Forums can be a great addition to a website, but like anything online, there are pros and cons when it comes to adding a forum to your website, because just having a forum is not really going to do much for you.
Below, we take a look at the main advantages and disadvantages when it comes to having a forum on your site which might help you to decide whether it is worth having one or whether you should stay well clear!
Content – Google (and other decent search engines) love content, so having a forum with lots of people all contributing and adding new posts and replies can generate enough content to really push your site forward. It does take a while to get to this kind of level and you will need some great members, but if you can get a happy group of users all posting away then this can really help your site rise up the rankings.
Visitor Retention – A forum gives visitors, clients and potential customers a reason to return to your site, especially if they need help or advice on a certain subject. All websites want to keep their visitors returning, so having a forum can be a cracking way of making people want to come back and use your website regularly.
Commercial Opportunities – The more people you have on your site, the more money you can make, so by having more people and more returning visitors using your site, you immediately increase the chance of making a decent income from your site. From shopping sites to online services, if you can keep your visitors entertained on your site and give them a reason to come back often, this then gives you more opportunities to sell to them.
Moderation – Whenever you open up a public forum then you are going to have to think about moderation, because not everyone will be as well behaved as you are! From petty arguments right the way through to dodgy posts and naughty items, you need to make sure that you are on top of the forum or have people doing this for you, which will of course take either a lot of your time or will mean you have to put trust into often non paid members to do it for you.
Spam – Like the majority of things on the World Wide Web, a forum is just an open target for any spammer because if your forum gets big then it could have some weight in Google. There have been some massive forums close or change the way they operate due to spam, so it’s vital to consider how you will deal with this before it becomes a problem for you.
Security Vulnerabilities – Because the majority of forums will be an addition to your site, you need to make sure that you regularly update the software that runs them else you could be opening yourself up to some massive security issues. It is important to review your forum setup before you go live to make sure that you have closed any obvious loop holes that could allow the bad guys in, but even then, you need to make sure you are constantly monitoring your site for issues, which again, takes up your time.
Lack Of Posts – A bit like a city with lots of closed shops, if someone lands on your site and sees you have only a few posts, this can actually have a negative impact on that visitor. Although it’s hard to get members without being live, you do have to consider how you are going to get your forum active to avoid looking like an empty site and actually putting visitors off of your site.