Chances are that at some point on your digital journey, you might want to enrich your website with a forum.
Or maybe you don’t even have a website yet but are planning to do just a forum rather than a full-fledged website.
If you are serious about creating content and see this more as a business rather than just as a hobby, it makes absolute sense to think about how you are later going to monetize your website.
One great way to monetize all kinds of website is through display ads (& video ads).
In fact, this is even by far my favorite way to monetize websites, as it allows you to earn income that is very very passive.
Passive in what kind of sense?
Passive because all you need to do is to offer great content on your website and set up ads. Then, after each month, you will be able to earn some money from those ads.
And that money usually goes straight into your bank account or Paypal account. No questions asked, possibly no direct customer contact…
…so that is why this is called passive income.
Now, to get back to our original question on forums: Can forums be monetized through display ads? And if yes, what kind of money can you expect?
Monetizing forums with Display Ads: The Truth
I’ll be completely honest with you. Monetizing your forum with display ads is usually not a good idea. The reasons for this are manyfold.
First of all, content on forums is user-generated content.
It is a known fact that user-generated content does worse in terms of ad revenue than let’s say content that you put out as a blogger.
The second reason reason why planning to monetize your forum (be it an IPB forum board, VBulletin, Buddy Press for WordPress or any other) with display ads is a bad idea is the fact that some of the greatest ad networks out there won’t even allow you to monetize forum pages in the first place.
This holds true for Mediavine. Mediavine is currently my favorite ad network.
Ad revenue is generally great with them and if you are used to Google Adsense earnings, changing to Mediavine can make a HUGE difference for you.
One setback with Mediavine is, however, that they don’t monetize forum pages.
So, while you might still get your website on Mediavine (nowadays you need 50’000 sessions per month to get your website approved), your forum pages will NOT be monetized by them.
The third problem with monetizing forums through display ads is that user-generated content is usually pretty short.
This is yet another very bad thing for ad revenue. Longer content and blog posts almost always do better in terms of ad revenue (EPMV/RPM, etc…)
My personal experience with monetizing forums
I do currently own a website that has a pretty large forum on it. In fact, that website even started off as a pure forum (Linguaohlic, that’s the name…you can look it up on Google if you want).
For some time, I did indeed monetize the forum of that website through EZOIC (as well as the rest of the website).
EZOIC does indeed monetize forum pages. That’s the good part.
The bad part is that the revenue on those forum pages has been incredibly low.
The main reasons for this have been that we are indeed dealing with user-generated content here, the content itself was often very short.
Also, the vertical length of these forum posts was usually also very short, as most forum posts would online include text. No graphics, no infographics, not much white space.
Vertical length of your content is actually yet another important factor when it comes to ad revenue.
It kinda makes sense when you think about it. The longer your posts are, the more ads fit into the content.
The more ads, the more money you can usually generate.
Monetizing your forum with display ads: The verdict
I think it became clearly apparent, that I don’t think highly of monetizing community forums with display ads.
Moreover, it has to be said that starting a community forum from scratch can actually be an incredibly time-consuming task.
Would you go and post something in a forum that just has a few threads in it? Probably not.
So, I guess you can probably imagine how hard it actually is to get some engagement in your forum.
I did build the linguhaolic forum from scratch about 8 years ago. While it has been a lot of fun, the results left lots to be desired.
Would I do this again?
Naaah, no way. I spent way too much time getting some traffic to that forum and keeping people engaged is just incredibly difficult and time-consuming.
That said, if you do already have a very successful website with lots of engagement, adding a forum might be a different story.
But if you do so, please first think about how you are actually going to monetize that part of the website. It’s probably not going to be through display ads!
Monetizing forums through display ads: FAQ
Is it possible to monetize forums with display ads?
Generally speaking, it is possible. However, some networks (Mediavine, for instance) do not monetize forum pages. Moreover, monetizing forum pages often come hand in hand with low ad revenue in terms of EPMV and RPM.
What’s the best forum software?
There’s a lot of good software out there to build forums. If you are looking for something professional, IPB or VBulletin is certainly a good choice. If your website is on WordPress, you could try your luck with something like BBPress or BuddyPress.
Is user-generated content such as forum content good for ad revenue?
Not at all. User-generated content often has a very negative impact on display ad revenue. A big reason for this is that user-generated content (on forums) is usually very short and is not very attractive to ad networks.
Does EZOIC monetize forum pages?
Yes, they do. At least if the forum is just one part of the website.
Does AdThrive monetize forum pages?
Yes, if your website does contain a forum, it is possible to both monetize both the forum and the rest of your website.