The idea of community used to be much more tied to geography. For a group of people to come together to have discussions, share information, and learn from each other, they had to live close enough to do so in person. The internet has changed all that. The idea of connecting with people in online communities is now second nature to us.

And one of the common options for creating and maintaining communities online is the forum software phpBB. Below we dive into everything there is to know about phpBB hosting, from how it works to why you might choose it to power your own forum.

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What Is phpBB?

phpBB, which stands for PHP bulletin board, is an open source forum software that enables users to create a space online where communities can gather and share information in an organized format.

Forums created with phpBB let creators define the main categories and topics the community forum will cover. Users can create accounts, load their own questions and contents in the appropriate categories, and respond to the posts of other community members.

phpbb web hosting community forum

All participants in the discussion board can track the number of conversations and posts in all of the categories, and click to view each category and conversation they’re interested in. The forum model is basic and intuitive, making it easy for just about anyone to use. And for individuals or businesses interested in starting a forum, phpBB makes setting one up relatively simple as well.

6 Reasons to Start a Forum

phpBB is best used for the specific function of building and running an online forum. Before you decide if it’s the best application for your purposes, you should figure out if creating a forum is right for your particular needs.

It’s possible to create a discussion board for its own sake, in order to create a gathering place for people with common interests. It’s also common to create one as part of a business or brand that already exists, to give your customers or followers a place to connect with each other.

If you already have a website and are wondering if a forum makes sense, there are a few main benefits it can offer.

1. Forums create community.

Humans are social animals who have always sought out community and connection. An online forum gives people a chance to get to know other users, help each other out, and feel like a part of something. In some cases, that will take on a straightforward and professional tone, and in others it will have a more fun or emotional one.

In either case, when you can provide people with a sense of community, you’re adding real value to their lives. And if you become a regular participant in it as well, you may find it brings value to yours also.

2. You can get to know your site visitors better.

For brands, this is a big benefit. For both businesses and media sites, understanding your audience is a big priority. In order to deliver information and products that are relevant and useful to the people you want to reach, you need to know who they are and what they care about.

When your audience comes together to interact with each other in a forum, they’ll voice the common questions and opinions they have. All that information you’re always trying to learn about them when crafting buyer personas or creating a content strategy? With a forum, they’ll bring it straight to you.

3. Your visitors can learn from each other.

For many tech and software products, this is one of the big roles online forums play. When you’re struggling to figure out how to take a particular action in your software and head to Google to find the answer, often what you’ll find is a forum page where one user of the software asked the same question, and a fellow one provided an answer. This is a major reason why we have forums here at HostGator:

hostgator forum

That use case extends beyond tech products to any type of issue your forum users might be able to help each other with. A forum for teachers could include advice about lesson plans or how to handle particular student issues. A forum for fans of a TV show could include conversations about the show’s influences or themes that introduce ideas some fans hadn’t considered before.

In every case, both the people learning something new, and the people providing the information (and in many forums, members will take turns in each role) are getting something valuable out of the interaction.

4. Forums can increase traffic to your site.

If you add a forum to your website, you give all the members that participate reasons to keep coming back again and again. And when users have questions that relate to content you already have on your website, you have the perfect opportunity to share the link and drive more traffic to those pages on your site.

All that adds up to more visits to your website. And even better, much of it will be return visitors who are actively engaging with your brand during their visits. For website owners, that’s a big win.

5. Forums can improve search engine optimization (SEO).

The search engine algorithms like fresh content. When they see that a website is updated often, it shows that the website is current, which suggests it has more value than one that’s potentially outdated. Forums generate tons of fresh content—every time someone posts a new message or response, they’re creating new content on your site.

And if your forum is available to the public, it creates a lot of new pages that can be indexed by the algorithms and show up in search themselves. If one of the conversations in your forum answers a question searchers have better than other websites do, it could get onto the first page of the search results, driving more traffic and increasing the authority of your website.

6. Forums help you generate new content ideas.

One of the best ways to improve your website’s authority is to consistently create content your visitors care about. But creating large amounts of high-value, relevant content is challenging. In order to keep it up, you need a way to brainstorm topics your audience are most interested in. A forum gives you a window into the topics your audience is thinking and talking about.

You can learn the common questions they have, and then create content that answers them. And by spending time following the conversations they have and the language they use, you’ll get better at creating content in a style that they can relate to.

Why Use phpBB?

If a forum sounds like the right choice for your website, you do have a few different options to choose from in selecting your software. But there’s a reason that phpBB is one of the most popular options—a good number of reasons in fact. In particular:

  • It’s free. Setting up a forum with phpBB costs nothing. You can save your money for hosting and marketing.
  • It’s open source. The code for phpBB is freely available to use and change as you need. And because it’s open source, other users can also develop features and extensions you can benefit from.
  • It’s secure. The team behind phpBB runs security audits and work to quickly release updates to the software anytime they spot a vulnerability in the code. As long as you keep your software up to date and take basic website security measures, like choosing a trusted web hosting provider and using strong passwords, you’ll be able to keep your website safe from hackers.
  • It enables user preferences. For your forum to attract the community you want and get them to stick around, you want it to be user friendly. phpBB allows individual users some control over their experience of the forum. For example, they can load unique avatars and signatures to personalize their accounts, and customize the order they view categories in.  
  • It gives you the power of moderation. In our era of spam bots and trolls, a good community is a well moderated one. To keep your forum valuable, positive, and on topic, you need the power to review and approve the posts that go live. phpBB allows both the forum owner and any users you assign moderator status to the ability to remove or approve specific posts.
  • It offers public and private messaging options. Much of the value of a forum is the visibility of the conversations to all members, but sometimes individual members may want the ability to take part of the conversation private. phpBB allows the option of private messaging between members as well as public discussions.
  • It allows posters to include rich features. These days, online conversations are rarely just text. phpBB lets users complement their written messages with popular gifs, images, and emojis, as well as adding rich media like video or interactive features like polls.
  • It has anti-spam features. It’s hard to go anywhere online without encountering spam, but phpBB can help you avoid dealing with too much of it in your forum with features like captcha confirmation and the ability to ban users as needed.
  • You can customize your forum’s look. You can use your own coding skills to change up the design of your forum, if you’re able. Or you can choose from the hundreds of styles other phpBB users have developed and made available, mostly for free.  
  • You can control permissions. Ther forum owner, administrators, and moderators will need different types of access and abilities in the forum than everyday users. phpBB makes it easy for you to determine which users are able to access which features.
  • There are lots of extensions available. The functionality available in the core phpBB software is rich enough, but many users have created extensions that add additional features and functions to phpBB, many of them for free. You can expand what you and your members are able to do, based on your priorities.

What Is phpBB Hosting?

phpBB hosting is a type of web hosting that’s compatible with the phpBB software. phpBB provides a lot of the important functionality you need to build a forum, but it doesn’t come with web hosting. For your forum to become available online and accessible to your members, you’ll need to invest in application web hosting.

If you already have a website, you may be able to get started by adding your phpBB forum to the hosting plan you already have, but if you didn’t choose an application web hosting plan specifically designed to work with phpBB, there’s a chance you’ll face compatibility issues.

A good phpBB web hosting plan will promise easy one-click installation, so you can spend your time focusing on getting your forum started, not on messing with complicated technical processes to get everything working. Here’s a look at how easy it is to install phpBB with HostGator:

A phpBB web hosting plan will be 100% compatible with your phpBB forum—so there’s no chance of surprise issues down the line. Plus, a strong phpBB hosting choice will provide adequate security through strong firewalls and security software options, so that you can trust your forum will remain active without the threat of malicious hackers or viruses.

Finally, you’ll also want to be sure you choose a web hosting option that provides enough bandwidth for the website to handle regular visits from all your users, especially if the community starts to grow in the months and years to come—which is exactly what you want!

While a number of web hosting plans may work for hosting your phpBB forum, your life will be a little easier if you go with a reputable web hosting company that offers a phpBB-specific plan.

Get Started with phpBB Hosting Services

With the right phpBB hosting plan, you can get your forum up and running fast, and keep it running functionally without issues for as long as you want. When considering your options for phpBB hosting, make sure you go with a web host that has a strong reputation for providing quality service.

HostGator can promise 24/7 customer support, a 99.9% uptime guarantee, and a great reputation in the industry. Many of the benefits of having a community forum fall by the wayside if your visitors can’t access it at the moment they need it. With the right phpBB web hosting plan, you can be confident that your forum will deliver on the speed and accessibility that your users want and expect.

Get started today with HostGator application hosting.

Kristen Hicks is an Austin-based freelance content writer and lifelong learner with an ongoing curiosity to learn new things. She uses that curiosity, combined with her experience as a freelance business owner, to write about subjects valuable to small business owners on the HostGator blog. You can find her on Twitter at @atxcopywriter.