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Community Building and User Generated Content Forum

    
Is there any money in forums?
Should I add one to my website?
Small Website Guy




msg:3701662
 2:28 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

My website generates about $1000 of profit per month (mostly from affiliate links. Google Adwords is only about $100 a month). It has a lot of user-generated content, but no forums. I know that many of the site visitors would LIKE a forum.

I'm worried that adding forums would cause a huge increase in bandwidth that would require me to upgrade to some sort of expensive dedicated hosting plan, but I hear that forums don't generate much revenue.

Does anyone have any idea of whether forums would result in a big revenue increase, or wind up costing me money instead?

Does anyone know of a good off-the-shelf forum that uses ASP.NET and SQL Server?

 

LifeinAsia




msg:3701712
 3:13 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've heard from many people that forums don't generate much income. But for us, our forums are in the top 5 money-making sections for AdSense each month (usually in the 3rd or 4th spot). So your mileage may vary.

If you know your users want it, then definitely consider adding one. It may not make that much money directly (or it may), but you can't disregard the residual affects (people read the forums, then stick around and visit other parts of the site, clicking on ads and affiliate links).

rogerd




msg:3701811
 4:45 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I've heard there can be some value [webmasterworld.com] in them...

Seriously, forums are rarely major money-makers. They take a lot of hours to nurture, often over a period of years. Ad CTR tends to be a lot lower than on static information pages.

A forum can support your business model, though. If you sell pet products, having a forum that keeps pet owners coming back to your site daily can be a plus. And, if you are successful, high traffic volume can help offset the lower eCPM you will see from ads.

rogerd




msg:3701813
 4:47 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Oh, to answer the second question, I think Web Wiz might fit your Windows environment.

Swanny007




msg:3701815
 4:48 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

My $.02...

If the forum would add value to the site (and some visitors want one), then by all means add it. I have many forums running on shared hosting so you don't necessarily need the greatest and fastest hardware (It's Linux mind you).

In my experience, the best performing ad is a large AdSense rectangle after the first post in each thread.

With that said, make sure the forums will add value. Since you already have user generated content, don't just add forums to make more money. Make sure the forums add to or improve your site in some way.

If you want my opinion on whether or not you should add a forum, feel free to Sticky Mail me the URL so I can check it out.

Small Website Guy




msg:3701874
 5:31 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Upside

1. More content for Google to index; thus more search engine traffic.
2. Makes the site more of a complete destination; could encourage more free links.
3. Site becomes more sticky.

Downside

1. Have to monitor forums for spam and problem users.
2. Hosting costs could increase from $35/month to $350/month. That's $4,000 per year. Ouch!
3. Regular forum users are unlikely to click on the affiliate links and buy stuff. (Mostly they will complain about how the products and services offered by the affiliates suck.)
4. Forums could cannibalize the more profitable areas of the site.

Does the value of the upside outweigh the value of the downside?

It probably can't hurt to experiment with it; is it possible I could be surprised and find that my profits DOUBLE even after the increased hosting costs?

The issue is the labor involved in setting this up. I should probably program the forums myself. It would be good programming practice.

LifeinAsia




msg:3701898
 5:41 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

I find it hard to believe your hosting costs would jump that much just from adding forums. But if that is the case, you should look into getting a different hosting account just for your forums and use a subdomain like forums.yoursite.com.

rogerd




msg:3701924
 6:00 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

SWG, you have correctly assessed the pluses and minuses. Predicting how that will play out in your environment may be impossible to know in advance. A few more points:

>>I should probably program the forums myself

Bad idea. Save your time for the community building side of things. Today's forums come with a huge assortment of tools for spam prevention, dealing with problem members, integrating social features, etc. Take a peek at the admin control panel for vBulletin, for example.

While there is merit in stripping out the hundreds of features you'll never use by programming it yourself, you will almost certainly end up reinventing many wheels as your forum gets busier.

I agree with LifeinAsia that the hosting jump (to a dedicated server, I assume) sounds like overkill. Before committing to that level of hosting, see how your community goes. If it doesn't get busy, you won't need the new server. And most new forums, unfortunately, never get busy.

One issue of running in a Windows environment is that SEO may be tougher. Be sure to check out your software's URLs. Static-looking is best. One query parameter with no session IDs is acceptable. Longer query strings will not be good.

rocknbil




msg:3701944
 6:27 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

2. Hosting costs could increase from $35/month to $350/month. That's $4,000 per year.

Bit of a stretch, you can lease a good dedicated server with moderate support for just over $1000 per year. A vBulletin license is $160 per year for a single license.

londrum




msg:3702075
 9:22 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

if you have to rely on pay-per-click ads then you might not make much, but if you can get some pay-per-impression ads on there then you will be laughing, but your page views will rocket.

Small Website Guy




msg:3702098
 10:00 pm on Jul 18, 2008 (gmt 0)

Be sure to check out your software's URLs. Static-looking is best. One query parameter with no session IDs is acceptable. Longer query strings will not be good.

Yes, I discovered that myself a long time ago. One of the advantages of programming my own forums is that they can be SEO optimized. My forums will have no query strings.

Small Website Guy




msg:3709103
 11:48 am on Jul 28, 2008 (gmt 0)

I programmed my own forums and put them into production last night!

Unfortunately, there was only one post created, and it was spam. (But there was a bug allowing unregistered users to make posts. Hopefully, now that I fixed that, there will be less spam.)

rogerd




msg:3710211
 1:35 pm on Jul 29, 2008 (gmt 0)

Wow, the spammers don't usually find nonstandard forums that quickly. I've seen phpBB installations draw spammers seemingly instantly since they search for common URL strings.

Congrats on your programming feat. Keep us posted on how it's going.

Small Website Guy




msg:3710736
 12:02 am on Jul 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

No one left a message yet, even though I have over 500 unique visits to my site everyday.

Obviously, no one wants to be the first person to write a post. I'm going to have to get things going by creating a few sock puppets and having some conversations with myself.

janharders




msg:3710741
 12:10 am on Jul 30, 2008 (gmt 0)

That's definetly one possibility, the other would be to simply start the conversation yourself by introducing you, telling them, what your motivation for the boards was. Also, you could offer a prize for participation. If you have any pay-for features, offer a free month for everyone writing more than 10 posts, or promise the most active posters some reward. And, of course, starting controversial topics also helps.

Small Website Guy




msg:3715276
 1:46 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

No one has posted anything yet, but strangely, my traffic and income has increases significantly since I put in the forums.

Already made over $450 this month, and the fourth day of the month isn't even over yet.

If this trend continues, I'll be able to quit my day job.

Also, regarding the high cost of hosting, I moved my websites to a VPS, for less than $60/month. The hosting company allows 300GB of bandwidth per month on this plan. I doubt that the forums would use up that much bandwidth, even if people started using them.

ksumit81




msg:3715408
 6:55 am on Aug 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

The biggest part is that forums will generate returning traffic for your site.
Thats an added value, what i find the most useful thing is that you will know what people think about your site, products, services, and many other responses.
This is the best part and will help you to make more useful plans and product & Market mix.

Hope it helps you.

seunosewa




msg:3758743
 6:50 pm on Oct 4, 2008 (gmt 0)

I don't think the increase in traffic is due to your forum, but you definitely need to seed it to get things going.

maximillianos




msg:3758972
 4:44 am on Oct 5, 2008 (gmt 0)

We are in the process of rolling out a new community forum on our site. For a few years we have simply offered a basic section for posting general topics for discussion.

Since it became so popular with our users we are giving the forums their own subdomain. With that they will be getting a slew of new community features, etc. We code everything custom ourselves. That is just how we roll up here in the Motor city. ;-)

Having this other side of our site for users to hang out has done wonders for the stickiness of our site. Almost all of our regulars hang out in our forums. The trick is to make sure you integrate your regular site with the forum so folks don't lose site of all the new content being created over there and vice versa. This is where our decision to go custom came in handy. We have total flexibility to integrate the two sides to function seemlessly together.

rogerd




msg:3761788
 3:33 am on Oct 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

Max, I'm glad to hear your forum is going well. Your comment about being sure to integrate the forum with the rest of the site is excellent advice.

Swanny007




msg:3761823
 5:42 am on Oct 9, 2008 (gmt 0)

So Small Website Guy, it's been about 2 months, how's things going? Are you still seeing an increase in revenue?

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