- site started as a smallish stargate forum, www.talkstargate.com running boardpower. I started with no website, no one else to help at all, just a bit of time.
How did i ever get it going?
1. I visited about 100 releavnt websites and asked the members to link to my new forum and join in if possible.
2. I set up a banner exchange and encouraged relevant sites to join
3. I offered a competition, a couple of DVDs
4. I gave moderator status to people relativly easily early on.
5. I did pay per click at goto.com - now to expensive for me though.
6. Posted a link to my site and news updates in newsgroups. Ensure it is within the newsgroups TOS to do this.
7. Signautres in emails etc...
Eventually, boardpower got worse and worse, with security problems etc and I bought VB and copied and pasted 2,500 posts over (don't ask!).
From then it took off. More sites started linking. I expanded the forums to other sci-fi shows. More people linked etc. Also the star hack aka Alien hack was most successful thing i ever did, people love getting there new aliens and most have names for them all!
Not so good. I started with Amazing media which was paying $0.50 CPM i think and got a few cheques from them. Used valueclick as well at bottom of page. Then moved to about.com which looked promising for about 1 week and now back at valueclick. My click through rate is abisimal.
Future plans. I am introducing community membership/sponsorship/donation very soon. The "asking" price will be $5 per month with benefits including:
i) custom template set (no ads)
ii) icon below username
iii) special forum
iv) listing on donators page
v) increased limits on things like pms, etc.
that sort of thing.
My hope is to get 50 people donating. That would be $250 per month and go along way to the $400 server. As well as that i am setting up webhsoting through my dedicated server starting at around $10 per month. It won't be the cheapest out there but my members will pay that extra few $ here a) because it supports the site and b) they know me.
All in all i think it will cover costs through this. Selling advertising on a forum basis also seems a possibility with genre sci-fi shops possible interest, i still think we need to be a bit bigger though until this can really take off. Average online is probably 20 at the moment but not activly increasing traffic because my server is dieing and need a new one so things like newsgroups/community bulletin are not installed which should hugely increase traffic.
Overall this is a good site and you can tell a lot of effort went into it. I did notice a few things however.
The first thing I would do on your site is move the forums up a level and get rid of the redirect. More and more search engines are are indexing dynamic sites. The major ones do. These include Fast, Inktomi, Google and the Indexes (Goto and Looksmart). However they will still only go a few levels deep into your site. Most only go 3 or 4 maximum. You are depriving yourself of a level with the redirect.
Your top banner shows up under the search form in IE 6.0. I would fix this so that it is above the search bar in the black area. This would make a more cohesive design and allow more of your forum content to show above the fold.
The black text links (Home, Control Panel, Register, etc...) on the dark green isn't very contrasting. Someone with vision problems might not even see them. Try changing them to white or a very light green.
AS far as making money, the only way you will make money on your content is to take it to the next level. You will need to sell your own advertising. How much are you making on the Ad Network? $.35-$.50 CPM? That isn't enough to survive. You have the traffic to be doing one or two targetted sponsorships a month and could probably get $500 a piece for them.
This will take some work though. It would be best to start small and move from there. If you can find some targetted companies that match the Science Fiction topic you will be doing good. My suggestion to you is to approach different companies and offer them run of network advertising. One in particular comes to mind and that is Wizards of the Coast (www.wizards.com). Offer them a set of run of network ads for $500 a month with tie-ins to their products. This is nothing to them and a lot to you. Sure it isn't enough to stake a retirement on but it is a start.
Another thing you should be looking at is integrating an Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble affiliate program. Here your members are talking about all these great movies, books and television shows but no way to purchase them. This alone can bring in at least a couple of hundred dollars a month.
There is a big market in Sci-Fi Memorabilia. Most of these shows and movies create cult followings. The people who follow them will buy anything related to the show. Often times they move on and have a lot of stuff or are looking for more.
If you offered auctions on your site you could stand to make a lot of money. You can look at scripts by searching hotscripts.com or use a ready made solution like epage.com. Either way you could really increase your sales and lower your dependence on advertising.
- the top links are meant to be white, they are in IE 5.5 using css not sure why it is not working in IE 6.0 but someone else has reported that, they look lovely in my browser by need fixing
- the index.php re-direct is because i plan on having a page there soon with the top 10 replies sort of thing, in development. I am listing the site directly to search engines as /forums/index.php so that should be ok for now.
- I am using phpads to rotate amazon sponsorship in the left hand side of the page, but have removed it while waiting for the new site as it was adding to the mysql load.
I definitley like the idea of offering auctions and getting real sponsorship going but i don't think traffic quite supports it yet. Only around 5k to 10k per day page views at the moment. It shouldn't be hard to increase the traffic, i am doing the opposite if anything at the moment and once i do then i think these advertising and revenue generators will become feasible.
and thanks Wayne for your part in making sitepoint what it is, has changed so much (for the better) in the time you have been developing it.
oh yeah, and the banner looks weird where it is because there should be two amazon product links on the left of it, which also increases the space below the banner. When they come back it will look better
yeah but you probably have the nicest niche to market. Webmaster buy webhosting, software, dedicated servers, tools, books etc all sort of things with lots of them high profit margin. The things that appeal to my visitors like dvds, books, merchandise are either a monopoly product from the studio that makes them or the license holder to produce them or are incredibly competitive (dvd/books) and do things ala affiliate program.
I always things a good way to judge this is compare the bids at goto.com
science fiction top fee is $0.24
with stargate @ $0.20
webhosting @ $6.31 (how anyone can profit from that i don't know
but i am definitely going to start investiage it. We are at a consistant 10k impressions per day now which is a nice figure. 500k per month is the next target, 6 to 8 weeks i hope