10 Ways To Monetize a Forum


I was asked in one of the comments on a post here, about monetizing a forum. Good question. The person who asked the question has a forum and felt like it was easier to monetize a blog than a forum and was curious what the experts said.

Since I run several forums as well and need to monetize them too, I thought I’d research the topic and document my finding for everyone else to benefit from.

Since forums are sometimes the place I find answers to questions I have I thought that they would be a great place start. Then read some specific posts about monetizing a forum, and then try a few of the ways myself.

Forums are great for generating content and traffic as people contribute answers to problems, ask questions about problems and discuss findings too. As you know The Big G(Google) likes fresh content all the time. A ravenous appetite for content Google will find forums a feast of plenty, IF you have a good topic for your forum and lot’s of traffic. Even mediocre traffic can generate good content and give Google something to chew on.

So let’s dive into my findings…

1) Adsense – Adding Adsense to your forum is pretty simple given the add-ons you can get for the forum software you use, or it may even be built in, therefore making it that much more simple. You can place Adsense just about anywhere on a forum but just remember the Google Adsense rules for the number of placements per page.

I’ve read arguments for both sides of this. Some people say this is a great way to monetize a forum and others say forums with Adsense have a low CTR(click through rate). Some say “Ad Blindness” meaning we see so many ads from Google all day long we stop seeing them eventually. Depending on what you decide, Adsense will serve up ads for the topic of that post or the forum itself.

2) CPA and CPM Networks –  Often times called Publisher Networks, CPA is “cost per action”, usually a sign up of some sort or a completed survey or some sort of “Action”.  This might be like those ads you see where you get something for doing something. These are typically lead generating actions, which can pay anywhere from $.50 on up to several dollars or more. I use this type of thing on several of my niche sites and have done very well with them.

CPM is “cost per mille”, Mille being a Latin word meaning thousand, so cost per thousand clicks usually. This is ok if you have a lot of traffic and they like clicking on things, especially if it’s free or they get something really cool. It might do well for some people but not others.

3) Affiliate Networks – Similar to CPA and CPM, Affiliate networks generate Sales as opposed to Leads. The main sales force behind these products are called affiliates. You put an Ad on your site to sell something and get paid a commission for the sale of the product. Some affiliate networks are  Commission Junction, Share A Sale, LinkShare, and more.

4) Selling Text LinksText-Link-Ads.Com is where I go to sell my space for text links. If you’ve got a PR3 or above site and want to earn money effortlessly, go to TLA. Basically all there is are Text Links, that’s it. Either you add them by hand manually, or you put some code on your site that automatically adds them to your page as they advertisers add you to the list of sites to run ads on. Fairly simple and easy, and as one of their ads says, “Earn Money while you Sleep”.

5) Selling Banner Advertisements or Ad Spots – If you have a niche forum and Google just isn’t doing a good job of putting the right kind of ads in their ads for your site, then sell ad spots yourself. One way people do this is to directly contact the prospective advertiser and offer them some space on your forum. So let’s say you have a forum on Salt Water Aquariums, you could sell ad space to an online (or offline) aquarium dealer. Or maybe ad space for a complete pet supply shop or a specialty fish shop. The possibilities are endless.

6) Selling “sticky” threads – Selling sticky threads is like selling ad space. If you’re running a forum you should know what a sticky thread is. A sticky thread is one that sticks at the top of each forum board and stays there all the time, never moving with time or threads so it is always at the top, where it can grab peoples attention.

7) Sponsorship – If you have a really niche market and have a lot of good traffic, you could get sponsorship. There’s a story about Tivo, the Television Recording service that people fell in love with. When Tivo first came out someone started a Tivo Forum for hacks and tips and fixes. Tivo, rather than claiming trademark infringement, rather sponsored the forum by giving them money and had some Tivo Technicians talk in the forums as well. The only catch was that the people in the forum couldn’t talk about how to hack and bypass the payment system. The owners and moderators agreed and police the forum for such topics and therefore Tivo is happy and so is the forum owner who get’s paid by Tivo for that community.

8) Private Members Area – Just as it says “Members Only”. Charge for a premium membership to exclusive board on the forum. Warrior Forum does this and so does many other forums in a niche culture. I belong to a private forum for Yaro Staraks Blog Mastermind program. This is a blogging program for people to learn to become successful bloggers and earn a living from blogging by producing good content. While the members only forum comes with the program, I paid for the blogging course and have lifetime membership to the forum.

9) Donations – Yeah really! Donations. Put a donation cup on the forum sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. If people find good content or fixes for what troubles them, people are likely to give a donation.

10) Sell Something – Sitepoint forums, a place where you can learn a lot about building sites with PHP and many other web related things, including internet marketing. Sitepoint was once just a place to learn and talk but the owner needed to monetize the site otherwise it was going down. He tracked where the users were most going and found the areas of what they were looking for and made a few print on demand books in the areas of PHP/MySQL/ CSS. Now the site makes tons of money from these publications with their second book generating over $1 million in the first 12 months of it’s release.

So you’ve got a forum on Black Banded African Gerbils? Sell either an eBook or Print on Demand book on The Complete Care and Feeding Guide for Black Banded African Gerbils.

10 ways to monetize your forum, hopefully will bring you 10 ideas per point, to give you at least 100 different ways to monetize your forum.

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I’d love to hear your comments, suggestions or success stories.

Thanks for all your comments in previous posts, and please keep your questions coming.

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3 Responses to “10 Ways To Monetize a Forum”
  1. Great 10 points, I think that these can also be applied to blogs or mini sites as well. Especially the membership point is a great selling point from what i’ve seen lately.

  2. Casey says:

    Great post! As far as Adsense, just like any site, It really just depends on the niche your in. For expample, an IM forum such as Warrior Forum or Digital Point would do very poor, because the community know Adaense and are most likely monetizing there own sites with it. On the other hand, if you were running a forum on better parenting or something in the automobile niche, you would have a better chance with Adsense.

    As for the other methods you mentioned, they are spot on and a lot of internet marketing forums and niche forums make a killing from them, provided they are established and have the right traffic.

    They can always offer there own threads thats allow members to sell services and take a nice cut of it e.g. Warrior Forum, with their well known W.S.O. thread and ad. service.

    They are well eatablished and have branded thereselves. They dont have to rely on SEO or search engine traffic because they have made a name for themselves and have returning traffic, as well as search engine traffic from search engines that is made possible by the authority they have gained.

    They have a business that is so strong they will nevet have to worry about getting deindexed or slapped by a google algorithm chang. If you ask me, I think they have the best type of online business.

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