I find online marketing fascinating, I’m sure you’ll agree that there are not many professions where you must combine so many different skills and abilities to reach a goal. Psychology, art and design, programming, writing, philosophy, leadership and management, the list goes on.
I am obsessed with figuring out how marketers utilise these skills to make money online.
By reverse-engineering their specific techniques I hope to reveal amazing online marketing strategies that I can write about and deliver directly to you in value laden posts.
After living in sunny France for a few years, I’ve come back to rainy old England with a spring in my step.
Before I start delving into other marketer’s money making strategies I thought it would only be fair if I first analyse my own successes and mistakes so that you can benefit from them or maybe you can just sit back and enjoy the story of how it all happened.
So dig in and feast heartily on the bones of Agent Blackhat’s forum marketing strategy and how I made $7,000 per month.
This post is quite special and personal to myself and my experiences, so you will find that I will be unnaturally talking about myself a lot.
This post is as much a story about me as it is a dissection of my strategy which achieved a $7,000 per month subscription forum. Hopefully you can appreciate that while I let loose about what happened.
While we’re talking frankly, by subscribing to my mailing list you will receive real case studies where I analyse online marketing strategies of successful marketers. This is something I’m very good at and if you liked the 301 redirect technique, you’ll love what is coming next.
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My personal story of how I achieved $7,000 per month in private forum subscriptions
If my experience has taught me anything, it is that the age old saying “take action”, still holds true. You might not realise it, but you, right now, have enough knowledge to be a success. The limited knowledge you have right now is enough to take action and be a success.
Marketers get caught up in acquiring knowledge that is not important to their success, they concentrate on a single detail or part of the process such as “What template will make my forum look legitimate?”.
Obviously, some things are important, but your success is not reliant on these details, so don’t waste your precious time on things that are not going to significantly affect your success.
The truth is that, often, a person’s most powerful moments which lead to success have their roots based in a moment of eccentricity which is the spark that ignites the flame.
If you can humour my analogy for a moment, think about Neo from the Matrix transitioning to the one. In a defining moment, he went from mortal being to immortal god. This scene draws inspiration upon the idea that it is self-belief and spirit that transforms him from someone who was running and searching for a way to survive, to someone that realises he already had everything he needed to succeed.
The idea with Neo is that his knowledge didn’t change, he didn’t obtain a new piece of knowledge in order to become the one. In that moment, he simply snapped and gained the self belief to use his limited knowledge.
The fuel to the fire that started Agent Blackhat and blackhatunderground.net
I started my journey about 14 years ago on warriorforum.com, I made a post demanding to know “What is a backlink?” and I was laughed at. The nostalgia I get from remembering that thread is quite a nice feeling.
I eventually grew tired of the circle-jerk on warriorforum.com and transitioned to blackhatworld.com where I spent most of my time. It was the first website I would browse in the morning and I was constantly engaging with the community under the name “Gorang”.
By 2010 I was working at a famous web agency in England and I had amassed several successful affiliate sites. They were not making tons of money but they were successful and I was proud of it.
I mostly targeted the skin care niche using Revitol skin cream products and a homeopathic yeast infection product called Yestrol, both are products from the affiliate network called Market Health. The interesting thing about the yeast infection website is that in the USA the common name is candida or yeast infection, but in the United Kingdom we call it “Thrush”. This meant that there was a huge opportunity to effectively sidestep a ton of competition and target the UK exclusively.
I dominated the top spots in Google for many keywords and it was a huge success, I went on to sell the site on Flippa for a few thousand dollars and turned a nice profit.
At this point I was feeling confident on Blackhatworld and gained a little bit of a reputation because I knew what I was talking about.
In 2012, Penguin hit and the game changed
With the introduction of Penguin, some of my skin care sites began to tank, I reverse engineered many competing sites and very carefully read what other marketers such as Expertpeon hinted at on blackhatworld.com. But it was in analysing the top 10 payday loans SERPS I discovered the technique known as the 301 redirect technique.
I kept seeing 1-page sites ranking at the top and upon looking through their profile, they were 301ing their old sites to a new domain every time they were slapped by Google.
I analysed each site digging deeper and deeper to unravel the web of properties I kept finding, the more I searched, the further down the rabbit hole I found myself.
Intrigued by these discoveries, I began to implement the strategies on my own Penguin hit affiliate websites.
Every-time I 301ed my old Penguin slapped sites to a cloned copy on a new domain, I ranked right back up at the top. The discovery of this technique was money $$$. I couldn’t believe what I was now able to do, the power, it was incredible. Thoughts racing, I didn’t know where to start or where to apply it. The feeling of this power was invigorating and scary at the same time.
Imagine being able to instant rank for almost anything you wanted while having no competition. In the end I had 13 slapped domains being 301ed to an exact clone of all 13 and it still worked. I could point my little army wherever I wanted and the effect was incredibly fast and powerful.
Google, in their folly, created a system that penalises websites, but in turn had also created a situation that they had no backup plan for. A lot of Mom’s and Pop’s businesses lost out and were punished, while blackhats simply rebuilt reigned supreme.
Penguin made it easier for real blackhats to rank past poorly spammed sites which previously ranked highly through sheer volume of spammy links, by virtue of the fact that those spammed sites didn’t exist in the SERPS any more. There was zero competition for some SERPS and on top of that the 301 redirect technique made a site almost immune to penalties because 301s passed page-rank faster than they did penalties.
It was like a cheat code you could enter into your favourite game for invulnerability (IDDQD – One for those who grew up in the 90s).
Some members of Blackhat Underground forum were almost printing money at their peak, they didn’t even have time to stop and talk they were launching so many sites.
The state of Blackhatworld.com since Penguin had become and still is disappointing
I had been actively browsing and engaging with users on blackhatworld.com after Penguin hit, but the quality of the recent thread list had become very poor. I loved Blackhatworld, but it felt like the only users posting were really low level newbies asking silly questions which they could answer themselves if they were not either lazy or complete morons. I realised that the top guys were not going to share their information with the likes of them, in a place like this.
Quite frankly, every single question was frustrating and annoying. I grew tired at the lack of good information and I started to get angry with users on the forum who wanted to be completely spoon fed.
I had been killing it with my new 301 technique and I knew there must be more people like me lurking out there, people looking at things from a high level that I needed to connect with if I wanted to progress.
Then, like Neo, I had my own awakening.
My morning routine of sitting down with a hot steamy coffee next to the window and opening up my laptop to read the recent thread list of blackhatworld came to an abrupt end.
I saw a thread that had an aura of nostalgia about it and I decided to take a look, then it hit me like bullets in the chest. I realised that my journey in SEO had come full circle. It was that question. That same question I asked when I started in SEO all those years ago. “What is a backlink?”.
Just like that, with one mindset change, everything fell into place in my head. It really didn’t have much to do with knowledge, I’d never run a forum before, it wasn’t even a decision, the feeling inside simply became a matter of fact to me, “I can do better than this”. I was able to strongly visualise what I wanted and that vision was ingrained in my mind’s eye.
Moments earlier I didn’t have the ability to fight, moments later, I knew I already had everything I needed to succeed.
Success is a psychological state of focussed energy, it just takes the right catalyst, a kick of motivation, that tweak of inspiration to remove the spanner to allow your metaphorical cogs to begin turning and set yourself on the path to achieve something special.
I pledged to make something better, so that high-level marketers would share techniques
I was going to poach all of the good users from BHW forums and give them something to follow, a person, an idea and a concept to unify them and bring them to one place where they could trade information in confidence. I wanted to build an army against Google, to show them that Penguin could not stop us, in fact it would mould us into stronger blackhatters.
But as we know, you can’t just say “Hey, come over to my forum, it is better”, you have to pre-sell and give these talented individuals a reason to make it their home.
I pledged that this was it, this is where I would make my mark.
Before we delve into my subscription forum strategy
As I said earlier, I started out on Warrior Forum which taught me the basics, then I moved to Blackhat World which really helped me get to the next level, then I created Blackhat Underground forum which I believe was the pinnacle of SEO forums.
Since then, I’ve been a nomad, moving from community to community, never quite finding anything that ignites that spark of interest and inspiration that Blackhat Underground had.
However, I did find a new home which does its best to replicate the style of community that Blackhat Underground had, with its own twist.
I now spend most of my time as a premium subscriber within the community called affLIFT.
The genuine reason I chose affLIFT is because my good friend Randall who was once one of the mods from Blackhat Underground, who I have been able to trust since day 1, recommended it.
The community is welcoming, polite and it focusses on real money making methods rather than SEO, which is in-fact what I am personally interested in.
Definitely give this one a look, I am an affiliate of theirs but I would not recommend something I don’t believe in.
If you are looking to get up to date on modern online marketing practices and learn some new tricks, affLIFT is where the real online marketing talk is at. So grab a beer and come online, any questions you need to ask me, you can ask on affLIFT, I am under the username Agent Blackhat.
This is the exact strategy I used to make Blackhatunderground.net a success
I did not want to pay for forum software, so I chose phpBB since it was open-source and would have a lot of add-ons I could download to tweak it.
I spent some time choosing a template that felt right. I chose a template that I could visualise as looking easily readable and interesting. But I did not spend too much time on this, the template will never be perfect. A template is a small part of what makes a forum a success and it is something that can be improved on at a later date.
I think a key component of any good strategy is visualisation. In essence you really need to see the path you will follow in your mind’s eye in order to achieve your goal, so that achieving it is just a matter of walking that path you already have laid out in-front of you.
Those who know me know that I always talk about “connecting dots” when forming a strategy, in this case I could see the connections I needed to make in my head to get this to work.
I now had my forum running but there was no way Blackhatworld would allow me to post the link to my forum in my signature. So to circumvent this obstacle, I needed to add another connection, a blog.
I also needed to give potential followers two more things in order to get them onto my newly launched forum.
Symbolise yourself and your forum, become something people will follow
I had made a moderate name for myself on the Blackhatworld, nothing special but I was highly active and participated in a lot of bullshit calling in various high profile threads. I was good at picking other people’s strategies apart and calling them on their bullshit. This often ended in arguments on the forum but I realised it only raised my profile.
Having that kind of presence on the forum was powerful because even if people agreed or disagreed, the community knew who I was and they paid attention.
So with that in mind I decided I should create an alter ego called “Agent Blackhat”, initially I was going to be anonymous and call Matt Cutt’s bullshit on Twitter. I wanted to be a constant thorn in his side by challenging him on various topics and undoing the negative propaganda he had sown.
@mattcutts Google's Algo & Whitehat SEO: Like walking through a minefield without a backup plan and hoping you don't get blown up.— Agent Blackhat (@AgentBlackhat) September 24, 2014
This would make people notice me and wonder how I can be so arrogant and cocky towards Matt Cutts while everyone else’s sites are dropping like flies. It would make them think “What does Agent Blackhat know that makes him so cocky?”.
I soon realised that staying anonymous would be too hard of a job, especially when it would mean I couldn’t leverage the account “Gorang” on Blackhatworld. So I dropped my attempts to stay anonymous.
Symbolically, Agent Blackhat gave people something to follow that conjured a visualisation of a secret agent who has the information. He is a spy, he knows things others don’t.
Creating this alter ego might seem like a small detail, but it isn’t, I can’t stress how important it is to people that the person they follow invokes feelings such as power, knowledge and success. People enjoy following a caricature that symbolises something combining powerful elements to fixate upon, rather than a young lad called Matthew sitting in the corner of his home, which brings nothing interesting or special to mind.
Having someone interesting to follow who aggressively engages on social media and has a powerful presence is all well and good. But it didn’t give people a reason to sign up to the forum I was building. However, at least now, with this identity, people would be more likely to be persuaded by my ideas and proclamations once I began to make them.
Which leads onto the second part of the foundation of the strategy.
Give your target audience something they can find value in, something they can find in your forum that they will pay for
People follow symbols like Agent Blackhat, but they won’t open their wallets for a symbol. For that, you need something of a more tangible value.
The 301 redirect technique had been a big part of my affiliate site’s strategy and I was doing great, I knew there would be others like me, but they were keeping their cards tight to their chest.
I realised that Google have probably noticed this technique being used by now and I predicted they would soon start working on making it more difficult to be employed.
With that in mind, this knowledge of the 301 redirect technique could be utilised strategically to my advantage and would make the perfect catalyst for my new forum.
I’m not going to sugar-coat it, even though Google was going to wise up at some point, I definitely did make this mainstream for my own selfish reasons.
Agent Blackhat needed to be a controversial figure and this ammunition was the atomic bomb of controversy that I needed to grab attention.
In one swoop I could upset a lot of very high-level marketers and also gain the trust and awe of an entire army of mid-level marketers looking to make the jump to the next level.
When my knowledge bomb hit, I knew it was a success because I upset a lot of marketers so bad that they began sending me angry and insulting messages.
My favourite message was from a random marketer called GrindstoneSEO who told me to delete my blog at PHPmyadmin. He was an absolutely stunning chap.
How I stole Blackhatworld’s users and got away with it
I wanted to poach users from Blackhatworld but I could not place a direct link to my forum there as it is against the rules. The creation of my blog circumvented this issue and connected the dots so that users could flow to my blog, then to my forum.
So first, I needed to get users from Blackhatworld to my blog. The plan was to write the real nuts and bolts of the 301 redirect strategy on the Agent Blackhat blog and create a shorter attention grabbing piece on the Blackhatworld forum.
So in essence, the forum thread I made on BHW was a pre-sell for the 301 redirect technique post on my blog, which also, in turn, the 301 redirect technique post on my blog is a pre-sell for my forum.
Always make sure you can connect the dots of your strategy.
I created a very long blog post about the 301 technique and filled it with as much information as I could, I didn’t leave details out, I tried to give everything I could in that post and show people what a real advanced technique looks like.
In order to steal Blackhatworld’s users I had to do two things correctly, I had to write a very compelling and boastful “How To” thread that was fairly detailed but was mainly a pre-sell and I also had to add controversy to the post by inciting an idea that not only was Google trying to keep this technique a secret but also insinuate that even Blackhatworld’s mods were trying to cover it up.
But don’t worry, can you guess who is the saviour trying to give food to the hungry? Who is the guy with the valuable information that they won’t tell you? Agent Blackhat.
It worked, the thread gained over 500 replies was removed and re-added several times after some back and forth with the mods. In the process of creating that thread and causing this controversy, the caricature Agent Blackhat became some sort of online SEO messiah.
It was bold and very risky to make the claims against Blackhatworld but I got away with it. That one thread had my Blackhatworld inbox maxed out for years.
I branched out to several other forums with a similar story. The traffic came flooding in and I had hundreds of comments on the blog post and a viral effect on twitter. Rand Fishkin and Matt Cutts had also taken note.
Looking back on everything now, I remember one humorous tweet from Rand Fishkin about a domain being sold on the forum’s marketplace. He didn’t understand that it had SEO value.
Sometimes, I get an urge to scour the underbelly of the black hat world & buy stuff like http://t.co/TQve8Xe66R just to see what happens— Rand Fishkin (@randfish) February 1, 2014
I couldn’t help but laugh, he was the face of SEO outside of Google and he didn’t even know what works and what doesn’t. It was a clear example that Rand Fishkin only followed the coat tails of Matt Cutts and simply regurgitated what Matt said without ever actually testing it.
Whereas blackhatters, actually test these theories and use a scientific methodology to discover what works rather than simply blindly following what we are told without ever questioning it.
That is what I admire about us blackhatters.
When trying to seed a forum, you have to go the extra mile with potential users
While I had a massive influx of traffic from BHW, I couldn’t just expect people to buy into changing community so quick. When putting an ambitious strategy into motion you have to go hard or go home, no half measures. This was a critical time, make or break.
I had to get involved with people, make them feel special and make them want to be a part of something unique and amazing. I answered every single personal message on BHW.
Most of them were questions relating to the technique and I answered them in full and without any holding back any information. I gave every detail I could to help them. Then, at the end of the conversation I would compliment them on how amazing they were, I made them feel special because being praised by someone they had begun looking up to is a nice feeling. I was building rapport and trust.
The pre-sell page on my blog for BHU was poor, it did a terrible job, but what made the difference getting involved with potential members and personally guiding them.
Using the strategy of answering questions in BHW personal messages as a pre-sell and helping potential users as best I could, I then used a locked and loaded copy-pasta message about them being the type of person who belongs with us in the Blackhat Underground forum to persuade them to join.
I helped them a ton and they benefited from BHU fantastically, they just needed the right push so they could experience the wild ride. Some of these guys went on to make thousands per day!
When answering questions in my Blackhatworld personal messages, I often asked users to also post their question as a thread on the free public section of the BHU forum and I would answer it in full. Considering that they had already invested their time into reading about the 301 redirect technique, it was only a small obstacle to entice them into signing up to the forum, since they needed to in order to share information with like minded individuals. This is a stark contrast to blackhatworld.com where these users didn’t feel they were getting anything of value.
Agent Blackhat’s forum marketing strategy in 6 steps
There are plenty of ways to launch a forum, but this particular 6 step process is the tried and tested forum marketing strategy that I used.
My strategy to launch a paid subscription forum can be broken down into 6 simple steps:
Differentiate yourself and your community from your competitors by symbolising a specific trait or having interesting core values to represent. Be unique.
For example, BHU symbolised the deep underground blackhat sharing of legitimate SEO ranking techniques. Agent Blackhat symbolised a spy who has the ability to source valuable information.
Don’t create a generic community around a chosen topic and hope it will beat out other communities on its own. You have to build your brand and have some sort of unique perspective or powerful message to power interest in it.
Join other communities, build your account, build trust and leverage that trust. Get noticed, be unafraid of upsetting people, but also become known for adding value to that community. Back up your words and build your reputation!
A community can also be your current subscribers in your mailing list, it could be Facebook groups, it could be offline networking events. Whatever it is, begin building enough trust with those communities that you can one day leverage it and funnel them to your own community.
Use these communities as a traffic source and weave links into your posts to your target properties. Add enough value to the community so that you receive questions. Do not go cold selling. If you can’t get people to ask you questions that you can then ask them to post on your community then you either don’t have good enough information to offer or they do not trust you.
Create a blog or website you can link to inside the community, use this to send the poached users to which in turn sends the users to your own community. You can’t drop your links to your community directly, you have to be sneaky about this and send them to another one of your properties first. If you hare having trouble with this, instead, try to collect email subscribers from these communities to eventually offer them all a place in your community.
Potential users of a community will need to know that the community they are joining contains the valuable information they are looking for. You should actively create valuable content and give it away for free in some form to help entice them to join up.
For my forum, I had the content on my blog and the content in the public section of the forum as a taster. This helped them dip their toe in the water before they take the plunge into the deep end by subscribing.
If you have a completely private community you still need to offer something for free, an ebook, a consultation or private messages. You need to make users feel welcomed and confident in what they are joining.
Offer something free first. Don’t just expect people to subscribe right away, give them a reason to.
Consider giving free subscriptions to influencers who are known for posting a lot of content. This is important, look after your tops influencers and they will look after you.
Make them the centrepiece of your forum, the lynchpin, treat them like royalty. Bring them in on your ideas, get their feedback, ask for opinions, be active with them and nurture them.
This core group is the most important aspect of managing a large forum by yourself. You have to have your personal guard, your own miniature army of content creators who look out for their community.
They will happily create content for your community for free if they feel they are nearly getting as much out of the forum as they are putting in.
There is one more important aspect to step 6, that is, while you look after this core group, be aware of their attitudes and swiftly remove any bad eggs who fester and infection other users.
Be a leader, do not ever relax and let them do all of the work. You must lead your community and be active at all times.
What you just read is the exact strategy I used to poach BHW’s members and created a subscription forum returning $7,000 per month.
If you think you’ve got it all worked out, you don’t know nothing, nothing!
I can teach you a thing or two by subscribing
Or if you have any questions you an catch me over at the affLIFT forums.
The journey does not end after step 6
While the 6 steps will take you from basic internet marketer to a successful community owner, there is more to running a community than simply launching it.
I’d like to stress one more point.
It is all well and good following points 1-6 in that list, but at the end of the day you have to give people something worth reading.
You can follow each step I laid out for you but that won’t do anything if your content is of poor quality.
You don’t need an original idea to create a community, but you do need your own twist
You don’t need to create an original technique or amazing product to launch a community, you can simply rehash something with your own twist, coin a name that people will remember and if it resonates with people, they may start to follow it. Then you can begin building a community around it.
Perfect examples of this is can be found in my favourite business related book called Hide a dagger behind a smile.
10 years ago I heard a slam on my desk and noticed the book next to me. Bryan Adams, the Director of Ph.Creative told me to read it.
The book reminded me of Sun Tzu’s Art of War but for business. It spoke of old Chinese wisdoms with real world examples of businesses which used those tactics to gain the edge on their competition.
For example, a similar story is one I enjoy about the brand of mouthwash we know as Listerine.
The mouth wash was previously a simple jack of all trades liquid not used for anything specific. It did not sell well, so the brand altered the formula slightly and paid a bunch of doctors to start calling bad breath a medical condition with the new name “halitosis”. This condition doesn’t really exist, it is more of a symptom with a name of its own. The doctors then advised patients to use the “cure” for the condition “halitosis”, called Listerine.
Listerine is a rehashed product, for a condition that doesn’t exist and provides nothing new, but it made people feel better that they had a product to target their “halitosis”.
You can employ similar tactics in online marketing. It is simple psychology.
I hate homeopathic products, they are useless, fake trash. However if someone insists on specifically searching for homeopathic treatments then that is their choice and as long as it is perfectly safe, I will sell it to them.
Do not be afraid to chase and make your own version of the same product or idea when building a community.
What it is like to run a large community – Learn from my mistakes
Fortunately, I did not have the problem of needing to rehash a product or idea. People on the forum were making huge sums of money in the payday loans and insurance niches. Hitting the top 10 for those niches meant a return of thousands on a daily basis.
The strategy I used to poach users from BHW was heavily founded upon the idea that I should address each person individually, nurture them and build their trust. I tried my best to carry this over to the forum.
Whenever a new user subscribed, I announced it to the active embers, I personally vetted them, I asked to see their websites, I asked to see who they worked for, they had to explain what kind of marketer they were.
I wasn’t letting just anybody in. I really made sure that the people I was allowing into the forum actually knew what they were talking about. On many occasions I rejected new customers for the sake of the forum.
For successful applicants, I sent them personal messages welcoming them, I invited them to our personal Skype chat group, we introduced and welcomed new members and encouraged them to become active members rather than lurkers.
Doing this, while working on a million other things was really difficult for me. As an autistic individual I have trouble communicating at times, everything is black and white to me, I like MY things, MY routine and accepting help is difficult. I do not work well with others but I mask it very well.
It reached a point where I needed to manage this better, I needed help because I couldn’t deliver on the content requirements.
Nurture content creators but be careful with whom you trust with your community
Content creators are the core of your community. You can never run a community based solely on your own content, you have to nurture the community to grow.
I looked for content creators, people who would feel like they want to be a bigger part of things and were willing to take the plunge and work for it.
BHU Global Mod – Ccarter – Now works at SERPWoo
I eventually stumbled upon a user on a random forum called Ccarter. I had never heard of him before but he seemed to know me and questioned if I was the one creating “ripples” or something to that effect.
I remember thinking he seemed quite eccentric and that I liked that about him, he also seemed keenly interested in becoming a part of what was being built at BHU and most importantly, he liked creating content, so it was a good fit.
Ccarter definitely added a nice touch to the forum in terms of inspiring people and some people already knew him so he had some clout to his name.
The thing that I really couldn’t understand about Ccarter, is why he pretend to be a girl to users despite being a grown man, it was weird, really weird and it made a lot of users uncomfortable about it.
He would write bizarre pieces of content where he would explain that he is from ancient Egypt and other questionable things. It was absurd stuff that reminded me of an episode of the kids TV show Adventure Time. On a few occasions I couldn’t help but laugh. In the end I started to get a little concerned that he might be schizophrenic so I just left him to it.
Eventually he would go on to steal thousands of user’s private data from the forum. He is now working at SERPWoo where I presume he will have access to user data too.
He was also a prolific liar and his own blog is called “moneyoverethics.com” which lends itself to his character.
Don’t be afraid to remove problematic members
Ccarter is my first mistake, I should have removed him much earlier as well as providing more leadership in the forum.
My second mistake was not removing another very troublesome user that is well known among the SEO community as Charles Floate.
Charles joined the forum and was nothing but trouble. He was later arrested for child pornography and installing a trojan on another man’s computer, recording him masturbating and then trying to blackmail him with it.
From the moment he joined, the quality of our mastermind Skype group dropped dramatically, I am very fair and ethical in how I treat people. So because he was a paying member I constantly refused other member’s pleas to kick him out.
Technically he had done nothing wrong but he was increasingly annoying and he talked a lot of none-sense. He was really young back then, maybe 19, he said someone should write a book on his life and that his grandfather is a gangster and all of these absurd things that had members screaming to kick him out.
In hindsight, looking back, I should have pruned these types of members the same way I would reject applicants if they didn’t have enough of an SEO background when applying for a premium subscription.
If you have an established community, rule with an iron fist, what matters most is the health of your forum’s overall opinion.
Protect it, don’t let anyone, paying member included, degrade the quality of the group for the sake of being “fair”.
How I began to lose a grip on the community
I constantly reiterated to my members that they are not paying for my specific content, they are paying to be part of a community of like minded people, hidden from Google’s prying eyes.
I would not disagree with you if you think that this is a little naive. I had fully considered that the community might fail if I don’t consistently create good content. But that is exactly why I chose not to claim that I will make a lot of content.
The 301 technique could not be topped, it was a one off occurrence of an amazing technique. Trying to claim that I can create such case studies regularly would be lying to my community and I do not like to lie about anything.
However, this is not what ran the community into the ground, although it was part of it, it was my personal life that got in the way.
A community always needs a visible leader to thrive
I had become increasingly absent from the forum, I began not to care about my work. I had become quite distant and without that visibility of a leader, the community grumbled. I had stopped caring about SEO and websites.
Don’t make a promises to your community unless you can keep them
I began to have a well documented habit of not following through on ideas and promises to the community.
With a total lack of leadership, communities become stunted, they stop growing, members leave. This is especially true if you build a community around yourself. I tried to reiterate to the community that I did not own it, they are the owners.
But in all honesty, this is a mixed message because they reason they came to the forum in the first place is to follow me and what I had done. So to turn it all on its head and start proclaiming that the community is theirs just confused people and caused friction.
It is important that you carry on with your vision and message through all phases of the community. You can’t change your message half way through or confuse the message through contradictions. You have to be pure and consistent with what the community stands for and what you offer, from the beginning, right the way through until the end.
BHU was the best SEO and marketing forum I’ve ever been a part of and to be able say that I was the owner makes me feel very proud
I wanted to create a community of sharing where very few low level questions were asked and where users put effort into their posts.
BHU was the best forum I’d ever been to for that kind of quality and sharing of information. At its peak it was an incredible community to behold and I was very proud of it, the content and most of all the great members we had who, everyday, would lower their defences and share information they never would have without BHU and what it stood for.
The forum had a solid message and the community rallied around it, like an army we dedicated ourselves to sharing information, helping each other and giving Google the finger.
I can honestly say, it was worth all of the effort, even excluding the money I made.
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