Data Says: Is Building a Community Around Your WordPress Site Worth the Effort?

This is PART 3 of our short series titled “How Building a Community Around Your WordPress Site Can Improve SEO.”

In this part, I want to return to the main question I started off with at the very beginning when I approached CodeinWP about writing this series of reports:

Is building a community around your WordPress site worth the effort?

Before diving into answering the question of worth, a more basic consideration is, “How do you measure worth in this instance?”

As an online forum owner, you likely have 2 goals:

  • More engagement with real and relevant people = measured by more visitors/sessions/time on site.
  • More conversion of that engagement into real earnings = measured by contracts in hand.

So what’s the story of my forum in regard to all this?

Let’s start with engagement:

Did the forum increase engagement?

BillBelew.com is my home site. I reckon if I could get more visitors from the forum to my main site then I could declare I have good engagement.

Following is a screenshot of the forum visitors to my WordPress site (from the date the forum was launched – May 23rd, 2014, through January 15th, 2016):

forumtobb

  • Nearly 1,200 forum readers came to my main site (and gave me more than 3,600 page views). That’s 3 visits per forum reader on the average.
    • Naturally, some of those visitors will bookmark my site and then keep coming back to it directly. I have no way of knowing which of the new direct visitors originated from the forum. But I did see the overall number of direct visits increasing (see the 3rd screenshot below).
  • The visitors from the forum to my main site viewed more than 2 pages per visit.
  • The average time on site for those forum visitors sits at 2:28 minutes.

I call that good engagement.

Let’s look at how this works the other way around – from my main site to the forum.

Following is a screenshot of the visitors to my WordPress site, who also went to the forum (from the date the forum was launched – May 23rd, 2014, through January 15th, 2016):

bbtoforum

  • We have more than 650 unique visits and nearly 4,800 views (7 per each visitor).
  • On the average, those visitors viewed more than 4 forum pages each time.
  • They stayed a whopping 13 minutes per each visit.

That’s really good engagement!

Finally, let’s take a look at how the organic growth of both sites has changed over time (my main site and the forum).

I divided the time my forum has been online into two periods, just to have a better understanding of the growth rate:

forum-stats

In short:

  • Direct traffic is up.
  • Google organic traffic is up.
  • Traffic from the forum to the main site is up.

Engagement is now growing organically too! All good stuff.

But that’s not all. In the first part of this series, I shared some of my forum stats (the number of members, topics, sessions, etc.). Let’s look at how this plays out right now.

As of this writing (Dec 1st, 2015 » Jan 15th, 2016):

  • Members: 1,213 » 1,360.
  • Users: 10,425 » 11,673.
  • Sessions: 37,998 » 41,111.
  • Pages viewed: 127,300  » 135,625.
  • Threads: 1,475 » 1,559.
  • Posts: 15,233 » 15,933.
  • Time spent in forum: 4,939 hours (or 205+ days) » 5,173 hours (or 215+ days).

In short, a good forum results in a lot of user-generated content. And when users create content for you – and that content contributes to organic growth – that’s the best kind of engagement!

Okay, let’s talk money:

Did the forum help BillBelew.com make more money?

I have 3 stories for you here:

Recent true story #1:

A couple of days ago, I got an unsolicited phone call from Connecticut. I live in California, 3000+ miles (5000 km) away. Through the course of the conversation, as is good form, I asked, “How did you come to find me?”

“One of your members so highly recommended you that I had to come to your site to take a look. I read your site and took a look at your forum, and decided I had to call.”

“Members?”

“Yes, one of your forum members.”

She hired me for 5 hours of consultation at $1,000. We start next week. That amount alone will cover the costs of the forum for a year. But that’s only breaking even.

Recent true story #2:

This morning, another client on the East Coast, who found me via search, agreed to a long-term contract approaching $100K. The actual amount depends on how long the relationship continues, of course. The winds do change unexpectedly.

This client wants content at a high level on 3 different topics.

I reached out to 2 forum members to apply for the position. One of the forum members has already secured 2 of the desired topics. The 3rd topic is being applied for by another forum member, and I am optimistic he will get it. The finder’s fee is more than adequate to fund the forum for quite some time to come. That money is in hand.

Recent true story #3:

I got an email from a company in the UK. They want me to create a team of writers for them in an area I am quite familiar with.

I reached out to 3 forum members. Each agreed to be on the team. Training starts this evening.

This is a multiple 6-figure contract over the 1st year.

These are 3 very recent stories that I can put actual numbers to. There are more such stories. And there are quite a few intangibles I could share perhaps in a future post.

Conclusion

So the main question was this: Is building a community around your WordPress site worth the effort?

As you can probably guess by now, the answer is: A resounding, “Yes!”

But let’s focus on a more pressing question … “Why haven’t you started building your tribe yet? Or have you?”

Do you need help getting started? Do you need help growing your community? Feel free to ask. And thanks for reading! I look forward to your comments below. Or come talk to me in the forum (it’s free and there are no ads). I am in the forum far too often!

About the author: Bill Belew is an influencer marketer trainer. He has been blogging on WordPress for more than a decade. You can be his next hero.

  • I’ve played with a few different plugin and theme-based WordPress forums, but am still a bit conflicted. I’d like the ability to have a public and private portion of the forum. Suggestions?

    – Nate Wright –
    http://www.SmallBizTriage.com

    • Hey, Nate. Thanks for reading.

      I wrestled, okay, I am wrestling with the same conundrum. It’s doable, but way beyond my expertise …which is why I outsourced the forum software.

      There are parts I wanted to keep private …. I kind of do that by creating groups and inviting only certain people to be able to post. But the content is still viewable.

      I want the content viewable = searchable. But I realize that is not always desirable because of the nature of some forums.

      I don’t know of any free plugins that can do it.

      What have you tried?

      Bill

      • bbPress and BuddyPress seem to the be biggest players in that space at the moment. This is on of the rare times that I miss Joomla with its Kunena plugin (a standard old-school forum platform). I’ve played with both … not a huge fan. Also tried a cheap WIki builder for building out a knowledge base – PA Knowledgbase for WP … I think? Been a few months.

        I think your comment about searchable with limited posting access control is on the money.

        Thanks again for the epic post Bill.

        – Nate –
        http://www.SmallBizTriage.com

        • Thank you for the kind words, Nate. I wish you well. Plz do tell me how things play out for you. I am interested in what works and what doesn’t.