Are you looking for the best free forum software? Yes, there is good free forum software that will help you build a helpful and loyal online community. The premium forum software options are rich in features, and integration with third party software, but we have compiled a list of free forum software that is just as good.
Why do you need a forum for your website?
Does your site have a blog? It also needs a forum for the same reason it needs a blog, sharing information. But a forum works even better as it allows your customers to discuss various aspects of your products and other related subjects. Your website needs a forum for the following main reasons;
- Forums offer advice and recommendations for your products. Word of mouth recommendation from previous customers, who are members of the forum, drives other customers to buy your products. The discussions will not only recommend products but also give advice on how to use the products.
- Forums offer marketing insights. Through the discussion threads, you get to know the type of customers that visit your websites and the purpose of their visit. You also get to know what your customers need, and what you are not providing. You get to create a thread, monitor it, and plan a marketing strategy from the responses.
- Forums are great for SEO purposes. To improve SEO of your website through your forum, optimize the title, and if possible the content, of each thread with a search phrase. This way, you make each forum thread to drive traffic to your website.
- The loyal and active members of your forum may work as a free customer support team. All you have to do is identify the active members, especially those who promote your products and make them forum staff, or moderators. That way you will have earned yourself a free and dedicated customer support team as they will answer most of the questions your clients and potential clients have. Also, the discussion threads act as an FAQ.
The best free forum software
So, which are the best free forum software?
phpBB is an open source forum software that is easy to set up and manage. It is one of the most popular free forum software. This forum software has a large following of developers who constantly create modifications to the system. It is open source; therefore, it can be modified by anyone with programming language knowledge. With this software, you can create voting polls on your forum, user profile additions, and many more features.
- Free to use
- Easy to setup and customize
- It has Private Messaging feature
- Antispam features
- Lack of SEO optimization
- No social media integration
Simple Machine Forums (SMF) is another great free forum software that will enable a forum on any website. It has great customization features and administrative features. It allows members of the forum to create profiles.
- Wide variety of templates
- Antispam features
- Good plugin system
- Easy administration
- Administration panel not very intuitive
- Bad SEO
bbPress is a free and open source WordPress plugin, which will enable you to run a forum alongside your WordPress blog. bbPress is lightweight but has all the essential features a forum needs. It has excellent WordPress integration, as it makes use of the WordPress features such as user permissions. It delivers on simplicity without compromising on features.
- Lightweight plugin
- Easy to integrate with other WordPress plugins
- Available in the WordPress repository
- Poor migration tools
- Little control over SEO
- Not so impressive administration features
Simple: Press is a forum plugin for WordPress. It is rich in features compared to bbPress. Simple: Press is easy to install, and it fully integrates with WordPress logins and user registration. You can opt for cokkies so that you can track member’s activities. It allows uploading of media files. It has many customization options.
- Excellent administration features
- Spam prevention tool
- Post moderation options
- Offers forum statistics
- Supports SEO
- Quite expensive plugins
- Minimal customer support for free members
- Not available on the WordPress repository
MyBB is an open source forum software with a simple administrator interface. It supports a lot of themes and has many plugins that improve its features and functionality. The most notable feature is the MyBB Merge System that allows easy migration from another forum software.
- Smooth migration through MyBB Merge System
- Lots of themes and plugins
- Rich in administrative features
- Average SEO
- Not so strict antispam tool
Those are the best free forum software options in the market. The benefits of creating a forum are invaluable. So, conduct a market research, with the list above as your starting point, and identify the free forum software that will suit your needs.
Which is your best free forum software? Please let us know through the comments section below.