How to REALLY Make Money From Forum

I get lot of requests to become an admin for forums and unless I see a good business plan I normally don’t take the next step forward. Last week an old friend wanted to meet me to discuss about an internet business idea he was working on. The idea was having a forum and wanted my honest opinion. Naturally, I accepted.

So once we met we discussed good old days but finally I asked about the business idea.

Friend: I follow you and your online forums and also want to start a forum for XXX niche because I think I can help people really well like you and I am open to take this full time few years down the line. What do you think about it?
Me: Very good idea but what is your business plan and how do you plan to grow your forum and make it a business in future?
Friend: Like you do using Google Adsense and other Ad networks.

Probably this is the business plan for majority of forum webmasters. Have a forum and add Google Adsense as soon as you can. This is not the way you should be creating a community. So I shared with him how to go about building a forum for business which I am going to share with you here.

Building a Community before building Business

Generally any business idea should have a revenue model but you should not focus on specific revenue streams like Adsense when forming the business idea. The first thing you should focus on is how you can build a community of users. Content websites especially forums can always make money from advertising network especially Adsense but any business needs to have a long-term strategy and goals of building the product.

If you know me personally you may know that the idea of Go4Expert was to make my content online and help others. After sometime I decided to even monetize it. I converted it into real internet business few years down the line. Still you can see that I monetize my other forums (MBAGuys & CFanatic) more heavily than Go4Expert because I am still building the Go4Expert community.

So if you have a plan to launch a forum for putting Google Adsense, Infolinks and Adbrite then just don’t think about having a forum in the first place.

How to Really Profit from Forum

There are multiple ways to make money from websites and as your forum grows you can experiment on what works the best for your niche forum. I am going to tell what has worked for me over the years.

1. Google Adsense to Start with

Adsense is one of the easier ways to make money from websites especially forums because there is very little work required in getting started with Adsense and so you can concentrate on things that matter more i.e. generating content and building community.

When you start using Adsense, you can be distracted for getting your Ad placement right for maximum revenue generation. One thing you should understand here is that if you have 1000 people visiting your forum you will not make more than few dollars per day in Adsense no matter how hard you try and so instead of focusing on tweaking Ad placement you should focus more on generating more traffic. Once you have decent traffic, you can worry about increasing Adsense revenue.

I don’t prefer to have an Adsense on my forums unless it has a traffic level of more than thousand visitors per day and this way I keep myself focused on building community and not on few cents here and there on Adsense.

2. Direct Advertisers and Premium CPM Advertising

CPM advertising networks require a minimum traffic level before they accept sites. Unless you have 100k visitors per month you should avoid looking for CPM advertising network for your forum. It will be nothing more than just waste of time. Remember before applying for any CPM advertising network go through their site requirements to see if they accept un-moderated content sites like forums because most CPM Ad networks don’t accept forums.

One you are approved for a CPM Ad network along with Adsense, you will need to manage your ad inventory efficiently to maximize your revenue. I use the following methods to manage my ad inventory efficiently.

  1. Using Google Ad Manager for CPM ad network with a minimum eCPM floor value. If Adsense can better that eCPM, Ad Manager shows Adsense or else CPM Ad network ads.
  2. The other way to manage Ad inventory is to opt for Adsense for unsold CPM ad inventory.

3. Newsletter Sponsorships

Ideally you can start your newsletter from day 1 but at times you can have difficulties generating all the content for your forum as well as for newsletter and so once who have decent number of members to take control of the content you can work on getting the newsletter for your forum.

Newsletter helps your community grow in many ways. One of them is you can email your users with a welcome email (See how to write well targeted welcome email) detailing about what to expect in the forum. Needless to say you can email users about new areas of your site or any new product or service you come up with in the future and this way you can boost your new product or service very easily.

I use AWeber for Go4Expert Newsletter.

Once your newsletter readership grows, you can promote related products for an affiliate commission or look for advertiser to sponsor your newsletter. Remember if you work on generating good ROI for your advertiser he will sponsor your newsletter again and again.

4. Premium Membership

As your forum grows you can start premium membership where you offer some extra stuff that people actually want. Remember that you should offer things that members actually want but how do you know what people want?

Use your forum suggestion sub forum to get the idea about what members are looking for?

  1. Are they looking for extra PM space?
  2. Looking to support the forum?
  3. Asking for Personal Blogs/Groups …
  4. Access to special private forum …

Use those kinds of threads in your forum to bundle a premium membership package for your members.

5. Forum Sponsorship

You probably have multiple forums on your site and each forum is different from the other. Instead of offering only complete forum sponsorship, allow advertiser to sponsor a specific sub forum. You will be amazed to see how many advertisers opt for a specific forum sponsorship at premium rate than complete forum sponsorship for a cheaper rate.

You can use Adsense to backfill non-sponsored forums. To further increase bidding/revenue in Adsense, create targeted placements for each sub forum throughout your site.

As an example:
Adsense Placement for Forum A
Adsense Placement for Forum B
etc

The aim of forum sponsorship is to Maximum advertiser’s ROI so they keep coming back to your site for advertising opportunities.

Final Thoughts

Advertising earning does not move very fast, so you will not see things moving a lot in first few years of operation.

For a forum to work you have to focus more on things which is used by people because that is the real traffic tip for me -Usage rather than users. If people keep coming back to your site because of good experience and quality of your forum, advertisers will. It is just matter of time.

Be creative to monetize your forum… Some stuff might be unique to your forum, so it’s impossible to say there’s one right or wrong way to do it.

Share your views in comments below.

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  • james

    Mr Bhimani, first I just wanted to say thank you for sharing your valuable experience with us. We need more people like you who are sincerely trying to help others.
    I’m in the process of making my first forum. I would like to ask your opinion on what technology I should use to create my site/forum.
    I have some basic web development skills (html, css, jquery, and a little php). but now a days there seems to be lots of tools out there that I can use to build a responsive site in no time. I’m thinking about using word press, but not sure if that’s a good idea. would the site be able to scale with the increased traffic in the future? what’s your opinion as to what would be the best technology to use for building a forum that will be able to handle hundreds of thousands of potential users in the future?
    Thank you!

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      WordPress for forum is not ideal and I will suggest you to be going with Xenforo. Check out the following article.

  • Salm

    Hello Shabir,
    Hope you are doing well. It is really great to share some of the online tricks that help us manage things better…

    I recently set up Google calender to get SMS reminders for every new emails reached my email box. It is a great tool to get updated and reminded while on the move.

    Can we set such reminders 24/7 or only limited hours in a day or night? Any idea about making it effective 24/7?

    Regards
    Salm

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      I prefer having a GMail app in my phone than SMSes of each email that arrives in my inbox.

  • http://paullyjoe.com Godson

    I agree with your posting. I will advise you install some modules like blog, Article, classified ads. This will help your forum ranking, more impression and good income as well.

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      I don’t agree with the fact that just adding more sections to your site will give you better ranking or impressions or income.

  • http://www.facebook.com/prateek.agrawal.58726 Madan Mohan Mishra

    Hi Shabbir ,

    can you please give me your contact number or add me on gtalk ?

    my gtalk id is dadakomaro@gmail.com

    Thanks

  • catherine

    May I know which is the best CPM ad network for forums? Please give me a complete list

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      It depends on niche of site and not only on type of site like forums or blogs.

      • Catherine

        I am creating my site and what ever the site may be there will be CPM ad networks right…I need the best CPM ad networks on the whole for forums

        • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

          Catherine, I just don’t understand your idea of finding the right CPM network for your forum where you still don’t have a forum (which is very much the first step), you hardly have any traffic, you are not sure about the GEO of your audience, you are not sure about the niche of your audience and just emailing to know the list of CPM networks. Just use Google and that is your best solution because after referring you to almost 5 CPM networks, if you are not able to make your mind. I give up.

          • Catherine

            I am really sorry and I started creating my website and I am planning to install PHBB after getting the correct audience I will go for CPM and other ad networks……

          • Catherine

            IS phbb is good for forums.? Once I get a good audience I will go for V bulletin…Send the link for blue host so that I can purchase it from your end…

  • http://www.x-zone4u.com Jason

    Thanks for the clear cut thought on running a forum. If money is the motive, then nothing will work out. If sharing and helping is the motive you will get a good forum

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      Exactly. :D

  • http://www.solutiontalks.com Saran

    Through forum we can also suggest some freelancer jobs too.Majority of the people are not getting genuine freelancer jobs.

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      Yes I do agree on getting jobs from forums like DigitalPoint and other Marketplace forum especially webmaster marketplace.

  • Salm

    Shabir,
    Recently I got an offer for a project where I need to interact with few prospects in UK. In the initial stage I need to speak to them.

    Is there any SKYPE like program where I can call UK citizens ( To their account an telephone) for free?

    Earlier I used to have a program where we can make any number of free calls to US landline and mobile phones from India. Is there any such program for UK

    Please share if you know one.

    Regards

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      I have no idea about such programs

  • http://www.edomz.com veena

    eDomz.com CPV and PPC Online Advertising

    eDomz offers Cost Per View and Pay Per Click based advertising where the advertiser gets to choose which advertising option they want for their business. Advertisers can choose between Cost Per View where the advertiser can get more unique visitors for a low cost or they can choose Pay Per Click. Pay Per Click is where the advertiser can get targeted unique visitors for a more affordable cost.

    Publishers who join this network has a choice to choose either Cost Per View or Pay Per Click when it comes to optimizing and earning from their website traffic. Our network is easy to join and offers low minimum payments with a high revenue share. All publisher payments are made every 45 days. offering $4 to $6 for every 1000 Uniques (CPM)

  • http://www.tecnologiz.com/ abel | tech media blog

    Thank you so much for the info, Its very hard a the beginning to start a forum and it does take time and loads of work. but its worth it.

  • http://www.im-advantage.com/ Freddy

    The forum site is people sharing idea or information

  • http://make-money-forum.moolamails.info/ make money forum

    this is all very good information, I think that most forum owners try to rush to monitize there forums instead of making there forums a better place first. I have recently made a forum for members to post there affiiliate links on and I think that people will want to do that so membership should grow. As for monitizing it, I have no Idea how I will ever do that since my forum as to do with traffic exchanges and PTC sites.

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      I think you have created a forum for spammers and so you will have tough time controlling it.

  • http://lookandlife.com Beauty

    Hi , very useful information! But are you not scared to put adsense on forum, what is visitors will say some adult words or so??I don’t want to delete every message that say f..ck , for example, i think visitors can say what they think..In some limits sure)

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      You can filter those words in your forum scripts and also just having such words would mean they don’t respect the other members and so those users should be kicked out anyways.

      Apart from that it depends on niche of your forum as well.

  • http://www.the-relationship-forum.com Relationship Master

    Thanks so much for the tips. I have gone for Google ads for now but will be trying out the newsletter idea.

  • http://www.VirtueScience.com James Barton

    Very helpful and inspiring, thanks Shabbir.

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      The pleasure is all mine James.

  • Salma

    Hello Shabir,
    I did not find any ads from Adsense, Kontera or any third parties in this blog site. (Of course, I noticed your adsense ads in your other blog sites. )

    Without any ads, how do you monetize from this blog?
    Without any ads here, are you not neglecting possible asense revenues?

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      I am not monetizing this blog much as of now. I am still working on building a blog readership.

  • Unni

    Thanks for sharing

    • http://imtips.co/ Shabbir

      The pleasure is all mine and share your more queries in the blog here itself.

  • http://money9.net Pankaj

    Yes, I also think that adding Google Adsense or others is a very wrong step before getting a remarkable traffic into any site!! You know, I also did this same mistake with my forum!! ;) Though that forum is dead now!! :D