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How to Create a Forum Website that Drives Engagement

Learn how to create a forum website that drives engagement and builds an online community for your brand.

Creating a forum website for your business can help you develop an online community of loyal customers and boost your online presence. Forums can also act as resources for customers who want to learn more about your products and services.

Creating an online forum isn't complicated, but it involves several steps you should take to ensure it's engaging and well-designed. How you design your forum will also depend on your goals. You can create a website that's just a forum, or you can add a forum to your existing business site.

Website builders are the easiest way to create forum websites, but the best solution for you will depend on your objectives.

So how can you create a forum website that drives customer engagement? Keep reading to learn how to create a free forum to engage your valuable customers.

What is a forum website?

A forum website is a combination of a website and a discussion board. One of the most well-known forum websites is Reddit, which covers a variety of categories and topics, allowing anyone from the public to express their opinions or ask questions.

You can also add a forum directly to your website, which allows customers to ask questions and help each other solve common issues.

For instance, Upwork has a forum section on its website where forum members can learn more about topics ranging from securing clients to how to solve account-related issues.

Why should you create a forum website?

Forum websites are designed to engage the public, including your customers, so you can build a community surrounding your business or a particular topic of interest.

So why should you create your own forum website?

Builds an online community

Forums are essentially online communities where people can discuss various topics they're interested in. When you create an online forum, you build an online community around a specific topic where members can share ideas.

For example, if you sell pet products, you might create a forum for pet parents where they can ask and answer questions, provide advice, and share funny or cute stories about their pets. All of this creates a sense of community, which can increase trust and make customers feel a more personal connection to your brand.

Encourages knowledge sharing Forum websites encourage knowledge sharing. Individuals can ask and answer questions about broad or business-specific topics.

If your forum centers around small businesses, small business owners can discuss marketing, business management, hiring employees, onboarding, and just about any topic to help them share knowledge.

In addition, they can share knowledge directly associated with your brand. For instance, if you sell HR management software, they can ask questions about your product and its features and let other customers answer them.

Boosts user engagement

Engagement is crucial online. While you can have several thousand followers, it doesn't necessarily mean anything unless those followers engage with your brand.

Forums provide a sense of community that's much more engaging than a brand posting on social media. Since they're driven by meaningful conversations from regular consumers, community members are more likely to engage in discussions and share more information.

Generates traffic

Forum websites can improve your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts by helping your website generate traffic and build backlinks. These websites allow for backlinking strategies and content creation that can bring forum members back to your product or service listings.

User-generated content published on forum websites can rank and help you produce more content without necessarily putting in more work. Since forums are open to the public, they're crawled and indexed by search engines like Google, which can help you rank higher in search engine results pages (SERPs) to increase website traffic.

Increases revenue

Building trust, driving traffic, and increasing your position in SERPs results in increased revenue for your business. Ultimately, your forum can act as another line of communication between your brand and its customers — one that customers may feel more comfortable and connected with.

Remember, the people who use your forum are like-minded, meaning it can help you attract new customers who may not even know your brand exists and increase brand awareness, which can eventually lead prospects through the customer journey.

Elements of a forum website

A forum website is centered around user-generated content. You can have forums open to the public or restrict them to specific members, asking them to log in to access certain information.

When learning how to create a forum website, you should consider the user experience. A poor user experience means your audience won't use your website, but a good user experience will encourage more potential customers to discuss various topics on your website.

The elements of a forum website include the following:

  • Topics: Topics are the entire reason why internet users visit your forum website. They want to discuss everything from trends to detailed topics with their peers, either finding solutions to issues or sharing anecdotes from their everyday lives.
  • Navigation menu: The navigation menu helps forum members navigate your forum website and find the topics they're looking for. For example, if you have a pet-related forum website, topics might include the various types of pets.
  • Login button: You can choose to have a public forum website that allows anyone to anonymously share in the discussion or require individuals to log in to comment or start new threads.
  • Search bar: Having a search bar makes it easier for community members to find specific topics they're genuinely interested in without having to scroll through various pages.
  • Community pages: Community pages allow you to create different types of communities in a single forum so you can appeal to different target audiences.
  • Forum threads: Forum discussion threads are pages that are organized to help individuals searching through specific topics find discussions to join. These threads contain the initial post and discussions from other users.

How to create a forum website

Learning how to create a discussion forum website requires some research. If you've never created a website from scratch, you'll need to start with the basics before you can get the hang of the forum creation process.

Choose a web hosting service

A web hosting service hosts your website and affects things like page speeds, downtime, and security. Web hosts are fairly affordable and have easy-to-use features that make it easy for anyone to build a website.

Many small businesses don't have the resources to host a business website on an internal server, so they find hosting providers that manage the resources required and invest in the best technologies to ensure your pages load quickly.

Additionally, hosting services take care of server maintenance while troubleshooting performance issues on a regular basis.

Register a domain name

A domain name is the address of your online forum. For instance, the domain name for Mailchimp is

You can register a domain name by purchasing one from a domain name registrar. In most cases, your domain name should be your business name. However, if you have a separate business website, you can register a separate domain name that relates to the type of forum website you're creating.

Install forum software

If you're using a website builder, you can install forum software that integrates with your existing website design. Website forum software allows you to create a fully functional forum website or a forum as part of your website and include features like content moderation, user feedback, and analytics.

Design the forum's theme

If your forum is an extension of your website, we recommend using the same branding elements. However, if the forum is your first website, you can design the theme using drag and drop features of your forum website builder or hire a website designer.

When designing your theme, consider the users you want to attract and create branding around them. For instance, if you're creating a forum for parents, you'll use different colors and fonts than you would if you were creating a forum for farmers.

Set up forum categories

Using the forum software you installed on your site, you can set up forum categories and topics.

Consider the type of online community you're building and the types of conversations users want to have. For example, if you're creating a forum for car enthusiasts, you can organize categories based on manufacturer.

Test and launch the forum

Once your forum is complete, you can test it to ensure all the features are working properly and launch it.

Remember, it's not enough to push your website live. Instead, you should invest in marketing strategies like social media and email marketing to let customers know you've developed a new forum and what they can expect to find there.

Monitor and make improvements

Monitoring your forum website performance and making improvements can help you improve the user experience and attract new users. You should continue focusing on creating topic ideas and categories that encourage users to join the discussion.

Build a thriving online community with a forum website

With the right builder, any website can have a forum feature that improves the customer experience and gives users a place to discuss ideas and get answers to their questions. Creating an online community can help you build trust with your target audience and stand out among the competition.

Build a thriving online community with Mailchimp today. With our suite of marketing tools, you can build a website and market it from one simple platform.

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