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February 29, 2012

Monetize your Forum without Banner Ads

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On forums, users are exposed to traditional banner ad space for a much smaller proportion of their time than on blogs. Furthermore, they’re frequently focused on doing something else (e.g. writing a post or figuring out how a thread has evolved) than when they’re reading a blog. As a result, they are less likely to click on your banner ads even when they see them. This means that forum owners require additional ways to make money on their forums. But, many aren’t sure what else to do, or how to get started.

I started marketing online before the phrase entered popular parlance. Here, I’ll share three ways forum owners can monetize their forum — whether they’re trying to make money or just trying to pay the hosting fees.

Ad-posts

In order to combat banner blindness within forums, many sites have begun inserting ad posts between real posts. The idea is that people are blind to ads placed in traditional advertising spaces, but more likely to see and thus more likely to click an ad that appears while they’re reading a thread. These ad-posts are usually automated but they can be manually inserted as well. However, it’s still good advertising practice to disclose which posts are advertisements (even if it may seem obvious which is which).

Charge for Membership

Another option you have is to charge membership fees to gain access to either the entire forum or a VIP section. The fees can either be a recurring subscription or a one-time registration fee. This allows you to forgo on-forum advertising if you wish, but usually that isn’t a problem for paid forums as long as you give people the option to disable it and don’t go overboard. An additional bonus is that spam on premium forums is almost non-existent — aside from the occasional rogue member distributing fake spam to troll everyone else. And because many top users will prefer a paid, premium experience over a free forum filled with noobs and spammers, it will also make your community-base more targetable and “nichey,” which in turn makes it easier to distribute affiliate offers in a newsletter (an additional revenue source).

Monetize your Text Content

In-content links are easily monetizable and there are several ways to do so. Some solutions deliver JavaScript link-based ads that, when moused-over, display a small pop-up featuring a link to a product page (you see these on websites such as msnbc.com and many forums and blogs). Others take a more unobtrusive approach and may rely on affiliating in-content links. According to Oliver Roup, founder of VigLink, a content monetization company:

“In-content links are an unobtrusive way to generate additional site revenue and ideally suited to all types of content — including the user-generated content synonymous with forums. And additionally, they are completely complementary to banner ads and [ad-posts].”

Plus, in-text ads connect with users while they’re reading a thread’s content, which means that they spend more time reading them. Since they’re exposed to the ads longer and in a place where they’re more susceptible to advertising, these ad-units typically see very competitive click-through rates.

Even More Tips to Be Shared at ForumCon

It’s always a good idea to read more about it online so definitely hunt for a few more articles. But, if you’re really serious about making more money from your forum, join me at ForumCon on June 12th, 2012 in San Francisco. At the one-day event (the only of its kind), the industry’s leading forum owners and monetization experts will be sharing tips, tools and best practices to make more money from your forum. Plus, it will be a great opportunity to network with advertisers and other forum owners like yourself. VigLink is hosting ForumCon and a limited number of tickets have been released at a special price of $69. More information can be found here — hope to see you there!


This is a guest post by Murray Newlands. Murray is the CEO and Founder of Influence People, an online marketing and PR consulting firm based in San Francisco.

5 Responses to “Monetize your Forum without Banner Ads

    avatar Julia_Louisiana says:

    I was thinking the same thing about Alexa as there was quite a lot of movement. They might have readjusted their adjustment for “technology skew” – or what ever it was….

    Thank you for the article, Murray! For a regular forum or blog I think you can start with text ads, then use ad-posts and later on add membership, when the traffic and audience increased.

    Lucian

    It’d be kinda like the group blog idea, but with more of a “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?” vibe. And who didn’t love playing that? :)

    avatar one problem with ads says:

    one problem with ads. most people don’t click them. Ive used the web for 20 years and if I click a banner ad, it’s by accident. I find ads annoying and offensive.

    It is a way to show your business through online and offline will also include in it !!

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