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Do you show ads to members?

Discussion in 'Off Topic' started by System0, May 16, 2012.

  1. System0

    System0 Active Member

    I've been thinking about the long term strategy of monetizing my forums. In fact, I gave it some consideration before launching.

    My plan is to integrate Google Adsense in key areas. I can later integrate other ads if I get approached by advertisers etc.

    Sometimes I don't introduce ads until a website has been established though I was a little concerned that if I introduced ads once the site has a lot of members, there may be a few people upset. So I introduced ads for a while to see how members responded to it (no one complained).

    I'm launching another xenforo forum this week and have been thinking about the situation again. I can see many sides to this. On the one hand, I know that advertising can reduce growth in a forum slightly as some people don't like ads. On the other hand, I do believe that members should respect the fact that forums are expensive to run and maintain.

    What I plan to do is this. Integrate adsense ads throughout the site however only show the ads to users who haven't registered or signed in. Revenues will obviously be reduced though, particularly at the start of a forum, I think it will help the growth of the forum.

    Perhaps what I can do is only show ads to guests until the forum reaches a few thousand members. Then I can show some ads to forum members and offer a premium membership option to those who contribute to the site.

    How does everyone else deal with this - do you show ads to everyone or just guests?

    Have you tracked the click through rates for adsense or other ads for signed in members against guests. It's well documented that click through rates from regular members etc is lower than those who are visiting the forum via search engines, though I'm not sure of the actual difference. For example, if CTR rates were 2% from search engine visitors and guests and 0.25% from members, I'd be happy to remove advertising altogether for members. Essentially, members would be creating the content that would be used to generate income from search engines.

    Would love to hear from forum owners who have did some testing with all of this :)

  2. =MGN=RedEagle

    =MGN=RedEagle Well-Known Member

    I think if you don't run ads because people might say something, you don't value yourself. Your time and effort is worth a reward. I would not apologize for it.
  3. System0

    System0 Active Member

    I would certainly not apologise for it :)

    I had a 728x90 banner at the top of each page on the forums I launched a few weeks and no one has ever complained. I need to do some testing though as I'm not sure what the click through rates are from forum members...who tend to get a bit ad blind when hanging out at a forum. That being said, adsense is very targeted and will show ads related to what the user was browsing recently, so the click through rates might actually be pretty good.

    Before I was showing a few additional ads to guests such as an ad in the second post - these weren't shown to members. At the moment I'm considering showing ads to guests only until the site has been established, as the income at the start of the forums life won't be much anyway.
  4. DRE

    DRE Well-Known Member

    I used to. Been too lazy to throw up ads.
  5. System0

    System0 Active Member

    A man gotta eat :):)
  6. DRE

    DRE Well-Known Member

    If you don't have a lot of traffic then it's kinda pointless. If you do then do it! If not, concentrate on everything else.
    0xym0r0n likes this.
  7. melbo

    melbo Well-Known Member

    I did for 2 years at some point on a 9 year old site. After watching the tracking, I realized that members never clicked links anyway (less than 1%) and also complained about them. I display ads to guests only and will likely never display ads to members again. The members (who never clicked them) were happy and my ad revenue just continued to go up.

    At some point, I may accept some direct and very niche-relevant ads that are displayed to members at a premium cost. Still toying with that one as I get about 10 requests a week by vendors for direct ads. I will limit this to just 1 or 2 per page.

    One thing I have done was to negotiate some 'creative' means of advertising. Bid for link in a review that hits page 1 of Google, etc.

    For a new site with low traffic, I wouldn't even bother and I didn't for the first couple of years.
  8. System0

    System0 Active Member

    If my new forum was just a hobby site, I would agree with you, though with any project you are taking seriously you need to think about how you are going to monetize the site in the medium to long term. You need to look at how the site can turn a profit for you. Simply throwing money at a site and then trying to figure out how to make your money back 6 or 12 months down the line is a sure fire way to lose money.

    I've already spent a lot of money on the domain and have a large budget for promoting the forum too. As such, monetizing the site is something I need to take serious consideration of. I'm focusing on building the site just now but I need to think long term with regards to how I'm going to develop the site.
  9. System0

    System0 Active Member

    When you say less than 1%, do you mean you were getting a 1% click through rate. For a discussion forum, that's actually a pretty good CTR. I'd be interested to know how you split test this and what the CTR was for non-members (if you don't mind sharing this information :) ).
  10. melbo

    melbo Well-Known Member

    Sorry. Not total CTR

    I set my usergroups to show in Google Analytics. Of my total Click Through on ads served, members only accounted for <1% of the total CTR and impressions only amounted to pennies an hour.

    So my non members (Google / search engine arrivals), made up around 99% of my CTR.

    I can't share my actual CTR% but it's around average to slightly above for a popular, niche forum.
  11. System0

    System0 Active Member

    Thanks Melbo. I really appreciate you giving me feedback on that (it will save me a lot of split testing).

    I know that you can't share actual click through rates etc. They are irrelevant anyways. I just wanted to know how little members were clicking ads compared to guests and visitors from search engines.

    99% of your clicks coming from your guests is huge and really enforces the viewpoint that it's better not to show ads to members.

    Thanks again for sharing this info. :)

  12. melbo

    melbo Well-Known Member

    Sure. Of course this was my experience and should not be construed as the potential experience of others.

    Bottom line (for me) is that ads are annoying.
    Members are the generators of the very content that attracts the clicky guests via Google.
    Members hate ads and I didn't seem to generate revenue from them.
    Conditional formatting of ads to display only to guests was a win win.
    System0 likes this.
  13. System0

    System0 Active Member

    You hit the nail on the head that the members are the generators of the very content that guests will click ads around. Open forums are always going to have a lot of browsers so it's worth doing everything to keep members happy and encourage them to post more.
    melbo likes this.
  14. melbo

    melbo Well-Known Member

    And this is what it's all about:
    The rest is gravy
    System0 likes this.
  15. CyclingTribe

    CyclingTribe Well-Known Member

    I agree - members generate the content so I don't like putting them off with ads that they're very unlikely to click on and pretty much do like you guys and only show ads to guests.

    However ... there is a method of generating revenue from members that doesn't put them off or get in the way of their enjoyment and use of your site - monetising your outgoing links via VigLink (affiliate link) or Skimlinks.

    I learned about it here on the XF community forums and after trying it on CycleChat realised I'd had a previously untapped source of income that worked seemlessly in the background without disrupting my site layout, slowing things down, or getting on my members nerves. Might be worth a try - it doesn't take more than a few minutes to update your templates and install the code.
  16. MattW

    MattW Well-Known Member

    On my site, I show 1 Google banner at the bottom of the forum, and another Google banner on the side menu on the main page to members. All the others are only shown to guests.

    I've got Skimlinks and Google Adsense enabled.
  17. rellek

    rellek Well-Known Member

    I don't show ads at all because my forum is my hobby. I like running them, so I don't want to spam any of my visitors, logged in or not.
  18. Blue

    Blue Well-Known Member

    Display ads and offer an upgrade that does not display them.
  19. duderuud

    duderuud Active Member

    Is it possible to do that with the standard functions like user upgrade?
  20. DBA

    DBA Well-Known Member

    Back when I was using Adsense I had similar stats. (y)

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