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How to Make Money With Your Online Forum

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Even if you use an open source application to run your forum, you’ll still have to cover the cost of hosting, domain registration and renewal, and any people you may employ, including designers, developers, and moderators.  As your forum increases in size and popularity, your expenses will also increase.

Ideally, you want a way of earning money which will generate more income as your forum gets more traffic and users.  Thankfully, there are a number of different methods and tools you can use to increase your site’s revenue.

Advertising

Selling advertising space is one way of earning money, and you should be able to earn more ad revenue as your site becomes more popular.  There are a number of different services you can use to sell advertising space on your site, such as Google Adsense, advertising marketplaces, and affiliate schemes.  One of these services may be better suited to your site than others, so be sure to take some time to decide which option is best for your forum.

Google Adsense

If your forum is fairly new, then you may have a difficult time finding businesses that want to advertise on your site.  Until your forum has been active for a certain number of months, or you reach a set amount of monthly site traffic, you might even find it difficult to join some affiliate schemes .  However, you can use Google Adsense to earn some money until your site becomes more established and popular.

With Adsense, you can choose where ads are displayed on your forum, as well as the types of advertisements you want shown on your site.  Plus, you get paid for impressions and clicks, so you can make money every time a member visits your forum, even if they don’t click on an ad.  In addition to displaying ads on your site, you can use Adsense to add a search engine to your forum, and you can earn revenue from the ads on the results pages.

Affiliate Schemes

commission junction

As your site becomes more established and popular, you can become an affiliate and put banners on your site in hopes of earning money through sales–a number of companies offer affiliate programs, including Amazon.  Plus, there are quite a few affiliate services, such as Commission Junction, which help you find and join affiliate schemes, manage relationships and payments, get links and banners, and view traffic and income statistics.  Some companies will allow practically anyone to join their affiliates schemes, while other companies are much more strict about the requirements you need to meet to become a member of their programs.

Advertising Marketplaces

buy sell ads

As your site grows in popularity, you can move on to advertising marketplaces like BuySellAds–these types of sites will help you get in touch with interested advertisers, as well as process payments, but you generally have to give them a portion of everything you earn.  With BuySellAds, you can sell advertising space for a 30 period, or you can charge a certain amount for every 1,000 impressions the ad receives.  Plus, you can offer ad space in a range of different sizes, such as 125×125 or 728×90, as well various types of ads, such as images, RSS and text.  On BuySellAds, you can find people selling ad space for $10-5,000 a month, so some very busy sites are able to earn a considerable amount of money via ad revenue.

Premium Memberships

In addition to selling advertising space on your forum, you can generate revenue through premium memberships.  Depending on the type of forum you run, you may want to offer only premium memberships, or you can let users choose between free and premium versions.  If you plan to offer both membership options to users, then you should include attractive features designed to entice people to opt for the paid version.  Some of these features could include additional content, such as videos and audio, increased resources (i.e., inbox capacity and avatar file size), and expanded profile size.  In addition to these features, I strongly recommend providing premium members with an ad free version of your site as a way of rewarding them for supporting your online forum.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to find any modifications for open source forum applications which will enable you to automate the process of receiving and managing payments (i.e., automatically granting users access to premium areas when payment is received, or denying access to these areas when people stop paying their monthly bills).

Merchandise

zazzle

As your forum becomes even more popular, you can try earning additional income through merchandise, such as tee shirts, mugs, stickers, and buttons.  There are a number of websites you can use to create and sell merchandise, including CafePress and Zazzle.  Because you can sell one item at time using these sites, CafePress and Zazzle are perfect for forum owners who don’t want to commit to buying a minimum number of mugs or tee shirts.  To sell merchandise using these sites, all you have to do is create a storefront (for free), upload the image you want to appear on your products, and then direct your users to your store to buy your merchandise.  When someone purchases one of your items, CafePress and Zazzle will handle the payment, giving you a percentage of the sale price, create the item, and ship it to the customer.

Modifications for Advertising

Advertisement Manager for phpBB3

advertisement manager for phpbb3

If you want to put advertisements on your phpBB3 forum, then check out this free modification!  Advertisement Manager allows you to make new ad positions on your forum, track the number of times ads are viewed and clicked, set the period of time an ad is displayed, as well as limit the number of times an ad is viewed or clicked before it’s disabled.  Plus, this modification can be used for affiliate banners, Google Adsense, and other HTML ads, so it should meet the needs of most site owners.

Ad Management Mod for Simple Machines

ad management mod for simple machines

You can use this free modification to create and manage HTML and PHP ads on your Simple Machines forum.  With the Ad Management Mod, you can choose for ads to be displayed on particular boards, between posts, and after categories.  This modification also provides reports, so you can see how well each of your ads is performing, and it gives you the option of disabling ads for certain membergroups, such as moderators or premium members.  If you’re looking for an advertising modification for Simple Machines, then you should definitely check out the Ad Mangement Mod!

My Advertisements for MyBB

my advertisements for mybb

If you need a plugin to help you manage advertising on your MyBB forum, then give this free plugin a try!  With My Advertisements, you can assign ads to various zones, including the header, footer, and postbit, and you can have multiple ads for each zone, which will be randomly displayed to your site’s visitors.  Plus, this mod can track the number of views and clicks an ad receives, and it offers a feature you can use to prevent ads from being shown to certain users.

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