26 September 2005

A is for... Authority

The ABC of building an online community

This is the first of a series of articles detailing the essentials of running a successful message board

Your forum has to build a name for itself as the best place to go to for discussions about the particular niche.

* This means you and your team have to drive debate and discussion, usually by creating new topics the whole time. Get each team member to start one or two threads each day, and then go make interesting posts in the other threads to get those off the ground. Don't be afraid of bringing back interesting threads that aren't on Page 1 anymore and so are being ignored; bring it back with an interesting post aimed at pushing the discussion in that thread further and deeper. Each new thread means members staying on the forums just that little bit longer, making a few more posts, having a few more interesting things to read and say... basically, getting into the habit of spending time and being active on your site

* This also means getting top spots in search engines. Do that by getting links to your forum. Aim to add at least 1 new backlink every day; this means sending out lots of emails suggesting related websites link to you or to a thread about their subject. If I had a forum about fishkeeping, I might hunt down a thread about Koi fish and send an email to a website aout Koi fish suggesting they could link to that discussion. Many webmasters will ask themselves 'what's in it for me?' - you could perhaps suggest they sign up, stick a link to their own website in their signature, and post in that thread - even if you don't get the link back, you've still added a new expert to your community, which helps with our target to become the Authority in the niche anyway! And if he likes your site, a link will eventually come... you'll see!

* There are other ways of getting links; if you run a website about music, getting an interview with a band will get bloggers and people on other forums linking to you when they talk about that interview. Remember: Content is King. Getting a reputation as a site that features lots of interviews (or other examples of attention from big names in the industry) will also boost your Authority

* In some cases it's easier to become the Authority in your niche if you focus of a fairly narrow niche only. It could be easier for you to get big by (easily) becoming the #1 board for Classical Music discussion, than being the place people think of to come to to talk about classical music if your boards are about all kinds of music. You can expand into a bigger niche when you're bigger and ready to take a shot at becoming the Authority for a bigger niche.


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