Having a successful forum that generates an income for you surely entails a big effort. Before starting a new Internet forum you need to make sure you have two things clear in your mind:
- If you have no prior forum management experience and think you will soon be rich with pay-per-click or any other advertisement, rest assured your forum will be as desert as the plane.
- Comparing the creation and management of a forum with a project of similar proportions, the latter will always be much more profitable than the former.
You should not start a forum just to make money off of it. The same time would be better spent creating content for your main website.
You must have your objectives clear. Choose your niche carefully, try to be unique. You may start thinking about ROI at a later stage, but always keep in mind that the more your forum grows, the more human and technical resources (hence money) are needed.
Once you have reached a steady and loyal user base (give yourself a minimum of 6 months for this to happen) you can start thinking about placing ads on your forum. A successful forum is an amazing content creation tool. Pages are user-generated, content is all original, and ads placed on these pages usually have a high content relevance, therefore high value per click. In little time you can have thousands of potentially revenue-generating pages.
However, you must avoid making the common mistake of plastering your forum theme with advertisements. Avoid popup, slide in, or timed ad windows. They annoy the hell out of users, interrupt the browsing flow, and contribute to a drop in user loyalty.
Do not interrupt the thread with an adbot post filled with ads. Place your ads in a visible but unobtrusive position in your page. Always keep in mind that users know where to find your ads, and they will click on them only if interested. This will also create much happier advertisers that will continue to invest in ads. Fooling in a few people will not make you richer, advertisers will eventually drop their ads and users will start avoiding your forum if they can.
Some Successful Forum Revenue Generating Ideas
- Pay per click programs are excellent ad tools, however you must consider that the more loyal your users the lower the CTR. Banners, links, short articles are all usable advertising tools. You should have more than one spot on your page where to place ads, to give your advertisers a choice.
- Start a traders section in your forum and charge a small percentage off of every transaction. If for example your forum is about Tuscany apartments rentals, you may have a renters area where you charge a 1% commission for every successful transaction.
- Create a newsletter using HTML email, then start selling ad spaces on it. Your newsletter is precious as you are targeting users that are already highly interested in your niche.
- Host a set of related services affiliated to your forum. For example, if your forum is on property rentals, create a book review section on the subject then sell those books through Amazon or similar. You may also affiliate to travel insurers, or car rental agencies. Any related business that will pay you a commission works.
- Once your user base is large and loyal enough you can start creating small conferences and seminars charging each participant. With the power of online communication you can reach thousands at little cost.
- Create a very high-interest area of your forum, then open it to paying users only. Making them premium users will also increase their loyalty and their status on the forum will attract others to the premium area.
- Develop unique products and services (e-book, consulting services, etc.) then charge a fee for them.
- Ultimately, if your forum becomes the ultimate resource on a specific subject, you may restrict access to paying users only. However this is a very rare scenario.
After a certain stage a successful forum should generate an income as you will need it to continue providing the service and grow it. Before making any money, however, remember to maximize quality and branding. Keep in mind that the suggested money-making tips above do require a fair amount of planning and knowledge.