How To: Maximizing your Revenue Potential

By TheChiro · Jun 12, 2010 ·
  1. TheChiro
    HowTo: Maximizing your Revenue Potential

    I've edited the thread on June 29, 2014 and I've left portions from 2010 in spoilers in the event someone wants to look through that as I didn't want to clean up some of it like the IPB codes.

    Prepare yourself for a long read. I tried breaking it up into sections so you can skip certain sections if you want. Also, please do not follow this if you just opened a forum. My recommendation is to have around 1500-2000 unique visitors a day before implementing ads. Prior to that, you won't make very much and it will annoy your users as well as your new potential users.

    A success story that made me think:
    The success story I remember is the guy over at vBSEO: Brian (aka briansol). He was able to purchase a BMW with his ad money, which was making him ~$100/day. When I read that, I was making ~$5/day and would have loved to just make $20/day. I since have made much more than that. You can make money on your forum! Most of you could probably make more than me with your higher paying niches! Manage your community properly, nurture it, treat your members with compassion and it will blossom into something you would never have dreamed of.

    About me and my website:
    My website was made just like many of yours was: a hobby and one to help people get good, reliable, direct and free information. In the beginning, I never had a monetary goal, just a goal to be the best in my niche. After time moved on, those goals changed. I knew how much time I had poured into my site (I don't think I could do it again tbh) and wanted to see a return on my investment. The focus of the site has never been and will never be money, but it's a great side effect of giving a great user experience and giving what the users seek. What's great about forums is, once they get big enough, they can pretty much run themselves and can be a great source of "low maintenance" income.

    What networks to join:
    Most of you are likely only running Adsense. While that is great and has been my main source of income and I'm still dabbling around with networks, I recommend you seek out other networks to see if they can pay you more. Ones that did well in the past for me were TribalFusion and AdsDAQ (now PulsePoint - who decided to drop me based on legal content :rolleyes:).

    Here's what I suggest. Learn how to use DFP. While I'm still learning it, I recommend reading DFP Tutorial. After reading through this, this is the basic breakdown if you aren't use to their terminology.
    • Ad Units = Ad location on your site (So if you have an ad above the reply box like TAZ, that would be a single unit)
      • If you are on a responsive theme, add all the sizes that you want for this location.
    • Ad Placement = Is a grouping of ads. Don't get that confused with the LOCATION (i.e. Ad Units). For most of you, this is likely not an option you'll be using. I don't use it as it seems too confusing and I really don't know how I would use it on my site.
    • Orders = Advertiser - If you are running Adsense, you would put "Google Adsense" as an order. If you go with PulsePoint, that would be your 2nd order.
    • Line Item = Ad - this is where you will set you CPM for the ad you'll be putting on the site.
      • If doing responsive, you'll have 1 line item as your Large Leaderboard, 1 line item as your banner, and 1 line item as your mobile banner.
    • Creatives = ad code. So you can have multiple creatives per Line Item. Say you get a direct advertiser and they want to use 2 different banners (maybe it is for different products? Or they just want to do A/B testing on which one performs better), this is where you'd put it.
      • This is how you can do your own A/B testing for Adsense. You can set one creative as just images, the other as both text and images and see which one yields more. You can then start changing the colors on the text to see which color performs best. This will help you yield the highest CTR and RPMs.
    I have created a tutorial on how I use DFP to target forums, create DFP responsive ads, and detect an adblocker. Watch out with the adblock detection, if your members are disabling it and not clicking ads, that will drop your CTR thus dropping your RPM - I've disabled it on my site for now. I'm debating on whether I should re-enable it but change the message to members asking they support the site and buy our Paid Membership.


    Site Implementation - Banners:
    What I wrote in 2010 with IPB code:
    Now, the fun stuff. I'm going to show you how I did mine, which would be a big thanks to briansol for recommending this to all us noobs back in the day. What I do is this:
    300x250 ads side by side above the fold for guests
    728x90 (leaderboard) for my members (not staff)
    728x90 (leaderboard) between posts for everyone (not staff)

    Here's the code for IPB users (I won't tell you where to put them b/c my skin is customized and yours might be too so I may tell you the wrong spot so I'll give you the code framework and you can figure out where to place it on your skin) to place near the top of their site code (best below their navigation bar in the globalTemplate):
    Code:
    <!-- __ADS__ -->
    <if test="!in_array( $this->memberData['member_group_id'], array( [COLOR=Red]4, 6, 7, 8[/COLOR] ) )">
    <if test="$this->memberData['member_id'] != 0">
    <center>
    [COLOR=Red]ENTER ADSDAQ MEMBER CODE HERE[/COLOR]
    </center>
    <else />
    <table width="600" border="0" cellspacing="0" cellpadding="0" style="margin:0 auto; width:600px;">
      <tr>
        <td style="width:300px;">[COLOR="Red"]ENTER ADSDAQ 300X250 LEFT CODE HERE[/COLOR]</td>
        <td style="width:300px;">[COLOR="Red"]ENTER ADSDAQ 300X250 RIGHT CODE HERE[/COLOR]</td>
      </tr>
    </table>
    <br />
    </if>
    </if>
    <!-- /__ADS__ -->
    Be sure to place your ad code and change the usergroup ID's I've marked in red to your staff, vip/paid member groups, etc.

    I know center is not xhtml valid, but guests won't see it, therefore search engines won't so it's no problem. I had a tough time implementing these ad codes on my site and getting them to work side by side so that's why I used tables. If you find a better way without tables that works, please let me know.

    And for the vB4 users, I'd place this in the navbar template at the bottom of it. If your skin is highly customized, then I guess it's up to you to figure it out but near the top, below navigation just above the forums and breadcrumb:
    Code:
    <vb:if condition="!in_array($bbuserinfo[usergroupid], array([COLOR=Red]5,6,7[/COLOR]))">
    <vb:if condition="$show['member']">
    <table align="center" style="padding-top:3px">
    <tr><td>
    [COLOR=Red]MEMBER AD CODE HERE[/COLOR]
    </td></tr>
    </table>
    <vb:else />
    <table align="center" style="padding-top:3px">
    <tr>
    <td>
    [COLOR=Red]300X250 LEFT CODE[/COLOR]
    </td>
    <td>
    [COLOR=Red]300X250 RIGHT CODE[/COLOR]
    </td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    </vb:if>
    </vb:if>
    vB3 users:
    Code:
    <if condition="!in_array($bbuserinfo[usergroupid], array([COLOR=Red]5,6,7[/COLOR]))">
    <if condition="$show['member']">
    <table align="center" style="padding-top:3px">
    <tr><td>
    [COLOR=Red]MEMBER AD CODE[/COLOR]
    </td></tr>
    </table>
    <else />
    <table align="center" style="padding-top:3px">
    <tr>
    <td>
    [COLOR=Red]300x250 LEFT CODE[/COLOR]
    </td>
    <td>
    [COLOR=Red]300x250 RIGHT CODE[/COLOR]
    </td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    </if>
    </if>
    Again, change the usergroup numbers to the ones you want.


    Now we can go ahead and integrate the code for between posts. I don't have the vB code so I hope someone can send it to me to integrate into this guide.

    IPB users, find:
    Code:
            <if test="endFirstPost:|:$post['post']['_end_first_post']">
                <!-- END OF FIRST POST IN LINEAR+, SHOW BUTTONS AND NEW TITLE -->
    Add above:
    Code:
    <!-- __ADS__ -->
    <if test="memberbox:|:$this->memberData['member_id']">
    
    <else />
    <if test="$post['post']['post_count'] == 1">
    <div class='general_box'>
    <h3>[COLOR=Red]Sponsors[/COLOR]</h3>
    <span style="display:block;margin: 5px 5px 5px 5px;"; align="center" class="text">
    [COLOR=Red]POST BANNER CODE[/COLOR]
    </span></div>
    </if>
    </if>
    <!-- /__ADS__ -->
    You can replace the word "sponsors" with whatever you want.

    If you are using Xenforo, it contains a lot of hooks that you can easily add your ad codes to. I highly recommend using DigitalPoints Ad Positioning addon. It is the highest performing ad unit and I'd likely have to sell the site if it wasn't there. If you want to show your ads to specific usergroups, or exclude ones (like paid members), please review the if conditional statements to wrap your code in (again, for xenforo, but it is close to the same thing with all other platforms).

    I currently have an ad in my guest notice and is a decent performer (about half of the DP addon).


    Other types of ad networks
    We currently use SkimLinks (referral link) which has performed better than VigLink. But I recommend trying both. There are various affiliate addons for Xenforo that you can use and sign up for each of those referral programs (Amazon, Ebay, etc).


    Paid Subscriptions
    What I wrote in 2010:
    Many people don't seem to like to give the user the option to pay for a subscription. I honestly feel people LOVE helping sites out and they also love getting the perks that come with it. vB users can really customize usergroups where as IPB, I've found that you can't give them as much customization as vB can.

    The first thing you need is almost like a pitch page. People come to my site and have no clue what our "VIP" users are. So I get TONS of messages on my board asking about it. So what I've done is I've edited the PAID SUBSCRIPTIONS page to include many of the things that they get with it and also include a link to a longer list of things that they get. The main thing is, "hit the high points" when giving your sales pitch and then link to the other "not-so-great" perks on another page.

    Feel free to use and modify my "sales pitch". For vB users, go into the Subscriptions (Paid) Templates. Add at the very top:
    Code:
    <table cellpadding="0" cellspacing="0" border="0" width="100%" align="center">
    <tr>
        <td colspan="2" class="tcat5">[COLOR=Red]About VIP[/COLOR]</td>
    </tr>
    </table>
    <table class="tborder" cellpadding="$stylevar[cellpadding]" cellspacing="$stylevar[cellspacing]" border="0" width="100%" align="center">
            <tr>
                <td class="alt1"><strong>The Benefits of Going VIP!</strong>
    <ul>
    <li>You are helping the site! Donations keep this site alive by going towards server, software, and maintenance costs.</li>
    <li>Members will recognize you and respect you and your opinions.  Everyone will know that you are not here to leech and have given back to the community!</li>
    <li>Access to secret forums with VIP-only tutorials and other materials only available to VIP members.</li>
    <li>Your name will be [COLOR=Red][PICK A COLOR THAT WILL STAND OUT][/COLOR] and bold everywhere on the forums.  You also get the VIP user rank image [COLOR=Red](FIND SOMEONE TO MAKE YOUR RANK IMAGES - PEOPLE LOVE THESE)[/COLOR] for everyone to see when you post.  Plus, you get a custom user title [COLOR=Red](VBULLETIN ONLY SO FAR - IDK ABOUT IPB3.1)[/COLOR]!  Have anything appear under your name.</li>
    <li>VIP members have an increased say in possible changes to the site, and are typically the first to know when something is going to be added or changed.  We want VIP members feedback! [COLOR=Red](I HAVE A SECTION ON MY SITE THAT LETS PEOPLE KNOW MY PLANS AND GIVE THEM SNEAK PEAKS AS TO WHAT WE WILL BE RELEASE, SKIN RELEASES, RE-ORGANIZATION OF FORUMS, ETC AND THEY GET TO HAVE AN INPUT IN ALL OF THAT AND THE REGULAR MEMBERS USUALLY DON'T - I FIND PEOPLE LOVE THIS)[/COLOR]</li>
    <li>VIP members get more help from the community and staff when asking a question.</li>
    </ul>
    <p>Have more questions about VIP?  What to know what other perks there are?  Please read our <a href="[COLOR=Red]LINK TO A THREAD OR PAGE YOU'VE CREATED WITH MORE INFORMATION[/COLOR]"><strong>VIP FAQ</strong></a>.</p>
    </td>
            </tr>
        <tr>
            <td align="$stylevar[right]" colspan="$subscribedthreadscolspan" class="tfoot">
    
            </td>
        </tr>
    </table>
    <br />
    For IPB users, find:
    Code:
    <form action="{$this->settings['base_url']}app=subscriptions&amp;module=subscriptions&amp;section=paysubs&amp;nocp={$this->request['nocp']}&amp;do=paymentmethod" method="post">   
        <table class='ipb_table'>
            <caption class='maintitle'>{$this->lang->words['s_available_subs']}</caption>
            <tr class='header'>
                <th scope='col' width='1%'>&nbsp;</th>
                <th scope='col' width='1%'>&nbsp;</th>
                <th scope='col' width='60%'>{$this->lang->words['s_detail']}</th>
                <th scope='col' width='23%'>{$this->lang->words['s_duration']}</th>
                <th scope='col' width='15%'>{$this->lang->words['s_cost']}</th>
    Add above:
    Code:
    <!-- __ABOUT VIP__ -->
    <table class='ipb_table'>
            <caption class='maintitle'>About VIP</caption>
            <tr class='header'><th scope='col' width='100%'>&nbsp;</th></tr>
    <tr class='ipbmenu_content'>
    <td><strong>The Benefits of Going VIP!</strong>
    <ul>
    <li>You are helping the site! Donations keep this site alive by going towards server, software, and maintenance costs.</li>
    <li>Members will recognize you and respect you and your opinions.  Everyone will know that you are not here to leech and have given back to the community!</li>
    <li>Access to secret forums with VIP-only tutorials and other materials only available to VIP members.</li>
    <li>Your name will be [COLOR=Red][PICK A COLOR THAT WILL STAND OUT][/COLOR] and bold everywhere on the forums.  You also get the VIP user rank image [COLOR=Red](FIND SOMEONE TO MAKE YOUR RANK IMAGES - PEOPLE LOVE THESE)[/COLOR] for everyone to see when you post.  Plus, you get a custom user title [COLOR=Red](VBULLETIN ONLY SO FAR - IDK ABOUT IPB3.1)[/COLOR]!  Have anything appear under your name.</li>
    <li>VIP members have an increased say in possible changes to the site, and are typically the first to know when something is going to be added or changed.  We want VIP members feedback! [COLOR=Red](I HAVE A SECTION ON MY SITE THAT LETS PEOPLE KNOW MY PLANS AND GIVE THEM SNEAK PEAKS AS TO WHAT WE WILL BE RELEASE, SKIN RELEASES, RE-ORGANIZATION OF FORUMS, ETC AND THEY GET TO HAVE AN INPUT IN ALL OF THAT AND THE REGULAR MEMBERS USUALLY DON'T - I FIND PEOPLE LOVE THIS)[/COLOR]</li>
    <li>VIP members get more help from the community and staff when asking a question.</li>
    </ul>
    <p>Have more questions about VIP?  What to know what other perks there are?  Please read our <a href="[COLOR=Red]LINK TO A THREAD OR PAGE YOU'VE CREATED WITH MORE INFORMATION[/COLOR]"><strong>VIP FAQ</strong></a>.</p>
    </tr>
    </table><br />
    <!-- /__ABOUT VIP__ -->
    Mess around with the classes for what suites your site best. I just quickly put that together. I would actually like the size of the fonts to be a little bigger as well as not use the repeated lines for the lists, but it gets the point across until I get time to really fix it up.

    Site owners seem to dismiss this potential revenue booster for their site. Don't dismiss this! People love to support the sites they use often and help them. Let them support you!! Give them different benefits such as a badge to show they are a supporter, different colored usernames, bigger inbox space, bigger sig space, animated avatars and signatures, a secret section they can share whatever they want, and access to a section that you ask them for their opinions on new projects or even give them access to your testboard if you are testing something out. Think of unique benefits that you can give them.

    Here's some things we've installed on our site with GREAT SUCCESS.
    • Tokens - for every month that a user has bought, they receive a token. After so many tokens, they can redeem it for another month or can gift it to another user.
      • Ever since implementing this, we've seen ~80-90% increase in our paid subscriptions. This is a huge feature for us. I highly recommend finding a coder to do this for you as we will likely not be releasing it to the public.
    • Gifting - People love helping other people out. We've ranged anywhere from 0 in a day to over 10. On average, I would say it is around 4-5 per day. Now, wouldn't you want an extra 4-5 paid subscriptions a day?!?! If you are starting out, you likely won't receive those numbers but just an extra 1 or 2 a month would be great, wouldn't it?
    • Gamification - Another one of our custom addons that lets us attach award images to different trophies, extra criteria for trophies, etc. One thing is, we've added 2 awards based on the amount of months you've bought and the amount of months you've gifted. This is popular on our site.
    One thing I want to say is, don't have a negative connotation towards paid subscriptions like "Oh, it isn't worth it to our members". If this is something new you are starting out, give free lifetime premium to some of your best members and ask if they will help you promote it. People are proud to wear the badge and earn the awards on our site.

    A lot of your members want to see you succeed! They want to help you, just let them! Have fun with it. Host contests only for your paying members. Give them benefits that regular members don't get. Thank them on yearly anniversaries! If they invest in your site, they are likely going to be there for a long time.

    I just want to reiterate, the changes we've made since Nov/Dec that I listed above have been a huge boost for us. Nearly doubling the revenue allowing me to hire 3 coders that are working to bring even more unique features to the site. I'm sure many of you are like me, you aren't in it for the money. The money is nice. And I'm sure like me, you want to put more into it to give your users a unique experience on your site that they can't get anywhere else. I have a huge list of ideas for my site that I haven't really seen anywhere else and I want to give back to them by bringing those things to fruition.


    Services:
    If people can charge others for services they perform, we've made them pay to have an "ad thread". We do this so it removes liability from us and allows us to make a lil extra money, while these people are helping our members out and making a lot of money themselves. This has been a nice little boost to our income, so if you have something on our site that people want to have an advertising thread for, let them and charge them accordingly.


    Wrap It Up:
    I've listed quite a few things there. It looks like my site is just there to make money but when you visit it, at most you will currently see 2 banner ads and Skimlinks. I want our users to have the best experience possible and sadly, that doesn't align with having more ads :p

    There are definitely more ways to earn money on websites (CPA, merchandise, video ads, etc). Techniques have vastly changed since I first wrote this and is amazing how quickly the internet can change in just a few short years. Let me know if this has helped you earn more money!

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