I suspect that most folks running phpBB don’t get beyond the 5,000 member mark. Even fewer get beyond the 10,000 member mark, or three years of consistent growth. What happens when you get to that point and can’t afford to run your board anymore? Then it’s entirely possible for a board with over 100,000 members to simply disappear.
I have posted a lot about the Adsense program over the past years, specifically related to advertising on phpBB boards. I currently do not use Adsense, but I did for many years. However I never relied on the revenues from that source to keep my board running. If I had, I might have ended up like this case study:
Warning to Webmasters: It can happen to you
The link contains a case study about Soccerpulse, a web site with over 100,000 members that closed up shop because their Adsense revenues declined and they could no longer afford to run the site.
I posted a question on Google’s support forums a few months ago (since they don’t seem to offer email support of any kind anymore). While waiting for a response, I have spent some time reading and at times responding to some of the questions there. One of the questions that I saw posted most frequently can be paraphrased as “How can I make more money” or something along those lines. I realize that many board owners probably aren’t using Adsense, but if you are, I thought I would post a few summary tips on this subject.
You can earn more money by:
- Generating more traffic
- Generating more clicks
- Getting higher-paying advertisements
I’ll talk about each of these at a high-level in this post.
A while back I wrote a post about Google Adsense where I discussed the mix of revenue between Adsense for Content and Adsense for Search. It included this graphic:
At the time I didn’t have a good explanation (or even a theory) as to why this was happening. As luck would have it, I’m now getting zero dollars from Adsense for Search and am still waiting for a response from Google regarding the matter. While trying to determine what the issue could be, I have been reading the support forums for Adsense. I saw a post that suggested why my search revenues were rising. More…
That’s how much this article says that Google has outstanding in unpaid dollars for Adsense.
The Google Float is the amount AdSense publishers have accrued in earnings but have not yet been paid. You know, all those people that haven’t reached the $100 mark that triggers a payment. The figure is currently at $532,547 million. That’s over a half billion dollars. If Google killed AdSense, they would have to pay that all out.
One interesting thing about the AdSense float is that it increased last quarter by 3%. In the 2 previous quarters it decreased. I wonder if this was due to all the AdSense accounts that were disabled recently.
Tell me there’s no incentive to start figuring out ways to avoid paying out those funds.
I myself have seen one strategy… Google simply stopped paying me. That’s not the actual process, but that is the net result. I have more than one post about how the search links from Google had been starting to pay more than Adsense for Content. A couple of months ago (September) Google fixed that: the took 100% of my search earnings (yes, that’s correct, I wrote 100% as in all of it) for a “search costs” adjustment. This fee isn’t new… or rather the ability of Google to apply this fee is not new. It’s covered in several places on their site and in their terms and conditions.
What are the fees mentioned in the Terms and Conditions?
The problem that I have with this is after almost five years of zero adjustments I find it irritating, frustrating, and in fact downright suspicious that Google has decided that my “costs of search” now equal my entire search revenue amount.
For two months in a row.
I sent Google an email. I got a form letter back.
I have removed Google from my sites.
When I have time I like to browse the Google web site and check out their Adsense blog and forum. Recently one of the things I learned about was a much better way to integrate their search results into my site template. I’ve been using Google’s search option on my biggest board for years because it gets around the “stopwords” issues and let’s people search for software version numbers like “6.5″ and “XI R2″ which are not indexed by the standard phpBB search process. The side benefit is that I also get paid when people click on the paid links that appear in the search results. Let me talk about that for a bit and then come back to the search page revisions that I made. More…
Recently I had someone suggest that I look at a service from ShareThis.com. What I found after reviewing their service was that it would allow me to add a flash pop-up menu to any page of my board. This menu provides an easy way for people to promote my site for me, which is about the cheapest form of advertising there is. The pop-up includes links to Facebook, Twitter, and dozens of other “social” sites, and I’m sure the service provider intends to add more as they become available. However when I started researching what it would take to put ShareThis on my boards, I ran into a slight bit of confusion. Their terms of service page said this:
Registration. In order to have access and use of the ShareThis Widgets, registration is not required but is strongly recommended.
Yet in order to “get the button” they required me to register. When I sent a note to the support group, I was told that they no longer offered a “no-registration” option for their service. Why do they require me to register at all? In order to provide analytics and reports that show how many people are sharing content from my site, they need to have a unique identifier for my account. Since I’m not (at this point anyway) really interested in more reports and analytics, I decided to pass.
Now that I knew what to look for, I quickly found AddThis.com. It seems to be the same type of service but they offer an option that does not require me to register in order to use it. I spent a few minutes looking over their site and quickly selected the options and format that I wanted to use. I already have a toolbar with various icons at the top and bottom of my topic pages, so it was really easy to add one more icon to the mix. Here is the final product in action:
With this new icon, when someone sees a topic they like they can easily add it to their favorites, their Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or any of the other social media sites supported by the service. How hard was it to add this code to my site? Not hard at all. More…
Google Adsense Replacement
On my largest board I have only ever had content ads on the bottom of the page. For the most part the ads worked quite well; when we started talking about cheese in one topic we started seeing ads for cheese on the bottom of the page. But cheese isn’t what my board is about, and I’m thinking that I have enough activity to do something different.
My current sponsor program allows each sponsor to share the banner space on the top of my board. Initially it was one banner for a set number of calendar days (weeks). Now it’s a shared space with rotating banners so I can easily add (or remove) sponsors from the rotation. But I think the concept of renting out the space on a more dedicated basis might have merits and that’s where my next experiment is going to go.
This is not a new idea; many boards do it. But the implementation in my case might be a bit different. What I am considering launching (probably around the end of this year) will be a text-only forum sponsorship. The existing sponsors will retain the banner space at the top of the page, so there will only be one banner on the page at any given time. But by offering text ads on a per-forum basis, I hope to attract sponsors that are interested only in part of my board as opposed to the entire thing.
I plan to start out with the exclusive weekly booking for this new feature. For one thing, that makes life very simple. Every single page view for a specific forum will show the sponsor for that forum. The booking starts on a specific date and ends on a specific date. By doing this the billing becomes quite simple, and the coding is easy as well. If the program works, then I can expand it. If not, I don’t think I will go back to Google, but will look for some other alternative.
The bottom line is that the bottom line for Google has reached the point where the cost of having it (user opinions, page load times) isn’t providing enough benefit in the form of income to continue using it. It’s time for something different.
In the first post in this series I talked about Google’s Adsense program and how it works. In the second post I talked about my implementation of Adsense on my big board, and I started to talk about the revenue that I have made from the program. The money has been good… I have averaged $100 per month since I joined the program several years ago. I can’t complain about that; if I walked by a $100 bill sitting on the street I would certainly stop and pick it up. What is interesting is how I have managed to average $100 per month… the numbers behind that number, so to speak. This post will provide that information. With pictures. Lots of pictures.
This post is going to get very specific… or as specific as I can without getting in trouble with Google. I am going to share my experience with their Adsense program. I’m even going to include some real numbers.
Last year I started a series of posts about advertising on boards. The last post was just over a year ago, but I think it’s time to revive the topic. The first post in the series was titled “Keeping your Users” and it dealt with how to introduce advertising on your board without losing your valuable members. The second post was titled “Have Something to Sell” and it talked about evaluating your board content to see if it was going to be interesting to advertisers. The third and final post was my favorite in the series (because I got to play with numbers… I like numbers ) and was titled “Measuring RFM” because it talked about measuring “recency” and “frequency” which are of interest to advertisers. All three posts are linked at the bottom of this post for easy reference.
After deciding to advertise and determining that you have something to sell, what are the next steps? To start you need to find some source of advertising. I believe that the most lucrative advertising options are those that want to target your board members. Those can be hard to find unless the board has a very specific audience. So instead I want to start talking about my experience with a more generic but very popular advertising option for many board owners: Google’s Adsense program.