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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?
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
>>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.
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.
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.
Hope it helps you.
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.