Advertisements – The Biggest Scam of Profit in the Message Forum Business

Shawn Gossman

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Shawn Gossman submitted a new Article:

Advertisements – The Biggest Scam of Profit in the Message Forum Business

Who hasn’t run advertisements of their message forum once or twice in an attempt to earning a profit from operating the forum? But have we really thought about the negative effects of displaying advertisements on our message forums for the sake of earning profit from them? To me, there are more disadvantages of advertisements on a forum than there are advantages for many different reasons. So I decided that it was worth creating an article for it to be displayed to the message forum administrator community.


Advertisements can be bad for SEO
Google and other major search engines are constantly changing their ranking system which means how your forum is ranked on their search engine results. One of the most common search engine optimization rule found on search engines is the violation and bad rating result of linking to non-relevant websites. Unless advertisements are directly and specifically related to your niche, they can hurt the SEO of your forum and cause less people to find your forum when searching for related keywords on various search engines. It is hard to say what Google and other search engines are calling direct relevant links too your niche as well so most of the time, an advertisement is a gamble more than anything else.


Advertisements piss people off
Go to any admin forum, I guarantee you are going to see topic after topic of forum owners complaining about members using ad-blocking applications and software. It is true, more and more internet users are embracing ad-blocking innovations so that they don’t have to be exposed to the ads of the internet. And forum owners really have no room to complain about ad-blocking usage because they are not asking members if it is okay to display ads to them in the first place. Members are not joining forums to view ads, they are joining for a social community, knowledge and information. Remember those programs that give you a free weekend getaway vacation as long as you sit through a 6-hour meeting about why you should buy a boat (or whatever) from them? That is basically what ad-filled forums are these days – people have to sit through the boring advertisements just to get access to the fun.


Advertisements take away activity
Think about it… Whether or not you have enabled ‘target=_blank’ on an advertisements, the same tab or a new tab is still taking the attention of a user away from your forum and on to another website that you don’t own. Let’s say I join your fruit forum...
Read more about this article here...
 
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haqzore

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agree with a lot of what you say.

have you changed your mind though? you used to sing a different tune... see my thread here & your first reply.

so many of us admins just assume ads are the price of entry. ads will be and have to be on their site.
users? they're used to it. no big deal.

...or is it?
 

Shawn Gossman

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I can be a bit sarcastic at times :p take no offense. But here lately, I've changed my tune :) more so than any other time... Mainly just reading about all the ad-blocker drama and also going ad-free on a forum as an experiment as well. It just seems like people are more happier without ads, especially based on a survey I ran.
 

haqzore

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It just seems like people are more happier without ads, especially based on a survey I ran.
i personally consider this quite obvious, and fully agree.

i think there is a breakpoint for ads. when the benefit (to the owner) outweighs the impact to the users.

the problem (as evidenced in my thread link above) is that so many admins simply consider ads to not be a must.
 

Maxxamillion

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You know I may test this out, promote my premium memberships more and see how the response is. I've never had people complain about the google ads I run, I only run 1 on the main forum and 1 in the DM space.
 

haqzore

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You know I may test this out, promote my premium memberships more and see how the response is. I've never had people complain about the google ads I run, I only run 1 on the main forum and 1 in the DM space.
i dont think people feel compelled to complain unless the ads are obnoxious (yours arent).

but that may not mean they "dont care" about the ads.

memberships will always be a preferable source of income for me. they give a much more "personal" tie-in/investment from your users.
 

Anton Chigurh

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Who hasn’t run advertisements of their message forum once or twice in an attempt to earning a profit from operating the forum?
Me.

I posted much of your same points in a thread about a month ago, the hoi palloi went nuts!

Direct payments from the membership IMO will always generate more revenue than adverts. First thing you're selling? Ad-free site! Keep the adverts for those who choose to keep them by not purchasing the premium membership.
 

Drastic

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I agree (because I wish my members would sign up) and disagree (because I need ads) for several reasons.

  1. Not every forum has a need for paid memberships or fits a niche in which paid memberships are needed.
  2. I offer ad free viewing but haven't had anyone sign up in years, probably because I only run two ads that are unobtrusive and don't affect browsing, no popunders/ups, or annoying ads like interstitials or replacing text with ad links.With the 2 very minimal ads I have, they're not annoying or affecting browsing, so there's no need to spend $10 a year on ads free.
  3. We sell shirts dirt cheap, nearly at cost. No one buys them. Maybe they're ugly, who knows, it's just the logo, but no one wants them.
  4. We offered to donate half of the membership fee to places like WoundedWarriors - but still, people aren't signing up for the paid accounts. I'm thinking the only way I could get paid visitors is if I put MORE ads on, but then I run the risk of them leaving entirely.
  5. I have browsed the web since it's started, and I can tell you that I have not ever had a need to sign up for a website's premium section. There has literally not ever been a need to register for a paid membership on any forums or websites that I've ever been on. So with me having a 0% conversion rate since the early 90s, why would I expect anyone to sign up on my site, especially if I don't offer any services?
  6. To say "ditch ads" is a nice thought, but not realistic because a server bill doesn't pay itself.
  7. Lots of people use an ad blocker, so offering an ads free version is likely not even worth it because some users don't see the ads anyway and they're thinking "what ads" ?
  8. Unless you offer a service or a product, then I don't know why anyone would sign up to forums under a paid membership.

I keep my ads minimal so there's a nice balance between "I gotta earn a few bucks, but I can't piss off the surfers either"

I just don't know how I could pay even a $25 server bill if I don't run an ad.

My sites personally are for entertainment, so there's literally not much services that I can offer. Usually the members are the ones offering services to me.

Maybe someone can shed some light on this, as it's a dark hole I haven't ever seen any success in.

If you can get me making more money, then I'll gladly share it with you!
 
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Anton Chigurh

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It's true that if your membership doesn't buy, you get nothing from them in revenue. But I have seen several very successful membership programs generate a LOT of revenue.
 

Drastic

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Yeah, they can definitely succeed, but it's all based on what niche you're in. You probably won't ever see anyone buy a premium membership to a site posting funny pics/vids/random things. There's just no benefit to the user.
 

PoetJC

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Focus on profit earning methods that are positive for both your members and your forum activity. Monthly premium subscriptions for example could suffice as long as you add some kind of value in purchasing the subscriptions rather than extra PM space and a custom user title. I bet you anything, you can make more money with another innovation ...
Great article Shawn Gossman ==> Thanks for sharing!
My question is other than premium subscriptions - what else would your or anyone else suggest as a revenue earning method. Aside from adverts and premium memberships - there doesn't seem much else one can do to earn a profit running a forum... I'm interested in the 'other innovations' you mentioned above.

Thanks again for the article. Definitely an interesting perspective!

J.
 

Anton Chigurh

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I'm interested in the 'other innovations' you mentioned above.
In some of the 'romance' sites they sell the ability to share images and videos in private messages, and in fact sell the very ability to private message. It's in tiers, for example a basic account won't have ability to PM. A 'silver' member might can PM text only with a limit of say 50 stored, a 'gold' member might have more storage and ability to send photo in PM, and the platinum member can send video, images, text and have no limits. And these are monthly membership charges.

Other features might be part of the tiers as well.
 

PoetJC

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In some of the 'romance' sites they sell the ability to share images and videos in private messages, and in fact sell the very ability to private message. It's in tiers, for example a basic account won't have ability to PM. A 'silver' member might can PM text only with a limit of say 50 stored, a 'gold' member might have more storage and ability to send photo in PM, and the platinum member can send video, images, text and have no limits. And these are monthly membership charges.

Other features might be part of the tiers as well.
Nice! I always thought some of the default forum script functionality like PMs and custom avatars could actually be used to inspire premium memberships. The tiered membership is also a nice idea. Thanks for the suggestion! :tup:

J.
 

Anton Chigurh

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Nice! I always thought some of the default forum script functionality like PMs and custom avatars could actually be used to inspire premium memberships. The tiered membership is also a nice idea. Thanks for the suggestion!
I've seen it work. I know of at least one big vBulletin site that pulls down a couple hundred a day on average, selling its premium memberships.

Custom avatars in the tiers is a great idea you added, and you made me think of animated ones too, and now also signature privileges! How big? image allowed? How many images? It's all in the tiers!

We're brainstorming!
 

PoetJC

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I've seen it work. I know of at least one big vBulletin site that pulls down a couple hundred a day on average, selling its premium memberships.

Custom avatars in the tiers is a great idea you added, and you made me think of animated ones too, and now also signature privileges! How big? image allowed? How many images? It's all in the tiers!

We're brainstorming!
I actually *sort of* made the suggestion about signature privileges for Premium of higher usergroups the other day in the Signature images allowed? thread. I have a feeling this thread is going to fill with great ideas on making a nice profit minus the need for obtrusive, irrelevant adverts! Staying tuned!!

J.
 

Anton Chigurh

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Like I said I was advocating for this in another thread, that one was about ad blockers I believe, and got mobbed. What Shawn says in the OP makes perfect sense, and I think people just get into their advert revenue stream and can't possibly imagine anything competing with it. To paraphrase someone, "They bitterly cling to their adsense."
 

Anton Chigurh

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You probably won't ever see anyone buy a premium membership to a site posting funny pics/vids/random things. There's just no benefit to the user.
That you can think of, until reading the last few posts in this thread before this one.:)
 

Drastic

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Those things wouldn't work on a humor site like they would on an intimate dating site where people may exchange naked pics or something. If there's a chance of seeing some tatas, then you know people might fork over a few bucks for that!

But like I said, that doesn't work much on humor sites. If you know of anyone doing that with success, on a humor/entertainment site, I'd love to see it!!
 

Shawn Gossman

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Well if you want to make money without going to ads, I say go for premium membership in tiers... $5/mo for basic, $10/mo for recommended, etc.

You can also sell content such as digital magazines... digital magazine without ads, that sounds even more wonderful. If your niche lacks a good magazine, you can really make this happen.

Build a grand forum and start selling t-shirts... don't start with boring old "Join MyForum.com" and logo on the t-shirt... make funny or artistic t-shirts and include your forum name somewhere on it but don't make the shirt just about advertising your forum - other apparel and such could work as well.

Donation drives always help as well :)

Pay Per Change features too... like pay to change your username or pay to have your account deleted or pay to be unbanned (if the ban was for a small infraction that is)

Just a few things I thought about.
 

Joeychgo

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I have ads - but paid members get the ads removed. I don't think charging to be unbanned or change a username is appropriate. I think changing a username is part of what I should do when requested. And I don't ban people for small infractions. Its part of what has made my sites successful.
 
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