Earning from Forums (Part 1)

Forum owners often struggle to find ways to earn a decent and fair amount off of their forums. Every so often, I see naïve posts by young webmasters believing that they can easily start banking money from their planned board. This is not the case at all. As the majority of ForumPromotion members understand, foruming is one of the toughest internet niches to be involved in, both from a marketing and a revenue perspective. From the advertisers point of view, forum ads often represent a poor return on investment. Forums tend to achieve a high number of impressions and page views but a much lower number of uniques. Added to that is the member mindset. Even if the member has not enabled ad block, and with the current environment most internet savvy people have, they still screen out the ads automatically. A number of forums disable advertisements to members not only because it encourages signups, the percentage of ad revenue from that group makes it barely worth displaying the ads to them. With the uncertainty of forums, money should never be your primary objective unless you want to settle with a mediocre return on your forum some thinking is required (which I will try and do for you).

Adsense: Slapping on Google Adsense is one of the first things new forum owners tend to do. Adsense has a high CPC rate (upwards of 10 cents per click) and Google is a trusted advertiser. Another advantage of Adsense is that they actually accept forums into their publisher network; a number of networks do not. There isn’t anything particularly wrong with Adsense. I took a look at Flippa for forums with Adsense earnings. The earnings were pretty good or they appeared that way. Here is a graphic artists forums statistics. With a CPC (Cost-Per- Click) average of 45 cents and a page CTR (Click-Through- Rate) of just over 3 % they were earning $330 a month from 500 daily visitors.

Image

I saw a similar forum for sale with about the same level of earnings. I dug a little deeper and realized that either a) The forum owner was seriously good at SEO or b) They lied about their earnings. A forum with under 10,000ish posts does not match that view rate without some work. This might be where the misconception that forums are easy earners lies: seeing forums on Flippa with a few thousand posts earning $XX – $XXX a month. I digress. Adsense actually tends to produce a low CTR on forums (0.5%) (see here). A couple of points regarding Adsense:

  • Enable Adsense Revenue sharing. I know that both XenForo and myBB have plugins which enable you to allow your users to place their adsense code on their threads/ posts for a certain percentage of the time. Members will be much happier seeing revenue share ads on your forum and have an incentive to post “hot” topics.
  • You will need to increase your guest traffic; this may be through Google or Reddit or from some other source. Guests, rather than members, will earn you money from Adsense.

Adsense optimization is a popular topic. Here are some of the top optimization techniques that you can employ if you are using Adsense (or any CPC/CPM program): 1. Show both text and image ads. Google allows you to set whether or not you are displaying text and/ or image ads. Selecting both ensures diversity of inventory of ads. Google’s Adsense algorithm will show the ads that have the highest earnings potential for your forum. 2. Place ads above scrolling (or the fold). If guests/ members have to scroll they are less likely to see, and therefore click on, your ads. 3. Ensure that you display three ads per page (the maximum number which Google allows). Some ads  pay per impression and you will earn from just displaying them. 4. Use the common ad sizes. The common ad sizes will have more advertisers bidding for clicks and impressions and therefore higher earnings for you. According to Google:

“The sizes we’ve found to be the most effective are the 336×280 Large Rectangle, the 300×250 Medium Rectangle, the 728×90 Leaderboard, and the 160×600 Wide Skyscraper.” Ref.

5. Make changes every now and again. Unfortunately, I was banned a couple of years ago from Adsense (which didn’t stop me from reapplying under a different alias two more times and being subsequently banned again). However, I do remember that making ad changes (to the positions and sizes of the ads) every now and again really did provide a short boost to earnings.

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