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Why is AdSense Less Successful on Forums?



4:38 am on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Are any of you having luck with Adsense on forums? I run Invision Power Board, and my CTR is incredibly low. I get more forum visitors than website visitors, but my website generates MUCH more clicks.

I've tried putting ads almost everywhere. I've experimented for over a year now. My site gets multiple clicks about everyday, my forums gets one click about every 3 days.

If you're successful with forum ads, care to share your secrets? I'm sure a lot of us would benefit from it :).


5:22 am on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Adsense on forums doesnt really work for me. I'm sure there are some out there that do make good money of it but most people here will tell you that it's not worth it. Place some other ads on there.


6:27 am on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

The Failure of AdSense on Forums
This has to rank as one of the AdSense Program's least successful aspects. I ask you, when was the last time Google showcased a forum as an AdSense Case Study [google.com]?

There are no AdSense Case Studies for a Forum
AdSense has never showcased a pure forum. However, they did do a case study for a hybrid site that included a forum. You can read about this hybrid forum/article/ecommerce/blog's AdSense Case Study [google.com] for a article/blog/e-commerce/forum site for yourself. The interesting thing to note is that for each section of the site the owner mentions that their revenues or clicks rose three to ten times. But this is what they say about their forum section:

Another place Woot visitors go is the community forum. The site has a very outspoken following of deal-seeking visitors who chime in with product and pricing evaluations, comments about the overall Woot experience and plenty of non-Woot banter. Rutledge followed the six optimization tips for forums he read about on the Inside AdSense blog to improve his ad performance.

The Silence Speaks for Itself?
There is nothing there about the results. They make no claims for success. For every other section of that site they end the paragraph with a testimonial of how well AdSense performed. The forum section is the only one that has no such endorsement. Why is that?

Forums Often Rank Well... So where's the Money?
Forums generally rank exceptionally well across all search engines. But when you count up the revenue from a traditional HOW TO Content Site versus the income from a HOW TO Forum Site, the forum's revenue earning ability lags.

The OP's dilemma is a good case in point. They have a regular content side and a forum side. Both ostensibly have the same kind of content, but the regular content site does better.

Why should that be?

  • Is there something inherent with Forum Software that causes bad targeting?
  • Are forum non-registered forum lurkers seeking answers less likely to click ads than those seeking guidance from an article?
  • Does the "discussion" format inhibit clicks because there is no clear voice of authority?
  • Is there a flaw in keyword targeting on the AdSense side? For instance, is AdSense using search query keywords to show ads forumwide, resulting in irrelevant ads?
  • Are forum members not using sufficient keywords in their titles and posts, resulting in mis-targeted ads?

[edited by: martinibuster at 6:53 am (utc) on Sep. 2, 2006]


6:40 am on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

the TOS prohibits Adsense on dynamic generated pages?

No, the TOS prohibits Adsense on "software appications".

I know the line is difficoult to draw sometimes, but for example:
Forums are OK
Webmail pages aro NOT ok

Generally speaking, a user comes to your forum because of the contents you have there, and to your webmail because of the (software) service they are finding there.....

[edited by: martinibuster at 6:52 am (utc) on Sep. 2, 2006]
[edit reason]
[1][edit reason] Fixed formatting. [/edit]


10:28 am on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member hobbs is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

On a forum, I am in the human interaction mode
On an info site I could be in the seeking or buying mode

Plus, it is almost impossible to fully blend ads in a forum.


1:03 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

CTR and CPC are pretty abysmal on forums for many of the reasons that Martinibuster singled out.

Some of the other reasons. . .

-- Forum visitors are often repeat visitors and click through various pages with ad-blindness a given (ask yourself how many times you have clicked on the top-right ads here on Webmaster World).

-- Message board discussions can go off on tangents, creating a mish-mash of keywords that results in poorly targeted ads.

-- Even when a discussion is streamlined to the relevant topic, most forums deal in things like entertainment and games, so the ads served are the sub-nickel ads for free ringtones, wallpaper, etc.

So the potent one-two punch of visitors with no intent on clicking ads and ads that aren't attractive to click on make forums a poor place for AdSense. Like anything, you can make it up in volume but it's best to use the forum as a way to steer traffic to standalone content pages where the perfect storm reverses in your favor.


2:53 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Generally the same visitors come and generate many mumber of pageviews on daily basis in forums. Since the number of unique IP addresses are less, the revenue will be less in forums though pageviews are more


3:40 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

On a forum, I am in the human interaction mode
On an info site I could be in the seeking or buying mode

I think Hobbs summed things up nicely with the comment, " On a forum, I am in the human interaction mode.
On an info site I could be in the seeking or buying mode."

Now, there may be some forums where Adsense ads could be successful. For example, a site like Lonely Planet, which has a hugely active forum, might do okay because users are looking for ways to spend their money and the audience is always churning as new visitors arrive with questions about topics that attract advertisers and inspire clicks.

In other words, a Q&A forum where people are asking "Can anyone recommend a hotel in Chicago?" or "Does anyone here know a travel agent who represents Widget Cruises?" is likely to do better than a forum where people are mostly socializing, arguing, complaining, or commenting on the day's events.

Another example might be a forum about products that caters mostly to people who are researching purchases. If CONSUMER REPORTS had an online forum that ran ads (as it doesn't and probably never will), it could do very well with AdSense. Users would see that the Braun WhiskerSnapper electric shaver ranked #1, they'd see an AdSense ad for "Braun WhiskerSnapper on Sale," and CR would rack up another click payment.


5:01 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bigdave is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I would love to have more input on this, as I am getting ready to launch a site that will have a forum, andthe forum is likely to produce the majority of the pages as well as traffic. It will be associated with a review site, so much of the discussion will be about products and how-to.

Has anyone compared the CTR for logged in users, as compared to those that are not? I know that I heard of people only serving ads to those that are not logged in.

I'm considering several other options for limiting or rotating ads in the forums, such as CPM or some affiliate links, just to reduce the ad-blindness.

As there are several of us involved in this project, would it make sense to designate one of the accounts to be the smart-priced account? That way we could still have ads on the low producing pages, such as fora, and still get paid, though at a lower rate.

My one other consideration is that the forum might just get enough traffic to get an account to premium publisher status. If that is the case, would it be worth putting up with the lower CTR and possible smart-pricing to get enough impressions to get Google's attention?


5:46 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I used to have a travel site at About.com that included a forum by default. The forum traffic and editorial traffic didn't overlap much, so there was little synergy between the two formats and audiences.

I have a sneaking suspicious that blog-style comments on editorial pages are more useful than forums are unless your primary goal is to build community (as opposed to encouraging editorial page views and earning revenue). I haven't gone the comment route myself mainly because it just isn't practical to monitor comments on hundreds or even thousands of pages. But in theory, at least, blog-style comments could be more useful on a "content site" than a forum would be.


6:19 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member bigdave is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I would agree, that from a revenue perspective that the forum model is not the preferred method. But in this case, the forum is there specifically because it is a community site, and it will be the active members of the forum that will also be creating the editorial content.

There is no doubt that the fora will produce a very low CTR and eCPM. What it will produce is a lot of traffic, both returning visitor and search traffic. Twenty million page views with an eCPM of $0.50 is still $10,000. Even if the actual numbers are lower than that, it can still be a significant chunk of change.

Think about Google and Yahoo supporting and fighting over webmail, groups and finance boards. They suffer from some pretty serious ad blindness, but the traffic levels are high enough that they are still making a lot of money on them.

In this case the forum is going to be there, whether there are ads on it or not. The site does not happen without it. The question is how to best monetize the forum part, if at all.


7:21 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I run a community site as you do where the users contribute a lot of the content. However, my CTR is incredibly low on my forums.


9:20 pm on Sep 2, 2006 (gmt 0)

I have eight very low volume widget forums however they do earn consistently. So far this year they have averaged about 5.0% CTR with an eCPM in excess of USD 12.50.

I do not use a standard PHPBB type of forum, I use one which was customised to fit inside our existing web pages therefore the ad targetting is exactly the same as for our regular pages.

After including it I asked AdSense for approval, just in case, and there was absolutely no problem.

I have absolutely no idea how it would perform under a heavy loading with thousands of postings per day however we have been running it on another site for maybe 4-5 years without any problems...so far!


1:09 am on Sep 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

What about not putting Adsense on your forums, but displaying your own ads on it, which in turn point to your highest paying Adsense pages? If the forum is getting a lot of traffic, at least you will know lots about the type of visitor it is.

Use some kind of rotating ads script also maybe to show some of your own ads which target several different top $ pages.


3:29 am on Sep 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member swa66 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

I have a travel related forum as part of one of my websites, so it has loads of how long, where do we stay, where do we rent, ... type of questions. The keyword targeting is OK, but the CTR was so low I took the banners away. The damage the scammy advertisers do to your recurring visitors just isn't worth it. I still have an adlink at the bottom but the CTR is way to low to be of significance. It does however show Google succeeds in finding the right keywords for the content on a page by page basis, even in a forum.

Forums IMHO are fundamentally not suited for advertising unless you're willing to go the in your face way by e.g. interlacing advertising banners between posts.

BTW: google has an article on how to get it to work: [google.com...]

(I hope Google URLs are still OK.)


3:41 pm on Sep 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have a faily large guitar forum. It has a page rank that varies between 5 and 6 and is the number one listing on Google for it's keyword. I get 6,000 to 7,000 unique visits a day and 45,000+ page views a day. 83% of my visitors are returning visitors.

Adsense has very low click thru rate, because of the high number of page views. I average 120 clicks a day. To help boost my adsense revenue I have started adding more non-forum pages to the site, but with channel tracking the non-forum pages coming in #3 in dollar volume.

Here are some figures for August which wasn't a great month:
1,280,000 impressions (avg 41,200/day)
3,739 clicks (avg 120/day)
.29% click-thru rate

So, money can be made... just not too much. By the way, some members are clicking on my ads because when I changed my ads to only show to visitors clicks immediately dropped by 50% or more.

And, one more thing. Ad targeting is spot on in my forum and the ads change with content of each thread very well. When it's about guitars my ads are about guitars, when its about music my ads are about music and when it's occassionally about cell phones or something then the ads are about those too.


3:49 pm on Sep 3, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Google does have a number of optimisation tips for forums including an altered heat map. It's available on their Google Adsense blogspot page about it [adsense.blogspot.com].


12:03 pm on Sep 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Unlike most stories on forums, my forum does perform pretty well. Ok, the ctr is less, i'd say even 4 times less, BUT that is countered by the higher and easy traffic it makes (8 times more than the actual site), so all in all it does very well. I earn about 500 dollar per month with one site, the forum is good for about 300. And I still need to do some optimising here and there so who knows...


12:13 pm on Sep 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

for the record: 4000 visitors a day, 15.000 pageviews and I use a forum which is stripped from every clutter that those custommade forums have. As a result the visitors see the ads much better. I think that this is the biggest issue: have a forum that is not overdone with 'toys' that distract the users.


12:23 pm on Sep 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I have an invision forum and had adsense on it for two years. A year ago I removed it and my income has doubled.

What I do is drive my forum visitors/members to my main site that has articles of interest to them.

Whenever I publish a new article I make sure to mass pm it to my 5.5k members. (Note in order to do that you have to have a very targeted site/forum and not a general discussion forum as not all members would be interested in the same topics/articles)


12:37 pm on Sep 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Hi Petra, I do that as well on a weekly basis (but my landing pages are really far from being 100% optimised so in the next month this should increase revenu as well), but I do also keep the adsense on the forum.

Did you consider putting it just below the navigation / log in?
I also have a 2nd ad in the first post just below the text and one above the footer (but that one performs not that well, which is like I expected honestly). The first two ones perform really well, (count on a ctr between 0.50 and 0.70) but the larger turnover in visits etc make up for this largely.


7:59 pm on Sep 4, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I tried everything on the forums, unfortunately the mutiple impressions that the forum generates brings down my ctr from 20% to %3 and cpm from $25 to $5, not worth it at all!


7:57 am on Sep 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I run adsense only on forums, the CTR is about 0.1%, it is just as well i'm heading for 20 million impressions a month!
The only tricks i have learnt is to put the adverts in the posts where people will see them, and to not overload the page with adverts. Last but not least contary to some peoples reports, I find members DO click.


8:45 am on Sep 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

the whole problem is to me the overloaded forums. some of my mebers said they waned extra tools like editing posts etc which i refused to add since they distract from the adsense blocks.

some feedback on this matter would be appreciated because forums can generate money for sure.


11:30 pm on Sep 5, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

When you have a forum, you can't look at your CTR and your eCPM. They will always be diluted because of the constant repeat visits. You have to find a better way to measure AdSense in your forums. A good way is to create a channel and track FIRST TIME visitors, RETURN visitors, and MEMBERS.

I find across the board, I get around 2% CTR and about $5 CPM which makes it well worth it in my forums. Of course my earnings on non-forum pages "appear" higher, but in fact, they are only slightly so because of better ad targetting.

I would highly suggest following googles suggestion of using the large box (336x280) above the fold for NON-MEMBERS and limiting your ad units to 2 for non members and only 1 for members. This will ensure you get the absolute highest payout for clicks from members.

You must rotate in other ads though to fight ad blindness, rotate ad colors, and constantly measure your performance to find what works best. You'll find that what works best 1 week may not work best the next because members become blind... rotate in new color schemes every week or so.

I can definitley understand where some forums just simply will not make it with AdSense though. If you have little/no organic traffic, especially organic traffic that isn't already blind to ads, then AdSense probably isn't your slice of cake. You'll have to find a CPM network or start generating more organic traffic for your site.

Don't think though that you can't make $1000+/mo off a relatively small forum.


12:29 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I think the person above who commented on adsence getting lost among the toys on the forum is correct.

I have stripped my board back to the bare bones, who cares about the toys, they won't attract people for long.

Since then my board has for the first time equalled the ctr for my site. The plainness of the site now is the only reason I can think of for the success.


12:51 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I actually do pretty well in my forums. I usually average around .8-.9% CTR with around 40k impressions per day.


1:10 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I recently started playing around with more ads, according to google's forum heat map. I found CTR for new ads first went to 1.5 but is gradually dropping to my average 1%. Probably changing layout often is a good way of reducing blindness in members.


1:15 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

For me AdSense does not do that well on the forum, but does much better on the forum archive.

CTR = 5%+
eCPM = $11+


2:49 am on Sep 6, 2006 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Good discussion here. I'd add, for the record, that one reason might be that in many forums there are not enough compelling ads yet. Contextual ads on many subjects popular on forums (i.e., politics, news, bad bosses, etc.) simply do not exist right now.

Or, even on technical/professional forums such as this one, I expect the ads would be lame.

But, ad buyers need to figure out that if the discussion is about Adwords matching, etc., for example, these are biz guys and gals who need office supplies, printers, etc. (It's late, there are much better examples. How about a forum for BMW owners? Cars only? Or, how about expensive vacations, too?)

On the other hand, the ads on a guitar site are probably pretty good.

This 49 message thread spans 2 pages: 49

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