Keep The Conversation On Your Website: Create A Space For Customers

Keep The Conversation On Your Website: Create A Space For Customers

As a website owner, it’s safe to say that you are concerned with your site metrics. You want more traffic. You want to increase the time your visitors stay on your site. And, of course, you want to make sure that pesky bounce rate is as low as it will go.

So, what to do?

The options are limitless: let’s not pretend that the internet is not chock full of ideas for improving your website. The reality is that there are so many options it’s hard to figure out which is the right one.

Of course, there’s social media. You can start blogging more. Let’s not forget networking and using forums to build traffic to your website. While you should be using all of these tactics, an often overlooked strategy is creating a forum for your customers (and visitors).

Creating A Forum For Your Website Is A Strategy That Works

Your customers will talk about your brand online. They may have questions, concerns, or are simply looking for an answer. Whether they have that conversation on another website or your own, is entirely up to you (in a lot of ways).

First, you have to have a platform for your customers and website visitors to engage in discussions and ask questions. There benefits are well worth it:

  • Increased time on site.
  • User generated content – (great for long-tail keywords).
  • You control the tone of the conversation.
  • A community around your brand.
  • Increased engagement.

Who’s Doing It

Dell

There are a number of brands doing it, and one in particular that has led the charge — Dell. Dell changed the marketing to reinforce connectivity and community with their brand. Not only did they create a responsive social media customer support team, they also backed it up with helpful blogs and community forums where Dell customers can go and ask questions.

This presentation highlights where Dell took their customer experience.

QuickSprout

Neil Patel is also someone who has embraced the value forums can bring. On QuickSprout, a blog many of you may be familiar with, they have added a forum where readers can now interact and start conversations. This increases the time people spend on the site and also builds more engagement.

A #forum gives your community a voice and increases #engagement and brand exposure. Tweet this.

Ready To Get Started?

Building a forum for your business may seem like a daunting task, but it is not as difficult as you may think. We can help you choose a platform, install your forum software, and add any plugins or mods you may need. Just get in touch or choose your forum hosting plan and we’ll take it from there.

 

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How Reciprocation Is The Biggest Thing In Online Relationships

How Reciprocation Is The Biggest Thing In Online Relationships

All businesses, whether online or off, exist through relationships. These relationships are important because they can determine the success — or failure — of any business or website. People want value. They want treated with respect. And, they want recognition.

Community managers and forum owners should understand this absolutely. You can call it the Art of the Favor, or the Law of Reciprocity, but whatever name you decide to use, it boils down to relationship marketing and common sense.

Let me explain:

How many times have you felt compelled to help someone out, merely because they helped you in the past? For example, if I was to do you a favor, wouldn’t you feel compelled to return the gesture? I would venture a guess and say you would for the simple fact that this is human nature.

If You Own A Forum Or Manage A Community, Remember This

If you want to build a thriving community, and want an active forum: be active.

If your goal is to have a community where everyone shares valuable information: share valuable information.

Your actions will directly impact the type of community you are wanting to build. As a community leader, you have to set the tone of the forum by example. But above all, you have to care. Building a community can definitely be a worthwhile investment, but it will never be a strong community without passion, and unwavering dedication. When someone becomes a member of your forum they are investing their time in you. Make sure you reciprocate by building a community full of value.

3 Tips For Applying the Law of Reciprocity In Your Forum Or Community

1) Go Out Of Your Way To Help Your Members

People want recognition. They want to feel important and that their needs are being met. The best way to use this to your advantage is to go out of your way to help your members. If someone asks a question, offer them a detailed answer. If a member of your community is seeking advice, give them your professional opinion. When you have to make a decision as a moderator, give a clear and transparent reason for your actions.

You want your community members to feel that they are in fact, part of a community. Show them that it’s true.

2) Help Solve Problems

We all know how frustrating being stuck on something can be. Maybe you have even found yourself visiting a forum in the past to search for some obscure information that you had a question about. Forums are usually the place to find answers like that.

When someone becomes a member of your community to ask a question, make sure that the answers come quickly. If your forum has a long list of members, you’ll likely get some help in this department. But if your forum is new, you need to be quick to jump in with a solution. Offer value and insight (and be friendly) right from the beginning and you set the tone for the relationship.

3) Handle Moderation Fairly, But Firmly

A big part of managing a community or forum is moderating the discussions and posts that appear on the site. You have to be vigilante with defending your community from spam and scammers, but you also don’t want to take a heavy hand when informing people of the rules. Without a doubt you need to have developed policies and rules, but people do skim over these. Chances are you’ll have to remind people from time to time. The key is how you handle these situations when they arise.

Always be polite and friendly, but firm in your stance. Set the rules of the community, and make sure they are followed. The reason for this is to maintain the atmosphere of your community. If you allow it to go too many places at once, you’ll likely alienate the people that were drawn to your forum in the first place.

Want to build your own community? Create your own forum and get personalized help setting up your site.

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The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

The “I Want To Know Everything” Guide To Starting Your Own Forum

So, you want to build a forum, eh? Well, it’s no easy feat. It takes a lot of work to get it right, and even more to create an engaging community. If you still want to do this, there are a few things you should do. I guess the simplest thing would be to start from the beginning, so that’s what we’ll do.

Step 1: Pick a domain

I would say that the first step would be to choose a niche, but considering you are already researching how to start your own forum, it’s probably safe to say that you already know your topic. The next natural direction is choosing a domain name.

Choosing the right domain can take a bit of soul searching. This will be your online identity. This is the name that people will come to know your site by. For this reason, it’s very important to pick one that is not only unique, but is a good fit for the atmosphere of your site.

There are typically two types of domains that people choose for a website: A branded domain name, or an EMD, better known as an exact match domain. Again, they both have their place, so this choice is entirely up to you. Here are the pros and cons:

Branded

Branded domains can be funny or clever, trendy or simple. The benefit of using a branded domain is that it is much more memorable. Think of names like Google, Facebook, or Nike.

While these names didn’t mean much on their own, through proper branding they were able to stand out in the market, rise above competitors, and become names synonymous with their respective industries. If you are in it for the long haul (as most forum owners are), I would encourage you to go with a branded domain.

EMD

An exact match domain is usually not pretty. It’s simply a string of keywords. So, using an EMD can give you benefits in the search engines. If the phrase you use in your domain is what people use to search for what you offer it can be a good choice. The problem however is differentiating yourself from your competitors.

Check out this Google search or look at the screenshot below. See how there are more than one person using this strategy? Unless you own all of the domains, you’ll have to deal with other people creating sites doing the same thing you are doing — which will make it even more difficult to stand out from the crowd.

Forum Search Results

Pro tip – Make sure you choose a name that has not been taken on popular social media channels. Social media is a great tool to drive traffic to your board, so you want to pick a name that allows you to own that name on sites like Facebook and Twitter. This will help you build a cohesive brand that is easily recognizable.

Step 2: Choosing a host for your forum

This is one of the most important decisions you will make as a forum owner. When you first start out, you can probably get by with a budget host, but often times that does not produce the best results.

Here’s why:

Forums have heavy bandwidth and disk space needs. Unlike a blog or regular website, a forum will have people connecting to the site for longer periods of time. Members will be posting in the community, and adding more content. This is a good thing. The problem is that if your host hasn’t configured the server to optimize for the software you are running, you’ll end up with a laggy site. No one likes a slow website. A slow forum can cause you to lose members, so this is something you’ll want to pay attention to from the beginning.

Another thing you’ll want to keep in mind is backing up your files. With a forum, user generated content is churned out daily (hopefully!). People are posting most hours of the day, plus you’ll have new sign-ups coming in. Make sure you are backing up everything. Most large forums either keep real-time backups or back up every hour. In the beginning you can get away with backing up everyday, but once your forum gets more interaction, you’ll want to start backing up your files more regularly.

Most forum hosts understand how important this is. For example, we maintain hourly offsite backups for clients. This is important because we host some pretty large forums, like the official San Diego Chargers forum.

Bottom line: Choose a host that not only understands all of the forum software, but choose a host that can help you manage your backups.

Step 3: Deciding on what forum software to use

There is no right or wrong decision here. It really boils down to preference and what works for you. If you just want to get your feet wet as a forum owner, there are plenty of free forum software options out there. Some of the most notable are MyBB, phpBB, and SMF.

Keep in mind that free forum software is just that — free. You may save on cost, but you might find it more difficult to get the functionality you are looking for. There is also no guaranteed support, as most free software is ran with volunteers and donations.

Pro tip – Take a look at our forum software list to get an idea of what’s on the market.

Of course, there are paid options as well. The top contenders are vBulletin and XenForo. vBulletin was the original “top dog” of the forum game. XenForo came later and was developed by to of the original developers to vBulletin. So, you can say that there are a bit of animosity between the two companies.

XenForo seems to be making a bit of headway. It still boils down to preference, so do your own due diligence. If you want an example of a production site in action Digital Point uses XenForo, while Warrior Forum uses vBulletin.

Step 4: Choosing a design

Creating a custom design for your forum, usually comes down to two things:

  • Experience

  • Money

You either have the experience to do it yourself or you hire someone to do it for you. Fortunately, there are a few more options. If you do a quick search online you’ll come up with plenty of themes. You can even find free themes as well. Either way, you’ll want to make sure you settle on a design that captures that personality of your forum and will appeal to your members.

Step 5: Choosing the best mods and plugins

Most forum software is expandable via mods and plugins from other developers. It’s much like WordPress in that regard. You’ll be able to find both free and paid solutions that help add extra functionality to your forum. What it comes down to is how you want your members to engage in the community. You can add extra mods that allow voting on threads, or even build an advertising into your forums (which can work great for monetization).

Step 6: Defining topics and threads

This is important. Besides a good name and an appealing forum, you want substance. It’s important that you help direct the conversation to where it needs to go, and the best way to do that is by setting up clear topic threads that not only instruct new members as to what is allowed where, but gives anyone visiting the site an easy way to navigate to the conversation of their choice.

This is really a matter of preference. It depends upon your goals for the community and what you where you would like to see the discussion go. When you are first setting up your board, you should visit other popular forums and see how they have set up their threads. It doesn’t matter if you are not in the same niche, just have a look around and see what you think would work.

Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Start with your forum theme/topic.

  2. Break this down into specific areas of interest. These become threads.

  3. Add a General thread.

  4. Add an Off-topic thread to allow members to talk about what they want.

  5. Consider adding a Marketplace or Advertising thread.

I’m quite sure you can come up with some more ideas (as you should), but those should give a general idea of how to structure your new forum.

Step 7: Creating guidelines and policies

This is quite possible the most important step out of the bunch. If you have no guidelines or concrete rules, you’ll struggle with keeping the community on topic — and there’s a good chance you’ll become a spammer’s paradise.

Here is some tips from GetSatisfaction.com:

  1. Know your special purpose

  2. Establish a social norm

  3. Set clear expectations

  4. Cast a wide net

  5. Create productive outcomes

  6. Make it personal

  7. Be a bridge

  8. Don’t feed the troll

  9. Measure the right things

  10. Assemble

Another thing you can do is just go look at what other forums are doing. Check out the community guidelines from popular forums, and see what works. This way you can adapt these to your own forum.

Step 8: Moderating the board

This is where you’ll have your work cut out for you. In the beginning, it won’t be as much of a job. Once your forum takes off however, you’ll want to enlist some help.

This is why you need to have clear, defined guidelines for the community. This will make the moderator’s job easier. The more concise the rules, the easier they are to enforce.

The main thing forum moderators deal with is spam. You can cut down on this through add-ons and mods, but you’ll still need a set of eyes monitoring the board. If you operate a marketplace as well, you’ll also want to vigilante with screening what people are selling. You do not want to open your community to scammers. If forum members are getting scammed on your forum, your site is the one that loses out the most. If trust is loss, you’ll have a hard time of attracting good members. You’ll also have a bad time monetizing your boards.

One way to combat this is to have people that post an advertising thread allow you to review the product, or offer “review copies” to other members.

Finding your mods

The best moderators are usually the most active members of your community — the people that consistently add value to the forum. You should reach out to these people and see if they would be willing to help.

Step 9: Driving traffic

Traffic is a big deal. If you have no traffic, you have no visitors, no new threads, no new members.

You have a dead forum.

This is something you’ll constantly want to be trying to improve. Here are a few tips to help you start driving traffic:

  • Use Twitter to tweet new threads as they are posted.

  • Visit other forums and see how they are driving traffic.

  • Run a contest or sweepstakes to attract people to your site.

  • Guest post on high traffic and high engagement sites related to your niche.

  • Experiment with highly targeted paid ads.

  • Reach out to other site owners in our niche and ask for a link.

  • Publish content your target market would find valuable.

Final Thoughts

Building a forum can be a lot of work, but in the end you can have a site that generates massive amounts of traffic. This can be especially beneficial if you sell products or services that your forum members use.

The really great thing about a forum is that it is fueled by user generated content — meaning the members of your forum are producing the content. When your community is tightly focused around a niche or topic this builds massive amounts of indexable content for the search engines. It also helps your site rank for a lot of long-tail keywords.

The most valuable thing about owning a forum is having a community around your brand. You create ambassadors and fans that know your business, love your business, and help it grow by engaging in your community.

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When Was Your Last Backup?

When Was Your Last Backup?

You spend time building your site, growing your community, and obsessing over every detail — why would backing up your data be an afterthought? Websites crash, hard drives become corrupted, sites get hacked: there are too many things that could go wrong to leave everything to chance.

The short version is this: make sure you are backing up your files regularly.

Why Forum Owners Need to Have Regular Backups

If you run a forum or community, chances are your site sees plenty of updates throughout the day: new topics, new conversations, new members. This is the heart of your site. For a forum owner, having a backup plan in place is a must.

Forums create a lot of content, much of it is user generated. This means that there are people spending time on your site sharing their ideas. Losing this data can be damaging to your brand. Just think about how you would feel if you spent your time building a profile, and then everything gets wiped away. Would you start all over? Maybe. Many people would probably just move on to the next forum.

What Criteria Should You Use For Managing Forum or Website Backups?

There are a lot of things to consider, but you can easily narrow everything down to the following:

  • Backup your data as often as possible.
  • Exclude temporary files and give higher priority to content and database backup.
  • Do NOT save your backup on the same server as your site.
  • Your backup should be easily retrievable.
  • Ideally, you should get notifications after every successful backup.
  • Backups should be compressed when possible to save disk space.

An important thing to consider when running a forum or website that publishes a lot of content is to have hourly backups of your data. At URLjet, we provide hourly backups through our File Guardian system. We take a snapshot of your system configuration — and we do this hourly — so we can restore your website to any point in time, in no time. All backups are kept off-site.

 

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The Best WordPress Plugins for Community Building & Engagement

The Best WordPress Plugins for Community Building & Engagement

Engagement is more than a buzzword. Entire businesses are built on their ability to successfully cultivate a community that is both engaging and informative. In the online world, community is big. Every webmaster wants tasty stats like high traffic numbers, pageviews, and clicks, but the reality behind those numbers are people.

It’s people that drive those numbers. If your business is not engaging, your traffic will never be all that it can be. In other words, it won’t convert. Lucky for you we have compiled a big list of WordPress plugins that will help you ratchet up engagement and turn visitors into fans.

WordPress Plugins for Search & Stats

There are two plugins that every WordPress blog or site should have installed and these are Askimet and WordPress SEO. What do these have to do with engagement you might ask? Allow me to explain.

Akismet

This plugin was created by Automattic (the makers of WordPress). It works great for filtering spam comments from legitimate ones, which is important. If you do not have a way to automate spam filtering you’ll be bombarded with spam and will have trouble responding back to legitimate readers.

WordPress SEO

This one is an absolute must. In order to create a site that is popular and engaging you want to be found in the search engines. WordPress SEO by Yoast helps get you there by giving you an easy way to edit your title and description tags. Plus, it adds an XML sitemap to your blog and makes it a no-brainer to add Twitter cards and Google Authorship.

Jetpack

You should never be ignoring Google Analytics, but if you want a sneak peek into the performance of your site and would like to check out stats within your WordPress dashboard this is the plugin for you.

WordPress Plugins for Commenting & Discussion

You cannot have engagement without having a platform that makes conversation easy. These plugins help in many ways; from online forum-like discussions to social media enabled comments, you’ll find them here.

Commentluv

This plugin is first on the list because many bloggers use it and installing this plugin on your blog will usually help with engagement right out the gate. What is unique about this plugin is it allows commenters on your blog to have a link back to their last post (if they use WordPress).

Comments Evolved

This was once known as Google+ Comments for WordPress, but as the name suggests it…evolved. The earlier version allowed people using Google+ to easily comment when signed into their Google+ profile. There are a ton of benefits to being active on Google+, including more visibility in search. What makes comment plugin even more powerful is the fact that is integrates comments from Facebook, Disqus, and WordPress. It even includes trackbacks.

bbPress

As you may already know, we’re big on forums. There is nothing cooler than to be able to have forum functionality added right into your WordPress site. This plugin stands out above the rest for the simple fact that it was created by none other than Matt Mullenweg (the creator of WordPress). It’s lightweight, built for speed, and made to seamlessly integrate. What more can you ask for?

WordPress Plugins for Social Engagement

Digg Digg

First on the list is Digg Digg. This plugin adds a floating social media bar to your posts or pages (or both). You can configure it how you like and choose where you would like it to appear on the screen.

Social Locker for WordPress

This is a unique plugin that gives you the ability to “lock” content on your posts and pages that can only be viewed by the reader sharing your post via Facebook, Twitter, or Google+. Unlike the other plugins we have mentioned, this is a paid only plugin found on CodeCanyon.

WordPress Plugins for Lead Generation

Contact Form 7

This is a contact form plugin that works great, don’t cost a dime, and integrates with Akismet and CAPTCHA. It allows you to embed different contact forms using shortcodes that can be configured individually.

Gravity Forms

Think of Gravity Forms form software on steroids. It’s a paid-only plugin, but it is definitely worth the price if you are looking for easy integration between payment gateways, email marketing software and more. You can create a variety of forms with a few clicks. They also have support to help you along the way.

Pippity

This is another paid plugin, but if you are a serious marketer or are trying to build a list this should be in your toolbox. Pippity gives you the ability to create beautiful plugins, but the real value comes from being able to create unique pop-ups that appear only on certain pages and posts. You can also time pop-ups to only appear after someone has finished reading your post or viewed the page for a certain time.

ClickDesk

Did you know WordPress has live chat and support plugins? Well, now you do. Clickdesk comes in three flavors: free, lite, and Pro. The free version has plenty of features, including social integration, but limits you to only 30 chats per month.

Magic Action Box

What is especially useful about this plugin is its ability to add optin forms after every post. This is essential if you are wanting to build a solid email list or you are wanting to create a good-looking call-to-action after posts. Available in free and paid versions. (Although, the free version is rather limited).

WordPress Plugins That Encourage Clicks

Hello Bar

HelloBar is a great tool that allows you to add an eye-catching call-to-action at the top of your site. Installation is easy — just grab the code and paste it into a text widget. You can also do A/B campaigns and it comes with its own analytics that allows you to track clicks.

Related Posts by Zemanta

Keeping visitors on your site should be your main concern. You want low bounce rates and people staying on your site. The best way to do that is to encourage clicks within your site (plus have plenty of good content). Related Posts by Zemanta gives you an easy way to display related posts after each one of your blog posts.

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Online Forum Etiquette: Simple Strategies To Grow Traffic

Online forums are tightly knit communities filled with participants who are either highly knowledgeable or highly interested in a particular topic. They are a place of discussion to share expertise with one and other. Due to the fact that forums are comprised of groups of people who share the same hobbies or interests it is obvious that being apart of these communities can help promote your website. However, do so with caution because there is a wrong way and right way to go about this.

How NOT to promote your website on forums

There is one thing I want to make abundantly clear in this article, when joining a forum, do not join with the intent of promoting. Instead, think of it as a place to network.
Online Forum Etiquette: Simple Strategies To Grow Traffic
People often make the mistake of thinking of forums in the same category as social media or another form of online marketing. This simply is not the case.

While each social media page is owned by one person, forums are more of a shared space. They may be owned by one individual or multiple individuals who moderate them, but they are generally moderated with the intent of the forum being used as a shared space for people to discuss topics of interest. Due to the fact that they are used for that intent, it is unwise to expect users of a forum to appreciate you blatantly promoting yourself, a brand, or your website.

So the number one biggest mistake anyone can possibly make is to create an entire topic about what you are trying to promote, or post on topics with the sole intent of promoting something.

Instead, it is a much wiser approach to simply become a part of the community and engage in meaningful discussions.

Forum etiquette, follow the rules and no one will get hurt

As stated before, forums are not your space, therefore you are not entitled to post whatever you want. The owner of the forum took great care, consideration, and has likely gathered trusted moderators to ensure that their message board encourages insightful discussion.

In order to maintain the desired atmosphere there are rules that must be followed and people to enforce those rules. This is why before posting anything, you should always read the forum’s rules first. Not doing so will damage your reputation with the community you are trying to gain publicity from.

If an idea for a topic or post falls into a grey area or you are just not sure if it would be appropriate it is perfectly acceptable to ask a moderator before posting. They would likely appreciate the fact that you asked before assuming it would be okay and you would avoid breaking any rules.

Strategies to grow traffic

If you are new to forums it is a good idea to read several threads and observe what top posters write. Get a good feel of what makes or inspires a good discussion. Post often, be friendly, and come back to the forum often, perhaps making it a daily routine. This will not only let you get to know others but get them acquainted with you as well.

After you have become well versed with the community and learned the types of topics that become popular then you can try creating some topics yourself.

If the forum allows users to include a link in their signature or bio, definitely do this. This quite honestly the only way to draw attention to you website on a forum. If the forum you are registering for does not allow you to place a link your signature you may not want to waste your time there.

By following these guidelines you should gain a fair amount of traffic on boards that you post to regularly. Just be sure that you are integrating yourself within the community and posting valuable information, engaging in intuitive conversations, being social and friendly, and definitely NOT advertising yourself. Your signature will do that part for you.

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Using Online Forums To Build Social Engagement And Loyal Fans

Using Online Forums To Build Social Engagement And Loyal Fans

At times it may seem like pulling teeth to get people to read your blog. You could have award winning content and be a social media marketing master and still get mediocre page views and little to no comments. But one reason you may not be gaining the notoriety you crave is because you are simply not marketing to the right audience. Another reason could be that you are not becoming engaged in other communities and blogs.

In order to build loyal fans and traffic it is important to join forums focused around the same niche or industry. As long as you are active in the communities and post relevant content that inspires other people you will stand a better chance of attracting people to your social media channels and engage people with your brand. You must scan through relevant topics, read, and engage in conversations. When commenting, reply with meaningful insight which either inspires others to reply, answers someone’s question, or adds upon someone else’s point.

Google Search Operators

Google search operators are little shortcuts that help refine search results. Examples of this may be the word OR, symbol |, quotations around phrases or stop words, and other symbols such as a minus sign or hyphen (-), asterisk (*), half ellipse (. .), and tilde (~).

There is a whole website which contains a very in-depth guide on how different ways to use Google in order to refine search results to specifically search certain parts of the internet. It contains all kinds of Google search tips that many do not even realize exist. Below is list which should provide helpful examples on the basics of how to use Google search operators to find forums that will be relevant to your business.

Niche keyword “comments”

Putting comments in quotes will specifically find pages that have comments. It will help find discussions related to your niche. Try changing the keyword to a variety of words or phrases related to your industry for different results. Give yourself time to read articles or forum posts and reply with meaningful comments.

Keyword site:wordpress.com

This will search a specific site for results. It may provide better queries than using the websites own search bar and allow you to look for specific types of posts on a forum. That way you can easily filter through results to find the most relevant posts which pertain to your area of expertise.

“Powered by vBulletin” keywords

This is quite possibly the best Google operator phrase you can use to find great niche forums. As the query implies, this quotation will search through all message boards powered by vBulletin. You can of course do the same thing with any forum host that has been around for a long time such as SMF, IBP, MyBB, PunBB, and Phbb.

By combining different operators and trying new things there are a variety of different results you may get. Just experiment with what you know and see what you find. At the very least you will find helpful articles that pertain to your market. So experimenting with search queries can’t hurt.

Include a great bio with a call to action

Before you begin posting on forums that you find while utilizing these tips make sure that you write an awesome bio or forum signature in your author profile as well. Keep it quick and to the point while also inciting others to click on your link. Effective author bios should also include a small call to action.

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Your Content Should Attract The Right People

Your Content Should Attract The Right People

Sales funnels and online marketing are essential tools in today’s business world and they need to work in unison. Social media, blogging, and business e-mail newsletters are all tools utilized in online marketing. But just like any tool, it is important to understand how to best utilize them in order to get the best results.

Many entrepreneurs think that just by having a Facebook page and a blog they will get more sales, but what most do not realize is it takes a bit more work than that. Every online marketing tool at your disposal must be used properly in order to draw people closer to the next step in your sales funnel.

There might be a variety of products or services that your business offers, but these are usually high selling services that are harder to sell. In order to attract more customers to your high profit products you need to use a sales funnel and utilize online marketing techniques to guide them through the funnel. Make sure that all of your online presences, Facebook, newsletters, blogs posts, are all working in unison to attract customers to your high cost items.

Utilize your company Facebook & blog to form a relationship with your customers

In order to do this your goal should be to form relationships with your clients, in order to identify a need. Start by offering something free, like helpful information through a blog. Make sure your blog posts relate to the products and services you offer. You are not giving them a sales pitch just yet, you’re just reeling them in, perhaps creating a need. Make sure that your blog points them toward a Facebook page, where they can like your page and get updates about events you do or new things you over.

Another thing to consider is forum marketing. Find a popular forum that pertains to your products and services and register an account. Make sure that you are posting regularly, try at least two times a week, rather than dropping in and only posting to promote your product. Posting regularly and replying to threads will boost your rapport with the community, and validate your posts when you try to promote something of your own. This form of marketing does take time, so it is best that you have fun with it because it is worth it in the long run.

For example, let’s say your business is selling handcrafted jewelry. Along with creating jewelry, you might write a blog about metal working or arts and crafts. People who have an interest in this subject will appreciate the helpful information you can provide on your trade. You might put your blog on your business cards and invite people you meet to check it out if they have an interest in such things. From your blog, you can pull them towards your Facebook page and continue to reel them in to your products.

Think of Facebook as a way to expand your relationship with your customers. Learn what their needs are and point them toward your low cost products. This can be done a number of ways. One method is simply posting updates and waiting for feedback. Talk with your customers on your page to find out how your company can best serve their needs.

If we use the hand crafted jewelry as an example again, let’s say that your local park is having an arts and crafts day where your company plans on putting a booth up. The first thing you want to do is tell your followers about the event, encourage them to come out. Have low cost items available for them and invite them to sign up to your emailing list when they arrive. Again, it is all about building a relationship.

In addition to this, by integrating social media into your company website properly, you will ultimately improve the quality of your website and increase the number of hits. Make sure that your website has buttons that link back to your social media sites and visa versa. For this reason it is an excellent idea to create a page for every popular social media site out there. And use all your social media outlets to promote your website and company events. This alone will boost your online marketing effectiveness tremendously.

Internet newsletters are best used for target leads

Depending on your business you may want different types of newsletters depending on the range of services you provide and the needs of your customers. Your newsletters should introduce your customers to your services in a way that creates or fulfils a need. By this time they are already interested, they signed up to your newsletter based on their own interests, so the rest should be easy.

Based on this example you can see how you can use each online marketing tool to link to the next. By utilizing these tools correctly you can build a relationship with your customers, match the need with the product or service, and slowly reel them in.

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5 Best WordPress Plugins Which Encourage Social Engagement

5 Best WordPress Plugins Which Encourage Social Engagement

WordPress is one of the most versatile blogging platforms to date and it is all due to the plethora of free and convenient applications at your disposal. Add-ons and plugins make every WordPress site a truly unlimited customization platform for all web content. So here are my picks for the top 5 WordPress plugins available.

Every blog needs a Digg Digg

Digg Digg is a social media share bar that will display on the side of your page. If you have spent any amount of time reading online publications it is likely that you have already seen Digg Digg at work. The share bar stays in a fixed position on the left or right of the page as the user scrolls down the page. There are a variety of buttons you can add to your Digg Digg bar including basic share buttons for the most popular sites like Facebook, Twitter, TweetMeme, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Reddit, StumbleUpon, YahooBuzz, Tumblr, even a print button to quickly print the page.

One of the most handy features apart of this plugin is the “Buffer” share button which will automatically share the same message on the users Facebook and Twitter account simultaneously.

Encourage users to post comments with CommentLuv

CommentLuv is a friendly little plugin that will search the an author’s most recent blog posts as they type a comment to your blog. Once the user’s comment has been posted, it will then retrieve their last blog post and give the user the option of displaying it at the bottom of their comment.

The best thing about this app is that it not only encourages other authors to comment on your blog, but it also creates a tighter knit community of readers.

Cut out the middle man with Comments Evolved

This started out simply as a Google+ comment plugin for WordPress but it has expanded to Facebook, Disqus, WordPress comments, and trackbacks. This plugin is especially helpful for any blog that requires a user to register in order to comment. What it does is allow the user to instead use an existing account that they already own in order to comment, instead of having to register for a new one. After all, very few people will take the time to register for a whole new account that they may never use again to just comment on your blog. Your writing may be good, but not that good! This plugin will instead give them other options, which reduces the hoops they have to go through to comment, making everything easier.

Let your regulars introduce themselves with WordPress Author Bio Box

Author Bio Box will allow users to submit a bio in the WordPress account dashboard and display the bio at the bottom of their post. This is another tool whose goal is to encourage socialization between users. You can allow guest authors to submit a link to their own website if they want as well as information about themselves.

Invite readers to your social media pages on Social Stickers

Social stickers are thumbnail links you can include somewhere on your blog that link back to all of your social media sites. That way you can provide an easy portal for readers to follow you and further the conversation on your social media platforms. Much like Digg Digg, Social Stickers will enable you to include links to all the most popular places social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest or a Blogger account as well as other website links. There is also the option to display an RSS feed which is an absolute must.

Another great feature with this plugin is the ability to create a unique theme for the stickers which will match your website. You can also customize the order of the icons as you see fit. There is also an option to display how many Twitter followers or Facebook likes you have on your page.

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The Real Way To Use Blogs For Traffic and SEO

The Real Way To Use Blogs For Traffic and SEO
Link building is hard work that takes time. There is no shortcut, it takes a combination of quality and quantity. While commenting on blogs will not get you the best quality links, it will still build your brand and collect organic clicks when done properly. But in order to do it properly you’ll need to formulate a strategy.

Your goal for gaining traffic from blogs should be to actually engage in a thoughtful conversation in your comments. Also, be sure to include a link to your website where it can be easily seen, either in your blog, signature, or at the end of your post depending on the blog you are posting to. Many well written blogs will inspire a continuing conversation, so be sure to leave thoughtful comments on the subject in order to get clicks on your link.

Your comments could be a new angle on the topic, additional information that the writer might have overlooked, or anything that adds to the discussion. The whole point is to say something that impresses or inspires others to join into the conversation with you. It will show that you are an expert in the niche or highly enthusiastic about the topic, which builds your brand and brings in website traffic through your link.

Find blogs in your niche

But before wasting your time posting on blogs that either do not have a lot of readers or do not pertain to your niche, put a little research into the blogs of your interests.

Alltop.com is a great resource to find tons of blogs pertaining to your niche. They gather the top blogs on several topics all in one place for you. You can create an account and easily sift through the blogs pertaining to your niche. The site even allows you to create custom lists for yourself and keep up on the latest blog posts.

Feedly essentially does the same thing, but it uses RSS feeds and e-mail updates. By using this tool all of the blog posts from your niche will be collected in one place. The conversations within the posts can be monitored and it will be easier to become apart of the conversations.

For mobile users, Flipboard is another awesome resource that can be used to do the exact same thing. It works both on android and apple devices. Users are able to subscribe to RSS feeds, blogs, online publications, and social media feeds. You can create customizable “magazines” or feeds pertaining to your niche, and easily comment through your flipboard account which can be linked to other accounts like Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter.

Posting on social media groups to build traffic

There are several social media sites that you can also treat as blogs in order to further your traffic building strategy.

Depending on your niche LinkedIn could likely be one of the most influential areas to focus on due to their many groups centered around specific industries. Try using LinkedIn’s search or their group directory to find online communities built around your niche.

Treat the groups just like a specialized forum and integrate yourself within the community. Post well thought out and insightful comments just as you would with the blogs. The results may even have a better payoff than posting to most blogs because LinkedIn groups are tighter knit communities.

Essentially the same thing can be done through Facebook and Google+ groups as well. But it can be hard to keep track of all these social media sites so that is why Hootsuite can be a very important tool for your strategy.

Hootsuite will put all these social media feeds in the same place, making them easier to manage, read through, and post. It is particularly useful in tracking Twitter lists as well, which can be used to keep track of important bloggers you are following and keep up to date on their posts.

In addition to gaining organic traffic through your link while posting on social media groups, you may even form networks that could benefit you in the future.

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