Are forums dead in 2020? Can forums make a significant amount of money? Is it even possible to make money with forum sites in 2020?
I get requests to become an admin for forums unless I see a good business plan (the right path to making money with forums) I usually don’t take the next step.
Last week one of my college friends wanted to meet me to discuss 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. I also want to start a forum for XXX niche because I think I can help people like you. I am open to taking this full time a few years down the line. What do you think about it?
Me: Excellent idea, but what is your business plan. How do you plan to grow your forum and make it a business in the future?
Friend: Like you do. Use Google Adsense and other Ad networks.
Probably this is the business plan for the majority of forum webmasters.
Have a forum and add Google Adsense as soon as you can.
It is not the way you should be creating a forum or 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 Making it a 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.
It is always an option but not the option to start something. Content websites, especially forums, can still make money from the advertising network, especially Adsense. However, any business needs to have a long-term strategy and goals of building the product.
The first thing you should focus on is how you can build a community of users.
Once you have the following, a business can always be built around them.
If you know me long enough, you may have an idea of Go4Expert was to make my content online and help others. After some time, I decided even to monetize it. I converted it into real internet business a few years down the line.
So if you have a plan to launch a forum for putting Google Adsense, then just don’t think about having a forum in the first place. The first step is to build a community and make it popular among members.
How to Make Money with 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 you 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. 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 to understand here is that if you have 1000 people visiting your forum, you will not make more than a few dollars per day in Adsense no matter how hard you try. So instead of focusing on tweaking Ad placement, you should focus more on generating more conversations and traffic.
Once you have decent traffic, you can worry about tweaking Adsense placement for better revenue.
As a side note, I don’t prefer to have an Adsense on my forums unless it has a certain traffic level. Ideally, I like to have at least a thousand visitors per day before I consider Adsense. 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 forums. It will be nothing more than just a 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.
Once approved for a CPM Ad network along with Adsense, you will need to manage your ad inventory efficiently to maximize revenue.
- Use 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.
- The other way to manage Ad inventory is to opt for Adsense for unsold CPM ad inventory.
Whatever you deploy, don’t focus too much on making the most of ads, work on building the community.
3. Newsletter Sponsorships
Ideally, you can start your newsletter from day one, but at times you can have difficulties generating all the content for a forum as well as the newsletter. So once who have a decent number of members who interact to create the content, work on getting the newsletter for the forum?
The 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.
You can email users about new areas of your site or any new product or service you come up with in the future. It can boost your new product or service quickly.
Once your newsletter readership grows, you can promote related products for an affiliate commission or look for an advertiser to sponsor your newsletter.
Remember if you can generate a good ROI for the advertiser instead of trying to make quick bucks, they 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 want.
Remember that you should offer things that members want, but how do you know what people want?
Use forum suggestion sub-forum to get the idea about what members are looking for?
- Are they looking for extra PM space?
- Are they looking for a badge as forum supporter?
- Asking for Personal Blogs/Groups …
- Access to an exclusive private forum …
Then use them to offer a premium membership package for members.
5. Forum/Sub-Forum Sponsorship
You probably have multiple forums on your site, and each forum is different from the other.
Offer a complete sponsorship, but often in a diverse set of topics, advertisers may not consider it. So, instead of offering a complete forum sponsorship package, allow an advertiser to sponsor a specific subforum. You will be amazed to see how many advertisers opt for a particular forum sponsorship at a premium rate than complete forum sponsorship for a lower price.
You can use Adsense to backfill non-sponsored forums. To further increase bidding/revenue in Adsense, create targeted placements for each subforum throughout your site.
The aim of forum sponsorship is to Maximum advertiser’s ROI, so they keep coming back to your site for advertising opportunities.
Advertising earning doesn’t move very fast, so you will not see things moving a lot in the first few years of operation.
For a forum to work, you have to focus more on things which are used by people. If people keep coming back to your site because of the excellent experience and quality of communication within the community, advertisers surely will.
It is just a 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.
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