web site. If you’ve never used one before don’t be afraid. They’re not as intimidating as you might think. Go take a look at a few to see for your self. Read some of the topics and look at the messages people have posted. Nobody is going to jump out at you and ask what you’re doing there. Really, they won’t.
Right, now that you’re convinced that you can post a message on a forum, you should be aware that you can’t, and shouldn’t, post a message about your magnificent new web site on every forum you happen to find. If you have taken a look, as I suggested, you’ll note that most forums are divided into areas that cover different topics related to that particular web site. Thus, if you want to tell people about your site you need to find forums that will allow this sort of entry.
It isn’t hard to determine where these mysterious forums might be. You’ll want to look at computer magazine sites, webmaster sites and web review sites for starters. I’m sure you’ll discover more once you get started. The process is then straightforward; find one of these sites, take a look to see if they run a forum, then check out the forum to see if they have an area that allows for your site to be submitted for review by other members.
If you’re new to this then keep things simple with just a simple post at first. Just ask people to look at your site and give you some feedback. The best things to remember with forums are to be polite and friendly in your posts. Most people will usually have something positive to say about your web site despite all the criticisms they may also offer. Even if you get lots of praise, you’ll often be amazed at how the smallest tips that you get can make your site a little bit more professional looking. Once you’ve participated in a couple of forums and noted the general response, use a different set forums to get more specific. Ask what they think about your site’s navigation, ask about the content, ask about the colors, or whatever else may be concerning you.
Some forums ask that you look first at one or two other members’ sites and give some feedback of your own before asking for yours to be evaluated. This can help you in that it may teach you how to critique your own site by looking at what’s wrong (and right) with someone else’s. Also, if you do need to give some feedback, look at the list of posts and pick someone whose reply count is low or non-existent. They’ll be delighted that you’ve responded and may pay you the same compliment by looking at yours.
This brings me to another point concerning the reply/view count. Most people who go to the forums (especially newbies) are more likely to look first at the posts that have a decent reply and/or view count. It’s a psychological phenomenon; the post looks popular so you want to see what’s so appealing. With some forums you can use this to your advantage (just don’t abuse it). Be aware of the forums that show an increase in the reply/view count every time someone (including you) adds a message. If you find one, make sure you revisit your own posts to respond to any comments and add a new message to keep the count going. It’s a bit black-hat I know, but like I said, don’t abuse it and you’ll gain a small advantage by getting more eyes looking at your site.
Now don’t expect thousands of visitors from the technique detailed in this article (unless your site is so good that everybody starts talking about it) but for every person that responds to your request for feedback you’ll get loads more that just visit your site who, for whatever reason, don’t reply. At the end of the day it’s all about getting the ball rolling and anything you can do to proactively promote your web site has to be considered. So best foot forward and get busy exploring all those forums.