The Ethical Ghost-Marketer: Using Forums to Get Links and Traffic

Posted in Marketing

Retailer websites and online stores are amongst the biggest spenders on online marketing and SEO campaigns out of all market sectors. While most companies keep a good slice of their marketing budget for video campaigns, promotional pushes and outdoor ads internet-based companies rarely invest outside of the digital sphere. Instead they seek to diversify their on-line marketing budget across as wide a selection of fields and promotional options as possible. And one of those accessible but rarely well-tackled subdomains of online marketing is product promotion via forums and on-line communities.

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Of course the point of the exercise isn’t to create a spam campaign that will backlash against your client’s site so don’t think of running any scripts. Any forum-based push has to be smart, not overly promotional and all in all aimed at generating a civilised discussion rather than just getting feedback. And you should tread carefully on forums in general as administrators will see through your promotional campaign pretty easily, especially if there are links involved. Be polite, don’t be spammy and everything will be better for you.

The first thing that you should decide on is the forum selection. You can spend countless hours trawling the Internet for the right place but there are also tools that can cross-reference forums for mentions of a key phrase. If you work for an affiliate agency or have a direct connection with affiliates working with the same product or service you can also ask them for advice as they often use forums for promotion.

Once you have found some good candidates for your link campaign check out some of the timestamps on the forum to get a sense of how fast discussion usually progresses there. You should adapt to the style and tone of the forum rather than post in your general manner and should pay close attention to the posting guidelines. Some forums have zero-tolerance policies towards link campaigns and ‘viral’ content so avoid those or be extra careful, lest it reflect poorly on your client.

Most importantly remember that for the purposes of your forum participation you are not selling a product or pushing for a link but fostering discussion. If you start a new thread make sure it is a new one that hasn’t been tackled a dozen times before and frame it in an interesting manner. Try to slowly drive the discussion towards the product or service and remember to always involve other users in your discussion and once the discussion is on your chosen track to focus on presenting the product or service briefly and neutrally but by stressing out the differences between it and competitors. This kind of information is what could drive your interlocutors to click on your link and if you’re doing this for e-commerce it is also quite good in driving up conversions. Forum traffic due to its personal nature is extremely good at providing conversions.

Another great approach is to find a thread that is on a topic close to that that you want to approach and slightly derail it, driving it in the direction you prefer. You can do this, depending on the tone of the conversation by providing corrections and emphasizing differences and you can keep the discussion going by pointing out logical flaws and even grammar mistakes. Use the last two sparingly or you could be accused of trolling and an Administrator could lock down your thread and send it to oblivion, thus denying you the link.

Forums are a great source of both traffic and backlinks to your page but they are one that has to be handled gently and elegantly. While some SEOs might consider it a grey hat tactic if done right it is not only white hat but it also provides some people with needed information.

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