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Old 03-07-12, 06:47 PM Thread Starter   #21
OC101
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Thank you for spending time to write me such a long and informative post.

You are the third person telling me to use Wordpress after I already built the silly looking homepage with the SiteBuilder tool from Hostgator.
I fully intend to follow that suggestion. As the matter of fact, I already installed Wordpress on a testing page through Quick Install tool from Hostgator, but I am still trying to figure out how to customize it. I am a total noob on that.

I am actually negotiating with two people to build the site and customize the forum for me, since I lack of the necessary skills to do a good job myself.

My own knowledge about pets is actually only specialized in freshwater tropical fish. Yes, I thought about to have a fish only forum, but the thought of there are a whole lot more dogs and cats owners than fish owners made me to include other pets too...with the hope of being able to gain more members because of the wider range of targeted audience.

I am fully aware of the competitors. Mostly because I am also members on multiple very successful fish forums. One of them have nothing but a forum and a homepage but with nearly 80k members. The most successful one I've been to have well over 100k members.
The idea of having more than just one category of pets might (I hope at least lol) avoid direct competition with any single one of them.

It is hard to get even support from friends. I've been telling them to join and create some activities for me by posting quality content, so far I got only total 14 posts from all my real friends.
I created Facebook page for it.
I created twitter account for it.
I also answer questions on Yahoo answers under related categories with back links to my forum left and right.
None seem to be working lol.

I've been reading lots of materials online about how to start a forum, it is all easier say than done. Somewhere I read that I need at least 20 active members to post quality posts daily to be able to attract random visitors to sign up. I am no where near there. Where am I going to get 20 active members to post daily without spamming? lol

I really have only 3 active members who visit the forum daily.
Those people who came through back links only read the one related thread and just leave without leaving a comment, even though I know they haven't learned anything close to what they think they know and they need to be disciplined further lol.



Ok, I think I have solved the problem with bots. After I installed a plugin, I am not getting 3~4 bots a day now. I only got one person posting an ads on my forum yesterday and I deleted it with a warning to him. Should I ban such person without warning?


Right now, what I really need is to have someone help me complete the site and the remodeling of the forum.
Then at least the appearance of the forum would be more appeal, and I can focus on the marketing instead of worrying multiple things at the same time.






Quote:
Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
To be more helpful than my last post, here are some tips about what I think it takes. Just my opinion for whatever its worth.

- Someone uniquely motivated which inspires others to come together. Take KPC forums for instance, it isn't terribly active, but the activity it does have was built from Kingpin going to extraordinary lengths in order to establish street cred as a leader in the field. He then also built a business and launched the forum in support of that... It gets a decent amount of activity for a new startup forum in a heavily saturated market like computer hardware.

- A unique niche in the market. There are tons of computer hardware sites most people don't care about. The people who care about KPC only care because there isn't any other site really like that for extreme cooling, with products as well as extreme gurus hanging out there.

- Investment. In order for people to take your site seriously, you need to invest and for that investment to be demonstrated to your audience. One important way to do this is through solid site design - whether simple or elaborate, it should look professional to inspire the belief in people that your site is worth investing in. People's time is an investment, they will spend it in the way they think is most worthwhile. Your friends are willing to invest in things because they are your friends, to attract strangers they have to perceive value and investment by others.

- Bots will always be a challenge. We average about 60 registrations a day (real people), we average over 500 bot registration attempts a day, we average 3-5 banned spammers a day who get past our safeguards and actually register successfully and get handled by moderators (these are real people, we are blocking 100% of automated bots). You need to install plugins, or develop plugins that work with the stopforumspam API. Custom developed anti-spam solutions are an important measure, anything standard or in wide deployment will be routinely beaten by the bots - they've been learning longer than you have.

Overclockers started as the first overclocking site more or less. I need an old-timer to chime in, but we started in 98, around the same time as hardocp and anandtech, and I don't know who else goes back that far - I know that almost none of our competitors go that far. When you hit a market before it actually exists, you don't have much competition, and chances are people looking to find out about the topic are going to end up on your site. That is how people got to overclockers... Then we got coverage in publications and legitimate media, as others took note of the growth, and we got more people.

Overclockers was designed well for its time, that old grey site looked old ten years later, but when it was first made it was leading edge. It had uniquely motivated people running it - Joe, Ed, and Skip had a passion for the topic, and they quickly built a following of other nuts and bolts guys who came together to talk about the topic. They created a unique niche, and they dominated it. HardOCP went the gamer route and dominated that, we went the enthusiast route and dominated that - other sites began springing out of the woodwork and doing similar things, many of them grew into successful sites as well. Overclockers was one of less than a handful of sites which started a community that reaches across thousands of enthusiast sites currently.

Skip spent a lot of money keeping the servers running and had his own knowledge to build and operate the forum. Joe made a lot of money on banner advertising, as money was just falling out of the sky around when this site launched - you just needed a bucket to catch it all. He hired Ed to write to supplement his own content and that helped support the flow of new content every day, which keeps readers coming back, and keeps advertisers paying. He also had a unique approach in that he actively worked with the community early on and published amateur articles... There weren't many sites like it at the time.

I hope that helps.

More specifically, first my advice is improve your site. You built yours using basekit, which is no good - those sorts of solutions are a scam for people that don't know better. They can serve a certain purpose, but they aren't good. You should use wordpress or a similar CMS for your site. Three reasons:

1. It makes it easier to update content, rather than spending time maintaining the codebase of your site.

2. There are a lot of free themes for wordpress, and a lot of people who would create a theme custom for you for relatively cheap. This will make your site easier to operate, and it will make it more attractive to visitors.

3. SEO is critical to getting visitors and new members. Most CMS come with decent structure for SEO, and offer plugins to improve SEO easily. As you learn more, you can leverage this better which is how you increase the notability and reputation of your site.

Second, my advice is know your competitors. What are leaders in the general pets site niche doing. You need to know what they are doing, and compare it to what you are essentially doing. If you can't compete with them at what they are doing, you need to do something different - focus on where you can win. Be realistic. You have to offer something no one else does, or something better than anyone else does - if you can't do that, your site will fail or blend in with other lame sites. You can be similar, but you have to have something special... Think of local pizza shops. There are probably a half dozen or more within 30 minutes of your house. Those that stay in business do something special.

Third, is have a monetization strategy. You may not be out to make money, but running a successful site costs money. For design stuff, for hosting, for improvements... For instance, if you run a site that makes 50 grand a year, you can quit your job and spend all day every day working on it, and you will make it better if you are smart and working hard. But small scale, even if you just make 1000 a year, thats still the site supporting itself a bit and a little bit of investment you can use to improve the site over time.

Fourth, your site focus is working against you. A general pet site about everything is too generic. It is impossible to compete well in that focus, its like going up against walmart - you aren't going to beat them at their business model. But maybe you could specialize better than they can, if you focus on a certain product or subset of what they do. In your case, that would be a specific breed, or specific animal, or some special twist that differentiates you.

Finally, I'm not criticizing anything you've done. Building and running a site is a learning process, and its hard to do well - plenty of people doing it, few sites stand out from the crowd.

Last edited by OC101; 03-07-12 at 06:57 PM.
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Old 03-07-12, 07:03 PM   #22
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Wordpress does have a learning curve, to use themes you can look here for guidance:
http://codex.wordpress.org/Using_Themes

Sounds like you are on the right track - it takes time however and its hard work, with an unlimited amount of time you could put into it. Being methodical and organized in your approach will help so that you are finishing things - it is easy to start a dozen different things with a site and not get any of them done. Just pace yourself, and try to plan well so that you are consistent - that will get you there eventually.

Also keep in mind the competition is brutal - you can be doing everything right, but there are a lot of people out there who have been doing it a lot longer. Don't get down if its a struggle, its just a tough environment to build a new community in.

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Old 03-07-12, 11:26 PM Thread Starter   #23
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Thanks for the link!

By the way, I have someone working on my forum remodeling right now.

I am wondering, if the top ads placement is better in the header on the right side of the logo or below the header just like ocforums? Which location gets more attention and less annoying to the visitors, or if it doesn't matter?
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Old 03-08-12, 09:33 AM   #24
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Leader banner horizontal across the top is usually the most sought after placement.

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Old 03-08-12, 05:23 PM   #25
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On top of what others have said... make sure you secure your wordpress! And watch your plugins. It's easy to go overboard with adding flashy things to your site and that makes it just as easy for people to get in.

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Old 03-08-12, 09:01 PM   #26
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+1 too many plugins often can slow down page loads. Page loading time is important, google looks at it, and it affects your rankings as well as visitor behavior.

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Old 03-10-12, 02:33 AM Thread Starter   #27
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
Leader banner horizontal across the top is usually the most sought after placement.
I mean if the top horizontal ad banner is more effective below the header (like ocforums), or is it more effective in the header beside the logo which I've seen a few sites do it?

Or does it not matter at all since the two choices are both on the top?

By the way, is ocforums using Adsense?
What other good choices are there?
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Old 03-10-12, 05:06 PM   #28
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We do AdSense and skimlinks.

Leader banner is fine in either spot. Next to the logo puts more content higher up on the page which is good. I like having the logo separate here, for branding and making the ad less prominent.
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Old 03-11-12, 03:15 AM Thread Starter   #29
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
We do AdSense and skimlinks.

Leader banner is fine in either spot. Next to the logo puts more content higher up on the page which is good. I like having the logo separate here, for branding and making the ad less prominent.
Thanks.
I've purchased the licenses of some animal photos for commercial use. I'll try to put some of the animals in the header around the logo. If you think that is a good idea.
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Old 03-12-12, 05:34 PM   #30
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Good luck, I'm not that good, and I don't have much drive on the monetary side of things. I just like learning and information sharing, promoting that.

You might want to learn about affiliate marketing in your spare time. That is essentially what skimlinks is, however you can also sign up for affiliate programs yourself, and use banners or text links to promote your affiliate links on your site.

Basically, as an affiliate merchants will pay you for promoting their products. What they pay you depends on their program terms. For instance astraweb is a Usenet service provider, and they have an affiliate program - if I sign up with them and promote them using my affiliate URL, and someone subscribes to their service, they pay me 8 bucks for every signup. Once my account goes over 100 bucks, they will pay me if I ask them to.

This is another way to make money on your site, by finding relevant affiliate programs to your topic. Some sites use this to make additional money, other people create sites for the sole purpose of making affiliate money. It just depends on what your goals are for how you approach it. Inet owns abestweb.com, and they know all about affiliate marketing - learn a bit, and ask them any questions you have if you want to pursue it further.
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Old 03-12-12, 10:30 PM Thread Starter   #31
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Right now I'll be happy enough if the cost for domain and hosting is covered. So I don't have to pay any more to keep the site up. It should be self sustained.

I am also a tropical fish aquarium keeper myself. So I like to talk about fish related topics. The reason I included all pets is for be able to recruit more people...at least at the initial stage when I need the activities on the board most. Maybe eventually I will go onto a more focused single pet topic with remaining categories in the background like some kind of "off-topics".
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Old 03-12-12, 11:21 PM   #32
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Honestly I would hit up some sites that specialize in certain animals but have a big following. For example, I have a Chinese Water Dragon and the main site I found with a ton of info is www.triciaswaterdragon.com. Tons of articles and if you can get the OK from a few sites like that to use their content and link back to them, you're starting to generate a you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours type of relationship. Especially if they don't have a forum on their own site as they can be like "If you have any specific questions, head over to the forums at so and so.com" Then again it's late and I've been working all day so my mind might be overthinking things.

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Old 03-13-12, 01:53 PM Thread Starter   #33
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cerberus2k7 View Post
Honestly I would hit up some sites that specialize in certain animals but have a big following. For example, I have a Chinese Water Dragon and the main site I found with a ton of info is www.triciaswaterdragon.com. Tons of articles and if you can get the OK from a few sites like that to use their content and link back to them, you're starting to generate a you scratch my back and I'll scratch yours type of relationship. Especially if they don't have a forum on their own site as they can be like "If you have any specific questions, head over to the forums at so and so.com" Then again it's late and I've been working all day so my mind might be overthinking things.
Good idea.

This specific site you showed me is saying that welcome us to link his page on ours. What does that mean? How does it work? We just post links of his pages on ours or we can post his content with back links to his site?
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Old 03-13-12, 02:06 PM   #34
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Post links back is acceptable universally - it helps them rank. Using excerpts of text and linking back is typically also welcomed. Taking more than 10% of their articles and reproducing them on your site is typically regarded as hostile, unless approval is first obtained from the original site.

This also highlights one of the challenges with your site. If I want to talk about all kinds of pets, I would come to your place maybe. If I want to talk about water dragons I would probably go to Tricia's site.

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Old 03-13-12, 05:06 PM   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
Post links back is acceptable universally - it helps them rank. Using excerpts of text and linking back is typically also welcomed. Taking more than 10% of their articles and reproducing them on your site is typically regarded as hostile, unless approval is first obtained from the original site.

This also highlights one of the challenges with your site. If I want to talk about all kinds of pets, I would come to your place maybe. If I want to talk about water dragons I would probably go to Tricia's site.
You would be surprised how many animal questions end up on Yahoo Answers. Mainly because a vast majority of the specialty sites don't have their own forums. So if the OP plays the cards right then it could work out pretty well.

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Old 03-13-12, 05:40 PM   #36
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That is a good point. I'm no animal expert, and probably not a very average internet user either.
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Old 03-13-12, 05:44 PM   #37
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Quote:
Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
Post links back is acceptable universally - it helps them rank. Using excerpts of text and linking back is typically also welcomed. Taking more than 10% of their articles and reproducing them on your site is typically regarded as hostile, unless approval is first obtained from the original site.

This also highlights one of the challenges with your site. If I want to talk about all kinds of pets, I would come to your place maybe. If I want to talk about water dragons I would probably go to Tricia's site.
Quote:
Originally Posted by I.M.O.G. View Post
That is a good point. I'm no animal expert, and probably not a very average internet user either.
Not many people think about all in one animal forums since there's PetCo and Petsmart usually available.(Similar to people clueless on PCs who go to Best Buy for help.) I know the reef guys have a pretty big forum following but that's mainly due to commercial stores not being able to suit their needs.

And you made me want beer. DAMN YOU! I think I'm gonna stop by the store and pick me up a hefeweizen.

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Old 03-13-12, 09:44 PM Thread Starter   #38
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Too many questions on Yahoo Answers about pets are complete noob questions, or not even really pets questions. Every other or third page on Yahoo Answers under Pet fish section you'll see silly questions like "What should I name my fish"?

Also lots of same noob questions has been asked over and over on almost every page. People don't like to do research themselves, and they just like to ask. That's where the forums come in haha.
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Old 03-13-12, 10:27 PM Thread Starter   #39
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Do you guys have any good suggestions to fill my article/database section of the web site with quality information?
Of course I will be writing everything I know about tropical fish... but I am only one man...
I don't believe those web sites with large amount of articles and information were all written by the site owner him/herself.
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Old 03-13-12, 10:45 PM   #40
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Quote:
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Do you guys have any good suggestions to fill my article/database section of the web site with quality information?
Of course I will be writing everything I know about tropical fish... but I am only one man...
I don't believe those web sites with large amount of articles and information were all written by the site owner him/herself.
Articles, reviews on products you have used/own, "beginner" guides, Tips and tricks are where I would start.

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Thanks!
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