Turn Your WordPress Comments into Forum Posts for More Engagement

Unless a site is massively popular with lots of comments on nearly every post, leaving a comment on a post can feel a little lonely.

Single posts tend to feel a little walled off from everything else. Once you leave a comment on a post, you may feel like browsing around and finding another post to read, but you don’t typically get the impression that you’re in the middle of thriving discussion.

That’s where forums can excel.

Although a forum thread is also walled off to degree, you’re always only one click away from lots more discussion.

And so as a way to help encourage more discussion overall, some sites have taken to turning comments on posts into automatically generated threads on a forum.

With WordPress, you could do this too. We’ll go over exactly how below.

 

featured-forum

Install bbPress and Set It Up

You can do this with different forum software, but we’ll take the easiest way and do it with bbPress.

bbPress is made by the same people who make WordPress, and so it’s meant to integrate very easily.

And so the first thing you’ll need to do is install bbPress.

That’s easy enough. Just go to your plugins section, search for bbPress, and install it as you would any other plugin.

 

Setting Up the Forum

Once it’s installed and activated, go the new menu item now on your sidebar called “Forums” and create a forum where your post comments will go. Forums > New Forum.

When you create a new forum, the write/edit screen looks just a like a post screen.

I’ll call mine “Post Comments.”  And then I’ll put in a little bit of description to tell visitors what the forum is about.

forum-creation

If you go to yoursite.com/forums/ , you should see your forum with the category you just created.

If the forum isn’t there, then try creating a Page called “forums.” This should get automatically created, but it may not have if the forum is missing.

forums-set-up

 

Install bbPress Post Topics Plugin

Next, install and activate the plugin called bbPress Post Topics.

You should now find some extra settings on the Discussion settings. (Settings > Discussion)

Some of these settings might be a little confusing at first, and so you may just need to play around with them and see what kind of results they give you.

To keep it as simple as possible right now, I’ll just set the comments to not appear on the posts at all, and just have a link to the section in the forum where a new thread/topic will be automatically create for the post.

Even that might sound a little confusing, so let me say it again in step-by-step fashion:

  1. New post is published
  2. New thread/topic is automatically created in the forum for that post
  3. At the bottom of the post, visitors don’t see a comment box. They only see a link to the newly created forum thread.
  4. If visitors want to comment, they can follow the link and comment in the forum.

In order to get that type of set up, at the top of the settings for the plugin, you’ll need to check “Create a new bbPress topic …” and then select the forum you just created.

Then at the bottom of the settings, select the radio button for “A link to the topic.”

post-topics-setup

*Note: You may need to double check to make sure the pull down menu has the forum selected (i.e. “Post Comment” forum) after you save the settings.

Also, if you want the plugin to create forum threads/topics for all the posts published before you installed the plugin, you’ll need to go back after saving and click “Apply settings to existing posts.” (This option will not appear until you choose a forum and save it.)

You’ll now see a link instead of a comment box at the bottom of your posts. You can customize that link on the settings page.

comment-link

When you follow that link to the forum, you’ll see a new forum post has already been made with an excerpt of the post and a link to the original.

comment-in-forum

 

Getting More Complex

And so that’s the basic setup. You can, however, do all sorts of other things, such as have the comments appear both below the post and in the forum as well. If a new comment is made in either location, the other location is updated with the comment.

You’ll also notice that if you let the comments display under the posts, then the regular WordPress comment system gets replaced with threads/topics from the forum.

Here’s a look at the comment section of a post where I’ve let the comments display. You’ll see that the comments now look like the forum (because it actually is the forum).

You’ll also notice that a comment I made in the forum gets displayed as a comment under the post too.

more-complex-comments

As mentioned before, there are a number of options for you, and so you can just play with things to see what shows where.

In any case, this is a pretty simple solution that may very well create more engagement on your site. No longer will visitors feel walled off inside of a post. Forums tend to encourage browsing, and that just may be what you’ll get if you enable this switch.

11 Responses

  • Developer

    It’s fairly easy, I always wondered how to do just that. That last part is pure inception “You’ll see that the comments now look like the forum (because it actually is the forum).” :)

    One question, since all comments are handled by forum, is there a way to import comments into regular WP comments once you decide to switch back?

    • Author

      Good question. See Jose’s answer below for part of it.

      As mentioned in the post, you have the ability to show comments both in the forums and below the post. I’d imagine if you did that, you’d be getting a lot of duplicate content. If you went in that direction, I’d no-index and no-follow the forum.

      If they were only on the forums, and you had a link on the forums back to the post, I don’t know. As Jose mentions, you might end up with a lot of empty forum threads if you don’t have a lot of people participating. But the excerpt gets placed into the first automatically generated thread. So essentially it would be like a category page, where you have an excerpt with a link.

      That said, if you DID have a lot of activity, and you didn’t display the comments below the post, then you’d have a separate section on your blog with a lot of content talking about the same topic with a link back to the post. In essence, it would be like having a new post back on the same topic linking back to that original post. And of course you could craft the first post in the forum to be even more search engine friendly. So it might give you a small bump as an interlinking strategy.

      As mentioned, you’d probably need consistent participation from your visitors.

      THAT said, I’m not sure that would be better than having the original post with even more content added below it by user comments.

      This is really a user experience thing, I think. I don’t think you would get any real significant SEO bump no matter how you rigged it.

  • I’ve been using this for some time, it’s a great plugin and addition to the commenting and engagement that can connect your blog with the forums.

    This should be used sparingly however, or else you’ll end up with as many forum topics as blog posts and you’ll find them all empty, which can backfire when trying to promote discussions on blog or forum.

    Also, with regards to SEO, when you automatically have the plugin create a forum topic when you publish the post, it will create a forum topic with the same title as the blog post and the same URL relative to the forum.

    On google webmasters, these blog posts and forum topics with the same titles and urls will start being flagged by google as warnings for duplicate content.

    This is why I stopped doing the automatic creation of topics via the post. A work around is to create the forum topic first, then tell the blog post what forum you would like to link. This way you can give the forum a varied title so it’s not exactly the same thing.

    Jose

  • New Recruit

    Is it possible to combine different options like “A link to the topic” and “Replies only” ?
    I would like to leave a link under the post alerting users that they can use the forum to interact with the Author of the post, BUT I also want to leave out the option for other visitors to comment…

    The best combination would be the “link to the topic” option INCLUDED in the bottom of the post, while also preserving the “Replies only” option… Is there any way I can achieve such a thing?

    Thanks in advance! :)

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