Building a forum around your blog is one of the best ways to build a solid, dynamic community that will go on even with you not being involved. I am not suggesting that you should set up a forum and just take a 6 month vacation. At the same time, having a community that goes beyond your posts and allows people to get involved and make their own content can certainly be beneficial to you and your blog. If you take a look at the top blogs around, you’ll see that those that have gone to become major media sources have built up their base through their forums. These folks usually register both .com and .net version of their domains. They dedicate the .com version to a blog whereas the .net domain is usually reserved for forums, online communities, and beyond.
There are two ways to use your vBulletin software. You can just choose the forum software (which is what I recommend). That makes it possible for you to use WordPress as your main CMS and integrate your vBulletin forum into your community without too much trouble. vBulletin’s publishing suite is a premium package that you may not need, especially if your community is based on WordPress. There are many reasons to adopt vBulletin, but here are 5 reasons that stand out:
- SEO: vBulletin forums are search engine friendly. You can easily customize your URLs and on page factors to give your forum the best chance to get ranked on Google. The fact that you don’t have to look for additional plugins to get the job done is a big plus.
- Security: I can’t tell you how many times I have installed a free forum software only to realize that it can’t hold up against security attacks that you get every once in a while, especially when your website becomes popular. Don’t forget that your forum can expose you to liabilities if you don’t address these security issues. With vBulletin you are always covered, and you get updates on a consistent basis as well.
- Applications: vBulletin may not be as user friendly as WordPress. It may not have as many plugins as WordPress does. At the same time, it does come with a set of built in applications that let you and your users get more out of forums. Your visitors can start photo albums, check out your events, and you can create groups as well.
- Member Management: managing members is one of the most difficult things to do, especially if you have a couple of thousands of them on your forum. How you moderate them, ban them, and reward them is up to you. But it’s nice to have the option to do those things without spending5 any additional money.
- Customization: vBulletin forums are as easy to customize as WordPress websites. So if you know your CSS, you can easily change things around and give your forum a similar look to your blog. Skinning vBulletin can’t be any easier.
All in all, vBulletin is a great software package to add a forum to your blog. You can always change the CSS to keep the look and feel consistent across your properties. I do recommend using a separate domain for your forum just to be on the safe side. If you have registered both .com and .net versions of your domain, you can dedicate one to your blog and the other to your forum. Managing a forum next to your WordPress blog can add to your daily work, but if your forum gets popular, you are going to get a lot of free traffic and hits, that could help your blog as well. A premium forum script such as vBulletin certainly makes things easy.
What’s your favorite forum software?