5 Ways To Use In-Text Advertising On Your Forum

Recently, we examined Three E-Commerce Integration Techniques For Your Forum. The second item on that list is In-Text Advertising. The concept is that certain keywords automatically hyperlink to a relevant page where users can make an eCommerce transaction. This page could link to a page on an advertiser or affiliate site (e.g., Amazon, eBay, etc.) or it could link to an internal page in your own eCommerce store.

We wanted to offer a few suggestions when utilizing this approach:

  1. Make the links obvious so regular users can know the difference between a normal link and an automated link.
  2. Make a direct link to a page that opens in a new window instead of a pop up bubble that shows on hover.
  3. Limit the use of such links and consider only displaying them to users who are not logged in.
  4. Keep the site running fast by ensuring the links non-invasive and do not slow down performance.
  5. Track the results to confirm the links are generating revenue.

We dislike forums with too many banner ads and typical CPC banner ads are not particularly effective. (It’s better to do a direct sponsorship/partnership, if possible.) However, a judicious approach to In-Text Advertising allows site owners to generate revenue without impeding the user experience by cluttering the site with too many ads.

Some key players in this space include Viglink, Infolinks, and Vibrant Media. These services typically produce a “thought bubble” with a second link the user must click on to connect to an affiliate site.

As noted above (see #2), we prefer to implement a direct link to a new page, instead of the bubble approach which is illustrated in the picture below. And ideally, we’ll link to a catalog page on your own site. So if you need a custom in-text advertising solution for your forum, please talk to us!

in-text ad bubble example

Above: In-text add example with “pop up” bubble. We prefer a direct link to a page in your catalog instead of a link to an affiliate site and we can help you implement this solution.

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4 Ways To Advertise On Your Forum (Besides Banner Ads!)

We recently examined the types of banner ads that your forum needs. But that leads us to another popular question: what are some other ways to generate advertising revenue from your forum?

After all, banner ads are notorious for their low click-through rate and many users find them annoying because they distract the user’s attention from the page’s actual content.

Some additional options include:

  1. Sponsored threads. The sponsor pays to post a “sticky” thread on the forum. The sponsor may run a contest or giveaway as part of their promotional thread and the sponsor can ask for feedback from users.
  2. Board takeover. The sponsor receives a dedicated background image advertising their service or event.
  3. Newsletter sponsorship. The sponsor is featured as the sponsor in the forum’s weekly or monthly newsletter.
  4. Inter-text ads. The sponsor pays for certain keywords which are hyperlinked to the sponsor’s site on a cost-per-click (CPC) basis or for a monthly fee.

No matter what method of advertising is used, we strive to create a win-win-win scneraio where the forum owner generates revenue, the user gets something of value (e.g., free swag from a sponsored thread), and the advertiser gains the exposure they desire.

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The 4 Types Of Banner Ads Your Forum Needs

One question we get is about inserting banner ads on your forum. How does a community manager strike the right balance? Too many ads will antagonize users and muddle your forum’s content. But fail to include any ads and your forum may not generate enough revenue to keep going.

While we recommend showing fewer ads to users who are logged in, we have found these four types of banner ads are useful. In order of effectiveness:

  1. Header (all pages): 728px x 90px
  2. Mobile header (home page only): 320×50
  3. In between post content (display thread page only): Two ads side by side at 300×250
  4. Footer (all pages): 728px x 90px

This image shows banner ads in the header (#1) and footer (#4) on your forum.


The mobile header (#2) is an important ad because so much traffic comes from users on mobile devices.


This image shows two 300×250 advertisements inserted in between posts (#3) on the display thread page.


With Ninja Post, site owners can customize the display of banner ads to meet their needs. Advertisements can be tailored to certain locations and shown to certain types of users. (E.g., only show to users who are not logged in.)

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Private Forums With Paid Memberships: 3 Examples

When discussing the 5 Types Of Private Forums, we noted that private forums with paid memberships require users to pay a monthly or annual fee to access some or all parts of the forum. However, there are several variations on this theme that create a spectrum of options for anyone wishing to launch a private forum with paid memberships. We offer three examples below.

The Walled Garden. First, we have sites where the main site requires a paid subscription, but the forum is one of several exclusive benefits that members can enjoy.

For example, Endurance Nation offers its subscribers access to training plans, resource libraries, equipment reviews, and robust online forums for input and feedback from other members. In essence, the forum is one of several benefits for paying subscribers.

Forum For Paying Members Only. In this scenario, the forum is not one of several perks; it is the perk. All content (or nearly all content) is restricted to paid subscribers. The forum is the main draw.

One example of this is RedIssue, a site for soccer fans (although they’d prefer I call it ‘football’). The forum provides a ‘teaser’ of 85 threads for public viewing, but the rest of its 30,000 threads are accessible to members only. This particular site provides a direct link to PayPal to facilitate sales of private memberships.

The Night Club. Finally, there are sites in which the forum is freely accessible to registered users and guests, but certain sections of the forum are for paying subscribers only. Very similar to the VIP section of a night club.

One example of this can be found on Simply Discus, in the sub-forum for hobbyists titled “Homesteader (It’s Your World Within Our World)”. In this particular case, content is visible to all users, but participation in discussions is limited to members paying a yearly subscription fee.

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5 Types Of Private Forums

The most common scenario for a private forum is to admit all members of a given organization using a pre-approved whitelist. However, private forums come in several different flavors, described in the table below.

Type of Private Forum Description
Registration Required Anyone can register but content is only visible to members who are logged in.
Apply Anyone can apply to join. Site owner approves users before they gain access.
Whitelist The site owner determines who has access. Approved accounts are added to a whitelist.
Paid Memberships Members pay a monthly or annual fee to access the forum or parts of the forum.
Hybrid Users must either (1) pay a monthly fee; or (2) actively contribute to the site (e.g. submit at least one review per month) to access the forum.

With regards to Paid Membership communities, sometimes it makes sense to make your entire site members-only and offer the forum as a bonus. Other times, it makes sense to keep your main site open to the public and launch a subscription-based members-only forum. Ninja Post supports these scenarios, and most others you can dream up.

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