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  1. #1
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    Forums = Branding

    Hello, I'm new so forgive me if I'm stupid.

    I've been reading through this forum and I'm shocked by the number of people who are down on forums. So many of you seem to think advertisers wont advertise on them or that they are a dime a dozen.

    I will admit that there are a lot of forums on some topics. Webmasters, webhosting, video games, and (some) sports and auto. But there are also a lot of topics (niches) that are uncovered and valuable.

    Forums Are:
    Sticky - Once you get a member posting you can keep them coming back. This leads to a snowball effect that can lead to very large sites.

    Viral - Members tend to get involved and tell their friends. How many content sites out there have people talking with their friends about it? I can think of a few, howstuffworks.com and others. But since people visit "their" forums daily they tend to talk more often about those sites.

    Stable -Some may not agree with this but I think forums are less likely to take huge hits when search engines change their placement. I get about 55% of my traffic from return visitors and the other 45% is from search engines. Yes I would take a hit if I got dropped by a major search engine but not as much as some content sites who rely completely from this traffic. And I could still grow since members are helping me spread the word.

    Great for advertising - This is the point of my post and something that few are going to agree with me on. There are two reasons advertisers buy ads. They either want to sell something today by people clicking on your ad, or they want to build their brand so that people will buy their product/service later and keep buying it.

    I think forum owners need to change their approach. Use CPC ads while you are building your traffic base and to fill unsold inventory. Then target advertisers with forum sponsorships once you have something to offer.

    How do you sell a forum sponsorship? By approaching it as a branding opportunity for the advertiser and not as a direct sales opportunity. Generally forums provide a highly targeted audience whose eyes will see the same ad over and over again. This is usually seen as a negative because people will stop clicking on the ads but thats because its being sold that way. Sell your ads as a unique ability to brand a product or service. People are going to see your add how many times in a week? You know they are going to remember your product/service.

    If you take a look around you will see this is how sitepoint forums are set up as well.

    BTW, am I a hugely successful forum owner? No. My main forum gets between 10,000-15,000 impressions a day and makes about $2500/month. But I'm excited by how fast the site is snowballing and how the word is getting out. We have grown 200% in 6 months in traffic and profit. I've also been impressed by the ability to sell more ads with this branding approach.

    Had to type quick so hopefully this all makes sense.
    Feel free to rip me a new one.

  2. #2
    fad (n): a craze; interest... Fahd's Avatar
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    Excellent post and I agree with most of what you're said, but you forgot to mention a few things...

    1. Its not very easy to start a forum.
    2. Its not very easy to get brand advertisers.

    But, yes, if you can pull it off, hats off to you!

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fahd
    Excellent post and I agree with most of what you're said, but you forgot to mention a few things...

    1. Its not very easy to start a forum.
    2. Its not very easy to get brand advertisers.

    But, yes, if you can pull it off, hats off to you!
    I'm not sure its easy to create any type of successful website. It takes a lot of hard work and time.

    I'm only pointing out the benefits of forums and trying to help people change their approach a bit. Everyone seems to be down on forums because they can't get into most CPM based networks. If they change their way of thinking they might be more successful.

  4. #4
    fad (n): a craze; interest... Fahd's Avatar
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    Well forums are harder than content sites in all respects since you have the classic chicken and egg problem and then you find that ad networks are not too fond of forums. With content sites, as long as you have content, you can get traffic and your chances of acceptance by ad networks are much better.

    And thats great, I'm not contesting your opinions in that regard. I'm sure its an eye opener to some!

  5. #5
    SitePoint Zealot ericgtr's Avatar
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    Great post, you make a lot of valid points. CPM can be great on a forum that's has a niche, some of the advertisers do not allow or have very specific rules though and that's why you see a lot of people here down on them. In general it seems a forum has to be pretty big to really make any money.

  6. #6
    MadCool Webmaster MadCool's Avatar
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    $2500 a month? wow that's nice. My forum is pretty popular with over 100,000 page views a day, and I'm not making that much. like FAHD said, it's hard to find brand advertisers.

  7. #7
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    I agree with niche, but unfortunately the companies doesn't use Internet too much for brand advertisement.

  8. #8
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    There are a couple of reasons why brand advertisers stay away from forums. The first one that comes to mind is the advertisers share of voice. In a forum, typically you have lots and lots of page views per person. Thus share of voice goes down. Brand advertisers like to have a healthy share of voice - like maybe 20%. On forums, 1 person might look at 20 or more pages. To get a 20% share of voice, and advertiser would have to buy 4 impressions per visitor. This doesn't seem like a big deal, but eventually the advertisers ROI starts to go down because they are wasting impressions on each visitor. Long story short, a brand advertiser doesn't want to buy junk impressions.

    The second reason, which is somewhat funny to me, is that on forums their is little control over the content. A brand advertiser doesn't want their product next to someone talking about how they got randy with their girlfriend last night. Of course this is a little extreme, but I think you can figure out what I mean. The reason I think that this point is funny is because advertisers are all over Blogs right now.

    The third reason is due to size. Brand advertisers like to spend tons of cash in one spot. That is why you see a lot of brands on Yahoo, About.com, etc. I don't know of many forums that a brand advertiser could go to and say, "I want to purchase 20 million impressions at $5 CPM, and I want to run them all in the next 2 weeks!"

    Just my thoughts...


  9. #9
    SitePoint Member
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    Great comments so far guys. Thanks for helping me think this through.

    Quote Originally Posted by safetysnow
    Long story short, a brand advertiser doesn't want to buy junk impressions.
    Yes, I don't think selling impressions is a good way to go for forums. Instead you need to sell the amount of dedicated, highly targeted, users you have. This is why forum sponsorships work well instead of typical banner ads.



    Quote Originally Posted by safetysnow
    A brand advertiser doesn't want their product next to someone talking about how they got randy with their girlfriend last night.
    No one should let their forums get off topic and out of control like this. You may increase your traffic a bit but its not going to be valuable traffic. That's one of the reasons I've been able to make good money off of so little traffic.




    Example: How many of you guys knew about Evo-articles before a few weeks ago when they started to advertise on this site? I'm sure some of you did but I'm sure almost everyone on this forum knows about them now. This is the type of forum sponsorship and quick branding I'm talking about. I now own a copy of this program.

  10. #10
    the boss is here gery's Avatar
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    Wow guys, great thread!

  11. #11
    King of Paralysis by Analysis bronze trophy
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    Just keep one thing in mind, branding CPMs are not going to be anywhere near as high as non-branding CPMs (in most cases).

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by tke71709
    Just keep one thing in mind, branding CPMs are not going to be anywhere near as high as non-branding CPMs (in most cases).
    This is might be true (maybe) but most forums aren't getting normal CPM prices anyways. And instead of finding good alternatives some people are just give up.
    Changing your mindset can help you get over the hump and start earning good money off of your forum. Forums are valuable and unique, and I believe their importance will grow in the minds of advertisers. It will grow once we start selling our product the right way.

    I sell forum sponsorships and not CPM based ads. However I do set my sponsorship rates based on CPM. I probably have a more valuable niche than some but I'm getting about $5/CPM for forum sponsorships. This is about the same rate that I'm getting from Google in other areas of the forum as well.

  13. #13
    SitePoint Zealot ericgtr's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Niche
    I probably have a more valuable niche than some but I'm getting about $5/CPM for forum sponsorships. This is about the same rate that I'm getting from Google in other areas of the forum as well.
    Just so I am reading this right, you are getting a $5/CPM from Adsense?

  14. #14
    Serial Publisher silver trophy aspen's Avatar
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    With my forums I get a higher percentage of CPM based ads from Google Adsense than I get on my content sites. So Google's CPM advertisers, it would seem, recognize the value in forums.
    Chris Beasley - I publish content and ecommerce sites.
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  15. #15
    SitePoint Evangelist netkid's Avatar
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    I plan to do the advertising gig with my new site. It is called eWave, a community for eMarketing. Do you suggest I go about selling adspace, actively finding people? Or will they slowly come to me?

    Santosh Sankar
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  16. #16
    masquerading Nick's Avatar
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    I agree, forums are very valuable, but they are very tough to really get going. But once you get it going, it creates its own content, which is nice.
    Nick . all that we see or seem, is but a dream within a dream
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  17. #17
    SitePoint Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by aspen
    With my forums I get a higher percentage of CPM based ads from Google Adsense than I get on my content sites. So Google's CPM advertisers, it would seem, recognize the value in forums.
    This is true for me as well. I would say about 70% of my Google Adsense ads are targeted CPM based ads. This is what is leading to my seemingly high CPM rate.

  18. #18
    SitePoint Evangelist netkid's Avatar
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    Was Sitepoint built around its forums?

    Santosh Sankar
    Bullish Bankers

  19. #19
    SitePoint Zealot
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    Quote Originally Posted by netkid
    Was Sitepoint built around its forums?
    Nope. It started out as Webmaster Resources with mostly articles and the like. I am LONG-time WR/SitePoint user, as you can tell.
    Read my blog: The (not so) Daily Me

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by netkid
    I plan to do the advertising gig with my new site. It is called eWave, a community for eMarketing. Do you suggest I go about selling adspace, actively finding people? Or will they slowly come to me?
    Don't try to sell something if your not ready (before you have traffic).
    Just use Google adsense or some other CPC program and build a highly targeted member base. Keep your forum on topic and don't follow the "anything goes" model. Have rules and enforce them. This will increase your appeal later on when you approach advertisers.

    If someone comes to you asking for ad space then by all means sell it to them. But try and follow the forum sponsorship model.

    Once you build an ACTIVE member base then go after advertisers. Look for people who are already advertising online and contact them. Create a good media kit.

    I don't know that much so I might be wrong... but its working for me.

  21. #21
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    Hello,

    Nice post! I would love to know how you make that kind of money with a forum! My forum has about 32,000 members and about 8-10,000 uniques daily. I generate very little income from ads. No advertiser seems to want to advertise on a forum.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordofTheMorning
    Nice post! I would love to know how you make that kind of money with a forum!
    As with any website... your topic as A LOT to do with your earnings potential. That doesn't mean you can't do better than your doing right now, only that some topics are more profitable than others.

    Quote Originally Posted by LordofTheMorning
    My forum has about 32,000 members and about 8-10,000 uniques daily. I generate very little income from ads. No advertiser seems to want to advertise on a forum.
    I don't have experience with this type of problem.. but it makes me cringe. I've heard of a lot of forums that have tons of traffic and no revenue to support it. I'm not really sure what the problem is.
    Is it how the site is set up? The topic? Who knows.

    Sorry I'm not more help. I'm not claiming to be an expert... just trying to get people thinking.

  23. #23
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordofTheMorning
    Hello,

    Nice post! I would love to know how you make that kind of money with a forum! My forum has about 32,000 members and about 8-10,000 uniques daily. I generate very little income from ads. No advertiser seems to want to advertise on a forum.
    I took a look at your site in your sig and I think the thing holding you back is your not safe for work content posted on your forum. Almost all non "adult" ad companies will reject a site that has this content. You are in a grey area since that is not totally what your site is about but it contains it. You have to choose whether you want to go for the not safe for work ad companies or take out this type of content and then re-apply for other ad companies.

  24. #24
    SitePoint Guru kgtrip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordofTheMorning
    Hello,

    Nice post! I would love to know how you make that kind of money with a forum! My forum has about 32,000 members and about 8-10,000 uniques daily. I generate very little income from ads. No advertiser seems to want to advertise on a forum.
    Just looked at your forum, I would change the Adsense position (insert it between the posts), and maybe also have blended it a bit. Anyway nice forum, good luck with it

    BTW
    I have checked only the homepage as the forum requires membership sign up
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  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by LordofTheMorning
    Hello,

    Nice post! I would love to know how you make that kind of money with a forum! My forum has about 32,000 members and about 8-10,000 uniques daily. I generate very little income from ads. No advertiser seems to want to advertise on a forum.
    Looks to me like you're getting only 400 posts a day with that thing. That's awfully *****.

    Example: How many of you guys knew about Evo-articles before a few weeks ago when they started to advertise on this site? I'm sure some of you did but I'm sure almost everyone on this forum knows about them now. This is the type of forum sponsorship and quick branding I'm talking about. I now own a copy of this program.
    To be honest, I completely ignore the ads on Sitepoint. Then again, advertising in general doesn't work very well for people like me.

    Also, your ideas about keeping a forum on topic are really great. But what really drives return-traffic is people who feel a sense of community. And that, in general, needs a general chat sort of a forum, and it needs those "hey, I got a new girlfriend!" posts, because that's the basis of a community.

    It's also a trap! A very good community can make you lose your sleep simply because how much fun it is. I personally own a general chat forum with 1/4 million posts and 1000 members. I wonder what a general chat forum like that could be worth, but I'm guessing not much at all.


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