Using Forums for Content Ideas and Link Building

by Matthew Diehl on January 4, 2011

With the meteoric rise of Twitter and the dominance of Facebook in the social information sharing vertical, just about everyone was thinking that forums were going to die off. However, forums continue to remain strong; driven by the collaborative and expert community members that look to contribute to the discussion on highly focused niche sites.

So, while everyone is looking at the shiny new toys, I’d like to take a step back and revisit how you can use forums to locate great ideas for content and turn that around into links.

Here’s what you will need to get started:

  1. A blog
  2. Site monitoring tool
  3. Some alias names
  4. Google
  5. Time & Dedication

Finding & Join Your Niche Forums

If you don’t already know the popular forums for your niche or industry just hit up Google.

There a couple of advanced query commands that you can use to find forum sites:

  1. inurl:
  2. intitle:

The inurl: command allows you to search the URLs that Google has in its index for a specific word or phrase. You can use these commands to find forums that have “forum” or forum related terms in the url:

Now some forums don’t have forum in the URL, it may just be a forum hosted at a root domain not in a directory or sub-domain named “forum”. In those cases they still use “forum” in the title of the site and that is where the intitle: command comes in handy. Similar to above you can use it as such:

Once you have a found a good set of forums you might want to rank them in order of which you think are the most valuable, some metrics to consider in this process are:

  • Root domain authority (PageRank/mozRank)
  • Category page authority
  • Membership base
  • Membership involvement (how frequent do they post)
  • Follow/NoFollow links in posts (nofollow links are valuable to the overall health of your link profile

Now join up!
I would recommend joining under some alias name using a unique screen. This may seem a bit shady at first but the alias will help in the acceptance of you sharing your own materials on the forum (i.e. links remaining active in posts). Also, setup a generic email to handle all the accounts at Gmail (or your other favorite free-mail) to further separate yourself from your website (this can easily be forwarded to you normal email if you like).

Build a Little Street Cred
If you go into forums ‘guns blazing’ sharing only your materials this could easily be a red flag to admins and members that something is up. Start by posting on other threads that may be unrelated to your target area but will help to build up your profile within the community as someone who is trust worthy. Start with 10 or 15 threads over the course of the 1st week (as members are really active after they first join) and then post 1 or 2 each week after.

Mining the Forums for Content Ideas

Now it’s time to start using the forums to your advantage but how do you go about sifting through 1000s, 10000s or even 100000s of threads in the forums you have identified as valuable communities to participate in. Again, we turn to Google.

Use Google Alerts
Google Alerts is a fantastic tool, that in my opinion is an under appreciated link building tool, that allows you to leverage Google’s crawler to alert you as to when new content on a specific query has been discovered. Using Google Alerts on broad topics like ‘sports’ isn’t really the way to go but when combined with the site: command it is a brilliant website monitoring tool.

The site: command is another advanced query command in Google that tells Google to narrow the focus of a search to a specific site, e.g. site:matthewsdiehl.com returns all the resulting pages for my blog that are in the Google index.

When the site: command is combined with Google Alerts you can create alerts for sites that when new content a specific topic become active, you are alerted. For example, if you wanted to monitor my blog for new posts on “link building” here is how you would setup that alert:
Use Google Alerts to Monitor Websites

Google even gives you the ability to immediately preview your alert to verify it is what you are looking for. The example above produced this:
Preview Google Alert to Verify Site Monitoring

Now, all you have to do is create your Google Alerts for the specific forum sites that you want to monitor for topics that are important to you. These topics could be anything from a mention of your brand to a specific attribute of your product that you would want to make sure people know about.

Use the Alerts to Generate Content on Your Blog

With alerts now coming in from your top forums, what do you do with them? Read them. Read every single one of the alert items because you are going to use the forum threads to give you ideas on what you should be writing about on your blog.

Since a majority of forum posts tend to be questions, turn these questions into helpful posts on your blog. Let say you are a software company, your alerts could range from threads on “How do i do xyz with the software?”, “What does ‘PC Load Letter’ error mean?” or “When is the software going to be able to do abc?”. These are all great threads that you can quickly turn around into content for your blog by just answering their questions.

Share Your Content and Build Links

You now have the answers to forum member’s questions so start posting them. This is when those aliases (with some street cred) come in handy. Using these accounts you can post a ’3rd party’ response to their questions with a link pointing back to your blog post about that same exact topic. You will be that users knight in shining arm and the admins of the site will most likely leave the link active as it is valuable answer to that user question. (Not so shady after all right?)

Icing on the Cake

I truly doubt that is the only person looking for that specific information online. As more individuals look for this not only have you built the content to fulfill this need but that helpful content will begin to accumulate additional links from other forums, resource lists or blogs over time.

{ 1 comment… read it below or join the discussion }

Matthew Payne April 7, 2011 at 9:48 pm

Thanks for sharing this information. Good stuff!

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