Create a Community With a WordPress Forum

Social media offers many benefits when it comes to marketing products and building a following. However, there can be downsides to a social media-only approach. That strategy can make it more difficult to provide certain kinds of opportunities for your website’s users. 

Fortunately, there are ways to encourage discussion and engagement right on your website. For example, you can create an online forum. Building a space where your website’s users or customers can gather and share information can have many benefits for your business. 

In this article, we’ll take a look at what you can gain by adding a forum to your website. Then we’ll review several plugins that can help you get started with a WordPress forum. Let’s dive right in! 

The Benefits of Adding a Forum to Your WordPress Site

One of the biggest benefits of adding a forum to your WordPress website is the impact it can have on your Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Whenever a new forum is created, its content can be indexed and added to search results. Plus, since users are contributing in their own words, search engines may begin to recognize new keywords that are related to your business.

Setting up a forum for your business can also be an effective way to handle support inquiries. Not only can you use your forum to manage a large number of questions, but it can also offer an opportunity for customers to help each other

One example worth checking out is the Harley Davidson owner’s forum:

Harley Davidson forum

On this forum, only owners of a Harley motorcycle can participate in certain discussions. This accomplishes two things. It brings people together who can potentially help each other with repairs or recommendations, and it ensures that forum users are less likely to get bombarded with off-topic discussions.

WordPress Forum Plugin Options

When it comes to WordPress forum plugins, there are quite a few free ones to choose from. You’ll want to review each plugin’s features and styling options, in order to pick the tool that best suits your needs. To get you started, here are five of the best forum plugins that are available.

1. bbPress

bbPress plugin banner

If you’ve ever visited the WordPress support forums, then you’re familiar with bbPress. This is a simple yet highly-functional forum plugin. You can create discussion threads in an interface that’s just like the post and page editing screens you’re used to with WordPress. 

This is a free plugin that’s developed and maintained by many of the top WordPress developers. It comes with many useful features, such as forum searching and subscription options. You can also add bbPress to your site’s sidebar through a dedicated widget. 

2. Discussion Board

Discussion Board plugin banner

Discussion Board from Plugin Republic is designed to work with any theme. You can customize your forum’s colors and styles in the WordPress Customizer. Additionally, this plugin has a simple one-click installation process, so you can have your discussion board up and running quickly. 

Your forum’s users can log in and post via a simple front-end form. They’ll also be able to view each discussion on an individual page, and respond there as well. This plugin even gives you control over who can post and view the forum’s content. If you want a little more out of this free tool, you can upgrade to the pro version for $49 per year.

3. BuddyPress

BuddyPress plugin banner

If you’re looking for a forum option that’s more like a social network, BuddyPress is a great pick. Developed in cooperation with WordPress’ developers, BuddyPress takes the simple discussion forum a few steps further. 

Users will be able to create profiles, send private messages, and communicate in a forum. Plus, the interface appears visually similar to the social networks they’re likely already using.

BuddyPress is a free plugin that integrates well with almost any theme. You can also pair it with bbPress if you want to offer both a social network-like environment and a traditional discussion forum. 

4. DW Question & Answer

DW Question & Answer plugin banner

The DW Question & Answer plugin enables the creation of question-and-answer style forums. If you’re familiar with the popular website Quora, that will give you a good idea of what you can create with this plugin. 

Some of the features you’ll get include a voting system, email notification options, and search functionality. The developers have also created many add-ons that offer enhanced features. While the fully-functioning plugin is free, you can explore its add-ons starting at $69 per year.

5. wpForo Forum

WP Foro plugin banner

Finally, wpForo Forum is another free discussion board plugin. It’s particularly useful if you’re looking for a lightweight solution to building a place for community interaction on your website. You can create a fully-functioning and modern-looking discussion board, without bogging down your site’s speed

Additionally, this plugin comes with a drag-and-drop forum design tool, a variety of layouts, badging tools, and more. You can also make use of its built-in SEO functions, as well as forum site map and search engine ping options. 

Which WordPress Forum Plugin Is Best for You?

Now that we’ve looked at five of the more popular forum plugins, let’s compare them to see which one might be the best fit for your needs. First we’ll focus on bbPress and BuddyPress, which are arguably the two biggest options.

These plugins are developed and maintained by a similar team of programmers, who have high-level experience with WordPress development. This means that these tools are easy to integrate with your website, and work with nearly any theme.

They can also be easily used together, in order to create a fully-featured online community. BuddyPress is more like a social network with lots of features and add-ons, while bbPress is designed to be a simple yet effective online discussion board. 

If you want to provide a place to comfortably network and share, similar to Facebook, then BuddyPress is the better choice. However, if you want to keep your support forum separate from the rest of your website, that’s where bbPress can help you out. 

Similar to bbPress, Discussion Board provides a more traditional forum experience. If you want some extra features, but you’re not looking to set up a full social network, wpForo Forum includes some helpful on-screen analytics and profile settings: 

As for the DW Question & Answer plugin, it offers a unique twist on the forum concept. You might have noticed how often sites like Quora show up at the top of Google searches. That makes this plugin a great option if you want to improve SEO and create some interactivity in your forum. 

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide whether you need a traditional discussion forum, a social network, or something in-between. Whatever you’re looking for, these five plugins offer a wide variety of options and plenty of free features to get your forum started.

Build Your Forum with WP Engine 

Rome may not have been built in a day, but with the right developer resources you can have your own colossal discussion forum up and running in no time. You can use forums to provide engagement, community, and networking opportunities for your users, and boost your SEO in the process. 

Here at WP Engine, we believe that developer communities and collaboration are an important part of creating innovative websites. Check out our website hosting plans today, and let us help you build something amazing! 

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