Sticky Sites: Message Boards
Author: Richard Lowe, Jr.

One way to make people want to come back to your site is to add a message board. This serves the purpose of adding an element of interactivity to your site which makes people part of a small community. People love to be a part of a group, and they love making their opinions, questions and comments known to other people.

This is one of the most important elements of a truly successful website - making your visitors part of the experience. Message boards are one of the best ways to do this.

I've created a number of message boards over my career, and I've participated in many, many more. There are some elements which, when present, will make a board successful. If absent, the board will not achieve the desired result.

First, make sure your message board is tightly integrated with the theme of your web site. For example, if your site is about marriage and relationships, then that's what your board should be about. Including other topics seems to just confuse people and make them want to go somewhere else.

The second thing I've discovered is unmoderated message boards die very quickly. Spammers and other lowlifes will quickly zero in on a message board (or any other communication medium) which is not constantly guarded. They will choke it with all manner of garbage, nothing of which has anything to do with your topic or anything of interest to anyone.

In addition, the moderator must be diligent in keeping the conversations on topic. Some off-topics threads can be tolerated on occasion, but the moderator should strongly discourage this practice. Why? Because your board has a purpose and any deviations from that purpose tend to cause the board to mutate into something else. I found that usually the something else is not very desirable.

Another thing the moderator must do is prevent flames (a flame is a derogatory comment). The purpose of your board is communication - not a shouting match or a place to insult other people. Flames must be stopped at all costs, including expelling members if necessary. Otherwise, your board will become unpleasant and you will find others leaving your site instead of being attracted to it.

The third fact I've discovered is successful boards have one or two (and sometimes more) mentor-like individuals associated with them. You see, many people visit boards to learn, be educated or socialize. Others visit so they can help and answer questions. The more people you can get into helping other board members, the more successful your board will be.

I remember one elist (conceptually similar to a board except the messages are distributed to email inboxes) where an individual named James Huggins posted. Whenever James was around, there was frantic posting - and conversely, when he was not available I noticed that postings fell off almost altogether. They guy is helpful, always has useful opinions and is highly respected. Because of that, the list was always busy.

Good message boards are alive, extremely active, helpful and social. These are a pleasure to visit and will attract many visitors. Poorly maintained message boards will wilt and die and are extremely unpleasant to visit.

So how do you set up a message board? Personally, I prefer a scripted solution such as Discus, which requires a host which supports CGI. Another excellent service is Boardhost. In fact, there are many other message board services available. All you need to do is choose one, sign up and follow the instructions. Setting up a privately hosted solution such as Discus requires a little more work, but in this case you will control all aspects of your message board.

The hardest part, in my opinion, is getting people to visit your board, make posts, and come back time and again. This is done using all of the typical methods, including submitting the board to the search engines, promoting it in ezines and in your email signature and posting on other boards (be very careful here ot be sure it is allowed).

The bottom line? Message boards are an excellent way to get people to come back to your site again and again. Keep them working smoothly and your visitors will visit often. Let them alone and they will wither and die. They are, however, a bit of work to maintain properly, so be sure you understand that before you create the board.

And that's all I've got to say about that.


Richard Lowe Jr. is the webmaster of Internet Tips And Secrets at - Visit our website any time to read over 1,000 complete FREE articles about how to improve your internet profits, enjoyment and knowledge.