If you’ve built a WordPress website for your business, you’ll need a way to increase customer engagement around your online presence.
That’s right, forums are useful for much more than posting memes nowadays. They promote meaningful discussions around your online content, which in turn strengthen relationships between customers and build trust in your brand. Forums are all about community, something every online business should strive to promote and maintain.
Forums work because all customers share an interest in your product. A forum simply gives them a means to discuss this interest, along with other related topics. For example, if your website offers online courses, students can review the content of your lessons and support each other’s learning.
Best of all, a forum keeps these interactions on your domain, rather than channeling users to a different platform. The more users stay on your site, the more they’ll buy from you.
Adding a forum to WordPress is possible in just a handful of steps. In this post, we’ll go over how a forum benefits your site, and how to install a basic forum with a WordPress plugin.
What is a WordPress forum?
A WordPress forum is a space on a WordPress website designated for visitors to talk about your product, business, or other topics. Forums can serve as a space for customer discussion, support, social networking, and feedback about your product.
Comments in forums are typically sorted into threads based around one question or prompt. Threads may be further grouped into larger categories like support, feedback, and general discussion. See the HubSpot Community for an example of how forum structure suits the needs and interests of customers.
Adding a forum can enhance your WordPress site in many ways. As I’ve mentioned, the clearest benefit is customer engagement. However, a forum has other benefits:
With a support section on your forum, users can easily ask questions about using your product, allowing fellow users or your own team to respond. Future customers can reference these same threads for help with their own issues.
Also, forum pages very commonly appear in search results for long-tail keywords. If someone Googles a specific question about your product, a post on your own forum might just come up.
Product Discussion and Review
Forums let customers share their experiences with your business. They might praise some aspects of your product, or suggest improvements with others. You can use these insights to shape your product development.
Potential customers can ask about your product, too. If leads feel more connected to your current customer base, they’ll be more likely to join in. You can even interact with users yourself through commenting on threads and Q&A sessions. This activity shows customers that you’re listening to and acting on their needs.
Search Engine Optimization
When adding a new feature for your WordPress site, it’s important to consider how it adds or detracts from your SEO. Fortunately, a well-moderated forum can significantly boost organic search volume to your site.
This is because active forums contain a flow of original user-generated content, packed with unique long-tail keywords. When indexed by search engines, your forum threads might match specific search queries and drive this traffic to your WordPress site. Take websites like Stack Exchange or Quora — these sites show up often in searches because they match very specific questions.
Now that we know how a forum can help your WordPress site, let’s set one up.
How to Create a Forum in WordPress
The most popular way to create a forum on a WordPress website is with a plugin. There are many plugin options available for running a forum on your site. Be sure your plugin of choice allows for forums that are simple to set up, customize, moderate, and scale with the growth of your site’s following.
Some popular, well-reviewed plugin options for creating WordPress forums include:
- bbPress, a free plugin and a favorite solution amongst WordPress users. bbPress is known for its simplicity, ease-of-use, and reliability.
- BuddyPress, a tool for creating a social community on your WordPress site. Its features include customizable discussion forums, public profiles, activity feeds, and private messaging, all for free.
- wpForo, a free plugin with optional paid addons to further customize your forums.
- Asgaros Forum, another free and simple option with a range of features for taking advantage of all the forum benefits listed above.
For more options, see our full list of WordPress forum plugin recommendations.
All popular forum plugins are easy to set up. Let’s walk through the process of creating a forum with one of the leading plugins, bbPress.
How to Create a Forum With bbPress
- From the WordPress dashboard, select Plugins > Add New.
- Search for bbPress, and click Install Now on the bbPress result.
- When the Install Now button changes to Activate, click it again to activate the plugin.
- You’ll see three new options in the left sidebar: Forums, Topics, and Replies. Select Forums > Add New.
- On the Edit Form screen, write a title and a brief description for your first forum. You can also change forum settings under Forum Attributes and Forum Moderators. When finished, click Publish.
- After publishing, you can view your forum under Forums > All Forums, like you would your pages and posts.
- To add your forum to a page on your WordPress site, create a new page and paste the shortcode "[bbp-forum-index]" in the body. This will embed the list of all your current forums on the page for users to access.
This is just the beginning of what you can do with bbPress, or any WordPress forum plugin. Take time to explore the features of your forum tool and how it can work to increase engagement and build a community on your site.
Keep Things Civil
One more thing: You’ll need to make sure the discussions on your WordPress forum remain friendly and inclusive to all users, which requires some degree of moderation. Your forum plugin will provide tools for keeping an eye on the discussions in your forum. You might also consider disabling comments on your WordPress site to limit the conversation to one manageable location.
You can begin by moderating the forums yourself or with your team, but a more scalable solution is offering moderator positions to active participants. For now, focus on acquiring a following with the quality of your product and your website. Soon, your site might just be the talk of the web.