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I have written a guide to help my fellow webmasters promote their website/forum. I will link to it, then quote it's contents below. I hope this helps!
Do you run a website or forum? Then here are some tips to help you get your website off it's feet, or to get you more members.
* Advertising your site on forums that have sections for advertising for free, I recommend the following: Particle Cannon, x10hosting, CNET, Xbox.com, Gaia Online, LiveWire, Raptr, Xfire, myBB, Combat Arms Forums, StarWars.com, APB Forum, KSDK.com (scroll down to "I'm Just Sayin"), Neo Steam Forums, Battle.net Forums, Star Wars: The Old Republic Forums, Stargate Worlds Forums, ReBIRTH, CivFanatics, Bungie.net, OnLive Fans, Genesis A.D. Forums, NES World, Sega Forums, Classic Gaming Forums, and Planet Mac
* Craigslist is a great place to advertise your site, just select your city or the city closest to you and post a classified: http://www.craigslist.com/
* Wikipedia is a good place to make an article about your website. But remember, only do so if your site is notable and you have sources to back up what you write: http://en.wikipedia.org
* Affiliates are always nice, know someone who runs another site (especially if their site is similar to yours)? Then why not make a deal where you link to them and they link to you.
* Freeadvertisingforum.com lets you advertise your website for free. Unfortunately you need to view 5 other ads before you post your own: http://freeadvertisingforum.com/
* Social networks are great to use for your site. I recommend you create pages/groups/profiles for your site on the following: Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, Bebo, myYearbook, Xfire, GameSpy Arena, LinkedIn, YouTube
* IMVU has TONS of 14 year old emo girls who once you start being friendly towards, can be easily convinced to join your forum. So send a few (or a lot) of them chat invites and chat your heart out, be caring and kind, and then ask them to join your forum. I imagine it would work (almost) every time.
* Friends, family, classmates, and co-workers are there to support you (usually), so why not invite them to your forum?
* Merchandise is good, you can design your own t-shirts, hats, panties, you name it, and the company will sell them. So design a lunchbox or whatever with your site's name and/or URL (or logo) using this nifty site: http://www.customink.com/
* Search engines are good. Be sure to submit your site to Google, Ask Jeeves, Yahoo! Search, Bing, AltaVista, and AOL Search.
* Subsidiary sites are a nice touch. Create (or have your friends create) websites for niches. Like say you run a gaming forum, why not have a subsidiary/network site that is strictly about StarCraft? Then have that site's "forums" page link to your board's StarCraft forum.
* Spam is bad. So only post your ads on forums that allow it or you have the webmaster's permission to.
* Pretending you're a Nigerian prince doesn't really make people want to join your forum.
* Paid ads are almost pointless. How many times have you actually clicked on an advertisement? They may have, at one point in time, been good, but now they are just so waterlogged with scams and junk that nobody ever really clicks them, and some web browsers/security software block them even. So you're just throwing away your money, even if it is just pay-per-click.