Why You Need A Forum & How To Add One To Your WordPress Site

Why You Need A Forum & How To Add One To Your WordPress Site

This tutorial will teach you how to setup a forum on your WordPress site in less than an hour!

I recently decided to add a forum to the site which offered a number of benefits. However it wasn’t all that straight forward to setup and took me a while to get everything working as it should.

So this step by step guide will make it a breeze for you without any of the head ache!

Why Bother Adding A Forum?

I added WordPress forums to the site to solve a problem. I was getting lots of emails everyday asking for advice which was eating into a lot of my time per day.

This was a problem because not only was I spending a lot of time doing that – but the answers I provided stayed locked up and weren’t for everyone’s benefit.

So adding a forum to the site solved those problems.

Other Benefits

There are a huge range of other benefits to adding a WordPress forum-

  • User Generated Content – Every time someone creates a new post that creates a new page on the site
  • Engagement – People have a reason to return to the site
  • Community – It allows my readers to interact and help each other
  • Helpful – The forum is a valuable & helpful resource in itself as people discuss & interact
  • Long tail traffic – All of these new forum posts have potential to rank for long tail searches

My Results So Far

I launched the forum 40 days ago on the 18th October 2012. In that time-

  • 126 users have signed up
  • 64 topics have been started
  • 279 replies have been made

Check out the traffic stats for the forums so far-

Not bad eh? The forums now account for 12.95% of my overall traffic and is highly engaged spending an average of 12 minutes on the site browsing 7.55 pages per visit.

On top of that Google also sent me 548 visitors to forum pages-

Hopefully your starting to see the long term benefits of having your own forum!

Stats Update

As of the 21st February 2012 the forum now has-

  • 404 users
  • 231 topics
  • 954 replies

This has resulted in an extra 65,447 pageviews from 5,841 unique visitors.

Google alone has sent 5,052 visitors to the forum that on average visited 5.15 pages across 7 minutes 30 seconds.

You can keep track of the blogs & forums growth via the monthly income & growth reports.

The User Journey

One thing I wanted to cover quickly is while WordPress does make it relatively easy for people to register on the site it doesn’t really provide the best user journey.

For example the login pages don’t match the design of the site and there is no obvious register/login/logout links on most WordPress sites.

I also wanted new members to be added to my blogs mailing list.

I spent considerable time tweaking the user journey through trial & error and will show you my personal solutions below.

Planning Your Forums

The first thing you need to do is decide what forums you will offer. You don’t want to be so specific that you end up creating lots of forums that confuse the user, but you don’t want to go to general either.

For this site I personally went with-

  • E-Commerce
  • Hosting & Domains
  • Link Building
  • On Page SEO
  • Social Media
  • Video
  • Tutorial Requests

Take time to think about the forums you will offer and make a note of them, you’ll need this later on!

Installing BBPress

First of all download and activate the BBPress wordpress plugin.

Then go to Settings > Forums and configure to your personal preference.

Ensure that under the Theme Packages header you choose the bbPress Default option

I have included a screenshot of my settings below-

Creating Your Forums

Now from the WordPress Dashboard select Forums > New Forum

In the title area enter the forum name and then add a short description in the content area.

Once your happy click on Publish and your first forum will be up and running!

Repeat this process for each of the forums you want to create but don’t start using them just yet, there’s a few more things we need to do first.

Tweaking & Additional Plugins

In order to make the forums a bit more user friendly and just better all-round there are a few plugins we need to install & configure.

If you want to add any other features then check out the full list of bbPress plugins there are quite a few to choose from!

GD bbPress Tools

This plugin add a range of functionality to the forums including-

  • BBCode support
  • Quoting
  • Signatures

It also allows you to tweak a lot of the more advanced options.

Download, install and activate the GD bbPress Tools plugin.

Then head to Forums > Tools and tweak the settings to your personal preference.

Here are my settings, everything else I left at default-

Once that is done, you can move on to the next plugin!

Theme My Login

The user registration / login process doesn’t really deliver a consistent user journey but this can be fixed with Theme My Login.

This will integrate the login form with your page templates seamlessly.

Download, install and activate the Theme My Login plugin.

Click on Pages > Add New and create a login page similar to the screenshot below. Don’t forget to include the shortcode in the image below-

Once you have done that publish the page and in the URL make a note of the page ID.

http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/wp-admin/post.php?post=1137&action=edit

In the URL above the ID is 1137

Next go to Settings > Theme My Login and type the page ID in and tick all 3 options. Here are my settings-

If you click on Permalinks you can also define the slugs to use for your login, register, lost password and profile pages -

If you click on Modules you can enable other settings/options modules to customise even further.

Personally I have-

  • Custom E-mail
  • Custom passwords (nothing additional to configure)
  • Custom user links
  • Theme profiles
  • User moderation

E-Mail Options

Here you can customise the e-mails that get sent out upon new user registration, password resets etc

I have left everything at default except for the new user registration e-mail which I have as-

Hi,

Thanks for registering on my blog!

Why not head over to my forum and join in with the conversation http://www.matthewwoodward.co.uk/forums/

Your username and password are below for your reference-

Username: %user_login%
Password: %user_pass%

Thanks for signing up!

Matthew Woodward

You can put whatever you want in that e-mail, I plan to improve these by linking out to social profiles & key content.

User Links

In the User Links settings click on Forum Participant and delete the dashboard line.

Themed Profiles

In the Themed Profiles settings enable Theme Profiles for all users and restrict admin access to Forum Participants-

Moderation

In the moderation settings choose if you want to enable e-mail confirmation or not.

GD bbPress Widgets

Download, install and activate the GD bbPress Widgets plugin.

This add some new wordpress forum based widgets that we are going to use alongside the next plugin.

bbPress WPTweaks

This will add a custom sidebar to our forums that only displays on forum pages / topics.

Download, install and activate the bbPress WP Tweaks plugin.

Go to Settings > bbPress WP Tweaks and select Page.php click on Save Changes

Next go to Apperance > Widgets and you will see the new bbPress sidebar on the right.

Add widgets to this as you please – see the screenshot below for my setup-

Aweber Integration

I also wanted new forum members to be added to my Aweber list. If you want to do the same then setup a new list in Aweber.

Download, install and activate the Aweber Registration Integration plugin.

I know it says the plugin hasn’t been updated for a while but it still works!

Once installed go to Settings > Aweber Integration and add your form ID and list name.

If you need help with that follow the instructions at the top of the settings screen.

Redirect After Login

The only place people can login / logout of the site is in the forum sidebar. By default when people login they get taken to the homepage which offers no benefit. Instead they should be taken to the forum.

In your themes functions.php file add this code-


add_filter('login_redirect', 'plugin_admin_redirect');
function plugin_admin_redirect($redirect_to, $url_redirect_to = '', $user = null) {
return '/forums';
}

Ideally though the user should be taken back to the page they logged in from but I suck at coding and couldn’t work that out.

Test Test Test!

That is the setup complete and hopefully it didn’t take you all that long!

Have a browse around your forums and check that everything is looking good and as you want it to.

Create a test user and go through the user journey yourself, ensure your test user gets added to your Aweber list.

Start a test topic and post a test reply – if your happy delete all the test data.

Going Live!

If everything looks good then it’s time to push your forums live.

What I chose to do was add a link in the main navigation bar that reads ‘Ask A Question’

I positioned this on the far left as it will attract a lot of attention from the eye and if anyone wants to ask me a question they will see that option before reaching the ‘Contact Me’ option which is purposely positioned on the far right (least attention).

This helps to ensure a steady new flow of users and questions while keeping my inbox clear for my clients.

I also added 2 widgets to the sidebar that are visible across the rest of the blog, these are a list of the forums and a list of popular topics.

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Peace Out

Well that brings me to the end of the tutorial – your WordPress site should now have a fully functional forum for your visitors to enjoy.

If you get stuck then post a comment or better yet, jump over to the forum ;)

If you use this guide to create a new forum let me know in the comments below and I’ll link it from this post!

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