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1. Topic is important.
If your forum is focused on car loans or investing your going to get better payoffs per click than if its about music. This is simple to understand so it should need no more explanation.
If your forum is in a low CPC ( cost per click ) topic then try putting in a for sale section, jobs section, an a wanted section. These will help build some better paying traffic for you.
2. Ugly URLS have got to go.
ModRewrite is a must ( assuming your using apache ), you have to have easily crawlable urls to get fully indexed in the search engines. Most of your clicks are going to happen by people reffered to your site not by your normal users, so the search engine referrrals are what are going to pay for the forum. Also your targeting will improve if your urls are simpler.
3. Regular users don't click.
Regular users of your forum are their to talk to other people not click your advertisements. Once you accept this and move on you'll be better off. I tested this several times by the following:
- showing ads to all users
- showing ads to only users referred to the site
- showing ads to only users not logged in.
The results were that regardless of who I displayed the ad's to I always received the same number of clicks. With this in mind I chose to stop showing ads to logged in users all together.
4. Position the ads right.
Use the heatmap over in the google optimization tips page. It works.
5. Cloak your content. ( WARNING: This is considered risky by some )
Cloaking is presenting different data to different users based on what you know about them.
Most forum software uses large html templates and presents unrelated text to the topic of the thread to the requester. This screws up targeting of the advertisements sometimes since often times the extraneous information outweighs the thread. Cloaking allows you to make sure the content outweighs the html and other crud.
What I do is remove all unnecessary information ( signatures, profile links, etc ) and present only the bare minimum to the adsense ( and all bots for that matter ) bot. This increased the accuracy of my targeting. Do this at your own risk. My recommendation would be to make sure the page is useful if it was sent to a regular browser and do not stuff keywords... just present the same data you would normally, albeit with a lighter html presentation. As an added bonus you can use this for cell phones and other small screen devices.
6. Don't hold your breath.
While all the tips did help me I still don't make much from the forum sections of my sites. You would do better to add a content section if you don't already have one and work on articles.
Best of luck!
One thing I did was to switch the view. Users now will see the entire thread at once instead of single posts. I'm sure, my pageimpressions will go down. However I hope to receive better targeted ads and more $$ in the end od the day.
Also this will be much more comfortable for users.
That is exactly the behavior you do not want. I do not want someone doing me a "favor" by clicking ads. I don't want users to "understand" they need to click the ads to "support the cause". That could lead to fraud allegations and does a disservice to the advertisor and google.
Some of this is to help get you referrels from the search engines. If your forum is not search engine friendly it may a serious difference.
If it is SE friendly then the change in CTR is likely to be negligable. The other benifit however is some of the changes improve the user experience.
What are your uniques per day?
I personally make more money from my articles section than my forum. But my forum is on entertainment, perhaps yours is on something more lucrative.
One thing for phpbb that you need to fix is the duplicate urls. There are a bunch of different urls that will show the same thread, hunt those down and fix them as appropriate.
Unless of course, your members are offended by the ads.
I've had mine integrated for around 3 months into every thread, and on the forums home page.
Not one single member has asked what they are or where they came from.
Anyone that surfs the net has already run into them on almost every site they visit by now.
Having said that, regular forum visitors have an even more advanced case of banner blindness than most surfers, so expect low CTRs compared to article pages, etc.
I take issue with the black hat comment though. I assume by that you mean unethical. If you read what I wrote you will see that I did not tell anyone to do anything dishonest. Cloaking has many uses and even WebmasterWorld uses cloaking.
1) Cloaking on a forum is, IMHO, necessary. You don't want your unregistered users seeing all the same 'bumph' as the registered users so you show them slightly different content. This, by definition, is cloaking - but it's a necessary evil and also serves to increase keyword relevance on your page
2) Question - How can I implement mod_rewrite on an active phpBB forum (that is spidered fairly well) without duplicate content? Is there any way to serve the bots a 301 when they hit the old style index.php?t=x type pages?
Most people consider cloaking when you deliver data based on user agent, IP, or both.
regular forum visitors have an even more advanced case of banner blindness than most surfers, so expect low CTRs compared to article pages
I've seen this on my forum. I combat it by changing the ad colors on a semi regular basis, I'd recommend once or twice (2x would be my max) a month.
In my experience a skyscraper in the left gutter performs best
My experience validates this also. I run a left hand skyscraper, and a banner a the top and bottom of each topic. Here are the percentages from a recent month:
Left Hand Skyscraper: 73%
Top Banner: 11%
Bottom Banner: 15%
I just realized that the sky scraper % is a little skewed because it is the only one of the three that runs outside the topic pages. BUT my site is primarily a forum, content is only 20% of my traffic.