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How I Make Money With Forums

Posted on August 03, 2007 by Tim Schroeder

In my previous post about How I Make Money Blogging, I wrote about what some of my existing blog projects are and about some possible future blogging projects. I’m hoping it may have helped sparked a few new ideas for yourself!

I’m continuing this series on different ways I’m currently making money online with:

HOW I MAKE MONEY WITH FORUMS:

While I mentioned in my last post that I consider blogging one of the quickest and easiest ways to make money online, I’d consider making money by creating forums one of the hardest.

If you are creating a forum as an “addition” to an already successful website it might be different, but making good money from a new stand-alone forum will be a difficult task.

One problem you may face if you are trying to start a new forum is entering an already saturated niche. For example, if you start a new broad topic webmaster forum you are going to be competing with Digital Point, Webmaster-Talk.com, SitePoint.com etc… Why is someone going to want to join your new forum when there are already dozens of similar forums with high traffic and a lot of activity? If you are entering a competitive forum market then you will have to offer some sort of competitive advantage. Speaking of activity, getting a new forum off the ground is by far the hardest part because people usually like to “go” where the others are. It’s kind of like a herding effect. It’s the same with blogs. Getting a blog from 100 to 500 RSS subscribers is more difficult than going from 2000 to 3000 subscribers (if you show your feed stats).

I’m by all means not saying that you should not start a forum because with some hard work, they can be very successful and rewarding. However, I’d strongly recommend doing a lot of research and shoot for finding a new niche. Think about what’s missing? An example of a couple successful niche forums could be www.vonage-forum.com (which happens to rank number 4 for “vonage”) or www.sprintusers.com/forum/.

Consider creating a forum based on a specific product, service or group of customers.

Once you have created the forum, you then have the daunting task of getting traffic and activity. For this, you might have to try and find some quality hired “ghost” posters to help kick things off. Here is a recap and some other recommendations:

1. Find a New Niche – If there are already 10 forums just like the one you are about to create then it’s probably going to be a very difficult market to crack. As you have heard a million times, “think outside the box!” Also be sure there is enough people searching for help or support on the topic.

2. Use vBulletin – The vbulletin software is by far the best forum software on the market.

3. Use vBSEO – This script will make you URLs search engine friendly and it also includes many advanced features.

4. Visit vBulletin.org – This is a great forum for vbulletin mods, plugins and hacks.

5. Hire Ghost Posters – While this is not something one would want to have to do, it might be necessary to help get topics going. Also consider registering yourself with a few different usernames and post using all of them to create the appearance of more activity. Remember quality is key so read some reviews and do your research when trying to find a good paid posting service.

6. Considering using Adwords – You might be surprised at the quality of traffic you can get at just 5 to 10 cents a click. For example, there are not a whole lot of people bidding on keywords such as “php forum” “asp forum”, or “link exchange forum” etc…

I’ve probably left out a few things, but let me move on with my personal experiences with making money with forum.

The first forum I ever created was the Webmaster-Talk.com Webmaster Forum and to this day it is by far my most successful forum. This forum was started in early 2004 and it has slowly grown to be one of the top general webmaster forums. Yes, I know that there a few bigger and more active forums out there but being a success does not always mean you have to be number one. While I don’t want to give specific numbers on Webmaster-Talk.com’s revenue, the forum makes a few thousands dollars a month through a mixtures of Google Adsense, Text Link Ads, Kontera and a SitePoint partnership. Revenue on this forum could be increased by selling premium memberships and possibly featured marketplace listings etc.

A couple others forums I still own included the Webmaster Ads forum and the Green Earners Forum. I plan to put both of those forums up for sale again shortly since I simply don’t have the time to manage them. Neither of the two make much money but I could probably squeeze a couple hundred dollars a month from them total by selling several cheap text link spots. I also co-own The New Tech forums.

Two forums I used to own include the www.seo-talk.com and www.devboxforums. Both these forums had PR7s at the time. It used to be fairly easy for me to get any website to a PR7 but now it’s become much more difficult. SEO Talk was started from scratch and DevBoxForums was purchased and then resold a couple years later.

Do I have any new forum projects in the works?

That’s doubtful. There are quicker and easier ways to make money online. Webmaster-Talk.com alone takes up a considerable amount of my time but I’ll be keeping this forum unless I get an offer I can’t refuse. I think we will hold on to TheNewTech forums and have that one slowly and organically grow for long term potential. The other two forums I will likely eventually sell.

Nevertheless, you can see that there is good long term potential to make a decent amount of money from forums and if you find the right niche you could create yourself a little goldmine.

Do You Make Money With Forums? Share your experience below.

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15 Responses to “How I Make Money With Forums”

  1. Susan

    - 3rd Aug, 07 04:08pm

    This is a great post, I haven’t visited any forums yet, but maybe I will start.

    Great post.

    Susan
    http://susanvlz.blogspot.com

  2. BeachBum

    - 3rd Aug, 07 04:08pm

    Yes, forum posting works. The traffic is very short lived, but well targeted. As for conversions I think it is too hard to tell. Someone could have come from a forum to my site, subscribed, then purchased a product 4 months later.

    BeachBum

  3. sam sanders

    - 3rd Aug, 07 07:08pm

    I’ve often heard that CPM numbers for forums are very low because much of the traffic is recurring members who get “ad-blind” to the ads show. By low CPM, I mean

  4. Tim Schroeder

    - 3rd Aug, 07 07:08pm

    Sam. Yes, in many cases that is a pretty true statement.

  5. Ben

    - 6th Aug, 07 08:08am

    I also own a forum but then it is about poker so I cant earn money from adsense :(

    Nonetheless nice work you have done for yourself !

  6. Marc Eilbeck

    - 6th Aug, 07 09:08pm

    I’ve tried creating forums before and I found it very difficult to get going. Even after hiring paid posters. I would discourage anyone considering starting one. But thats just my opinion.

  7. Scot Smith

    - 9th Aug, 07 04:08am

    Looks like you have quite some experience in forums and community. What about a blog/forum hybrid? You should add me on aim for some convo: my sn is meridiancrest.

    :D

  8. Online Community Building

    - 12th Aug, 07 05:08pm

    I think there is definitely money to be made from forums, but I agree that it is often more of a challenge compared to other websites; it all depends on your niche.

    Being creative with your advertising and not sticking up AdSense and hoping for the best is also necessary if you want to generate any real revenue – but that could be said about any type of website.

    - Martin Reed

  9. Michael from Pro Blog Design

    - 25th Aug, 07 03:08pm

    You run Webmaster-talk?? I’ve been there before. It’s a great forum, so well done! :D

    Can I ask why you say VB is the best? I love Invisionboard as a user, but as an admin, I’m a little cheap, so I’m on phpBB at the minute. ;)

  10. Part Time Blogger

    - 24th Nov, 07 02:11pm

    I made the mistake of starting up a forum, it started off okay. but the amount of time i had to spend on it was unbelievable. The forum had to be scrapped. Blogging is far easier and something i can achieve PartTime.

  11. James Lewitzke

    - 20th Jan, 08 02:01am

    Interesting tips Tim. I’ll keep them in mind for when I grow my forums.

    Something curious though, you mentioned that you started WT in 2004. I previously assumed it was 2002, and when organizing the members’ list by registration dates, the earliest members were from 2001.

  12. jimbomel

    - 3rd Nov, 08 01:11am

    Hi people,

    I recently registered to this forum http://www.emonetized.com and hope that somebody can
    give me an advice on the forex – I am looking for an introduction
    for beginners. I have already some knowledge about shares. (Hope this is the adequate category.)

    Help is so much appreciated. Most important question: can a noob make money on the forex market?

    Thanks,
    Jim

  13. Glass Beads

    - 28th May, 09 12:05pm

    forums solved a lot of problems, but make money from forums? haven’t heard of it yet.

  14. marthafines

    - 25th Dec, 09 12:12am

    Merry Christmas to all… and to all a good night.

  15. Mining Money Online

    - 22nd Apr, 10 06:04pm

    This is a really great article. While not involved in “making money with forums” myself, I have a couple of friends who are, and I have seen first hand the difficulties that they have dealt with in spite of having a rather large community of members… there is so much upkeep required, and a balance must be found between a good community experience and monetization in my opinion. One of the forums got sold, and did sell for a nice sum, and was then sold again for an even nicer sum, but many members were lost in the process because they felt the “new implementation” of different advertising was invasive and underhanded. It’s such a slippery and demanding slope at times.

    I don’t think I would want to run a general forum of that size… but have you (or anyone else) had success with small scale, paid membership sites? These seem to be all the rage lately, and there apparently are quite a few ways to do them… which makes it intriguing and confusing all at once.

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