As some of you may know I've been looking for a way to offset the running costs of the forum for a while. For the past 10 years, it has been funded by the ads on poultrykeeper.com and from a few donations from members of the forum. In round figures, the running costs are around £200 per year with the current setup.
I tried Viglink - which inserted links in posts and was supposed to take people to a useful site selling something and pay a small commission. After a few months trial, it was certainly small - there was about 10 US cents in the account so I removed it!
My next plan is to try Google Ads. I've found a way to insert them into different positions and will experiment over the coming months with these.
I don't want to make money out of this, I want to (ideally) cover costs. So my plan is to try different positions to see what works best and then scale it back to the minimum number of ads necessary to try cover the £200 hosting each year. I have no idea if it will come close but time will tell.
After that... I plan to experiment with a new user group so for anyone making a small donation to the hosting account or helping out with moderation or something, I can change their group and then they won't see the ads.
Hopefully this is a fair compromise.
This forum is great for advice and has been a comfort to me, as a new member.
Could the Google ad appear at the bottom of the page rather than the top?
1. A paypal donation?
I have been reluctant because then you have to make sure you keep the forum working for 12 months. I think I'm happier now - but at times I've been struggling, like when we had masses of registration spam or when we were exceeding memory on our shared hosting plan.
I'm happier to commit to the future of the forum now. We seem to have turned a corner.
I don't want to set up Paypal to pay me personally, I don't feel that's right. I would rather use the forum donation page with our web host - this can only be used for hosting, not on beer or fancy chickens! They charge the normal Paypal transaction fees and I think the minimum payment is £10. I can't change that but I think that's a reasonable amount anyway?
2. Why not put the Ad in the footer?
At the moment, my plan is to test lots of different Ad positions to find one that works 'well enough'. In the Header, the Footer and between posts for example. Hopefully I can settle on just one long term.
My understanding from researching Ads is that they work best when they are prominent and amongst content. I need to find a balance.
Putting them just in the footer probably means they would generate very little income - which doesn't solve my problem... but I will try different positions over the coming months and keep you all updated on what I'm doing and what income they generate.
By the way, poultrykeeper.com ads used to work sitting 'quietly' in the sidebar. Traffic has changed though - 60% is now on mobile devices - and they don't see the sidebar on a smartphone.
Ad blockers are also common. I'm seeing 45-50% less income from the ads this year and had to stop paying for articles from authors. I've slowly had to increase ads on the site. I don't like it... but this is a common problem for sites that don't sell anything.
The plan could be.
1. Test the Ads.... see how / if they perform well. Decide on the best position to balance income with intrusion.
2. Set up a new group (like we have Moderators, Admin we could have Full Member or something else?)
3. Remove Ads for that group and the Moderators too.
4. Offer 'Make a donation to hosting this year' (minimum £10) to join the Full Members group for a year.
That would mean we would be able to have people using the forum as before, with adverts and... people using the forum who have contributed towards the hosting cost that don't see adverts when logged in.
Feedback very welcome... I'm still thinking this through.
re (2); - I think this is an excellent plan, and would suggest removing the rather cutesy descriptions of members based on how many posts they've made ( 'Laying Well,' 'Part of the flock' etc) and replace with simple "Full Member" under usernames for those who have opted in to contribute. This would gently keep the scheme at the forefront of people's minds. The forum rules which everyone is asked to read might include a summary of the scheme to inform new members of how the forum is funded. When you register a new member they would need to get a personal message about the scheme, similar to what is shown on the Guardian online newspaper, which is free to all but relies on subscriptions from this who choose to opt in, in the same way.
Maybe between us we could work out a way where moderators could see a list of contributors and dates, so we could send out reminders when subscriptions were due, to save you the extra work of keeping it going? i would be happy to do this if it would help.
re (3) - Yes I think seeing the forum free from ads would be a considerable incentive for those who had supported the forum by more than they would have been likely to raise by clicking on ads. I would presume that moderators would in any case want to be Full Members so exemptions for them wouldn't be relevant.
re (4) Yes, good - nice way to put it - needs to be a prominent link, at the top somewhere, not hidden away down where people don't go, and with an explanation of what the money goes to, and an online form with a link to payment. (I believe we have actually had this for some time, but hidden away so nobody sees it!)
'I don't want to set up Paypal to pay me personally, I don't feel that's right. I would rather use the forum donation page with our web host - this can only be used for hosting, not on beer or fancy chickens!'
In his actual post, the words 'forum donations page' are in lighter type and are an active link to the pay page. I've just tested it out and it took my money quite satisfactorily! So I hope I'm now a Forum Member, and that lots of others will feel able to do the same.
And in any case, Tim, we would be quite happy for you to spend any surplus on beer and fancy chickens. If it wasn't for you, there wouldn't ever have been a Forum!