Make more money from your online communities

by Martin Reed on 31 July 2008 in Articles

Make money with online communities

Some companies are wary of advertising on forums or other sites with a large proportion of user-generated content. Regardless of this fact, online communities can still make you money. In fact, they can make you a great deal of money, depending on how well you monetise your site and the subject matter of your community itself. In this article, I will briefly cover two ways you can make more money from your website.

Always follow the money

If you have a long term advertiser that continues to renew, you can be confident that your site is making them more money that the amount they are paying to advertise on your site. At this point, you should find out what they are selling. Perhaps you could sell the same product or service yourself?

As an example, I get a lot of dating sites advertise through AdSense on Just Chat. After some investigation, I realised that not all of the advertisers were the actual dating sites themselves – some of the links were affiliate links. This meant that whoever owned that affiliate link was earning more from my traffic than I was! By finding out the actual site that was being advertised, I could follow the money by getting my own affiliate link for that site. By cutting out the middle man, I ensured maximum profits for myself.

Target competitive niches

If you haven’t used the Google AdWords keyword tool, you are losing out on additional revenue. You can use this tool to ensure you maximise the amount of content you publish on your site that is in demand from advertisers.

Let’s say your community is focused on health and diet. Go to the Keyword Tool and enter this term, or something similar (click for full size):

Online communities keyword tool

You will then be presented with a list of results. You can click on either ‘Adveriser Competition’ or ‘Approx Avg Search Volume’ to order the results (click for full size):

Online communities revenue

Now you can see what terms and topics are the most in demand from advertisers – the greener the bar, the more money there is to be made. By writing articles or posts that include these keywords, you will be maximising your revenue whilst remaining within your niche and providing value for your members. If you use AdSense, you can easily find out what type of content advertisers are looking for. The more competition there is, the higher advertisers typically pay to advertise.

Do you run a general interest online community but can’t figure out what content is generating you revenue? Spend some time playing around with the Keyword Tool – type in some keywords that are popular on your site. You’ll soon learn where your site earns its money, and can concentrate on increasing the content you offer on those subjects.

The great thing with this method is you are not only increasing your revenue, you are also adding value to your site – you are adding content, and should now be even more motivated to do so as you know exactly what is going to make you money.

Your thoughts

Do you consider keywords that are in demand from advertisers when creating content for your community website? Have you tied this method and improved your revenue? Share your thoughts and experience by leaving a comment below.

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Amish August 1, 2008 at 3:18 pm

As you already perhaps know, I intend launching a community website and that is why I visit your site to prepare myself. This post, as many other earlier ones, goes into my saved up folder for reference. This post makes eminent sense. Thanks.

Phil Tanny August 1, 2008 at 9:13 pm

Your keyword advice is useful and well expressed, thanks for that Martin.
I’m sure a lot of readers will benefit from that info, myself included.

I’m not quite as clear on the 2nd and 3rd paragraphs. There’s a bit
of an impression that advertisers are viewed as competitors, mere middlemen,
and it would be savvy to elbow them out of the way when possible.

Perhaps it would be helpful to complement your observations with a
stronger statement of the fact that advertisers are exactly who
will make it possible for us to “make more from our online

To the degree that the goal of our community is to make money,
it seems we should have a closer relationship and deeper loyalties
to our advertisers, than even to our readers.

In short, advertisers are our customers.

And what the heck is that guy in the movie selling? I’m sure
I want it, I just don’t know what it is. :-)

Nicole Price August 2, 2008 at 4:54 am

You’ve give me a lot of food for thought, thank you Martin.

Mr Woc August 2, 2008 at 12:08 pm

Hi there

You can make money out of communties, but its not easy it takes a lot of tweeking playing about with layouts and patience. Its taken us a long time to get it right.

I dont like affliate programs that much cant stand those tracking urls and there is no way of checking if they work properly, but if u can find a few really good ones your right they can be just as profitable as PPC advertising.

Woc .

wiese August 4, 2008 at 2:44 pm

For a lot of people its not the main point to make a lot of money of a community. Many are just started because the person initiating the movement may be simply be interested in the topic himself and want to find people to talk about and/or give them the chance to easily find someone themselves.
Fight the selfishness-idea :-D

Martin Reed - Blog Author August 4, 2008 at 8:16 pm

Amish – I look forward to seeing your new community launch!

Phil – There’s nothing wrong with brokers making you money, but if you can make more money by promoting the exact same sites yourself with no additional effort, you shouldn’t sit back and continue to lose revenue. I think you may have misunderstood what I said, or perhaps I didn’t explain clearly enough.

Let’s say you have someone advertising on your site through Google AdSense. Upon investigation, you find they are promoting a site through an affiliate network such as TradeDoubler. If they are a long term advertiser, you may assume that they are making more money through that affiliate link than it is costing them to advertise on your site. In cases such as this, you may be better off promoting the site through TradeDoubler yourself.

Of course, there are times when brokers and middlemen are necessary – you can’t forge private advertising deals with everyone. Indeed, brokers may actually be able to maximise your profitability.

Nicole – Glad you enjoyed the article!

Mr Woc – Yes, I think it can be more challenging generating good revenue from online communities however, it depends on a huge number of variables. I really stuggle to understand your aversion to affiliate programs and am confident you are missing out on a lot of revenue by failing to give them a whirl!

Wiese – Sure, a lot of online communities are built on the developer’s passion of the community’s subject matter, however if a site is to successfully develop and improve over time, it really needs to bring in some revenue. A site that is losing money is at risk of closing down. A site that makes money has a better chance of success.

Amish August 6, 2008 at 5:03 am

Martin, Thank you. I am getting the heebie jeebies!

Smiley August 6, 2008 at 10:01 pm

I agree with Martin, Woc. I got rid of PPC all together and switched to affiliate advertising. Easydate are paying me 300 on August the 11th.. for some of the ads you get 5 per female lead and a new program you get 60% of income from a subscription.

You’re really missing out if you’re stuck with Google Adsense earning 0.000000001p per 500,000 clicks or what ever they offer these days. lol.

Phil Tanny August 8, 2008 at 5:58 pm

Martin, thanks for removing user “porno”. (a spam post which
appeared above for a bit, you can probably guess what it linked

For me, this raises a question of the business value of

Should we read incoming posts from our visitors before the
comments are published, or after? Assuming we intend to read
all the comments published in our community, it seems to be the
same amount of work either way.

What, if any, is the impact on our businesses of allowing low/no
value and/or possibly offensive comments to appear in our
community until we have the time to remove them?

On the other hand, what’s the business impact of a time delay if
incoming posts are not immediately published while awaiting

Peter August 12, 2008 at 2:50 am

The best thing about an online community is that you’ve got a pool of targeted buyers right there, as long as your website relates properly to what the community is all about, and as long as you get them to your site

Martin Yeoh August 17, 2008 at 1:13 pm

I believe in content because that has the primary importance in life of a site. I have many sites, all of them are blogs except one. I think there is nothing better to use popular keywords in articles, then promoting them. Perhaps this is the best way to earn money which make it possible for people(Poor people) to gain some respect. No doubt, Adwords Keyword tool is the best to determine that and I have been using it since many years.

Jane August 20, 2008 at 7:10 pm

Good information, thanks. I’m new at this, I’ll try some of your ideas.

kouji August 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm

i quite like the advice you give about getting rid of the middleman. i think it’s brilliant actually. never considered it before. but it makes so much sense, because if the end advertiser is willing to pay a middleman for the opportunity to advertise on sites like yours, then it would seem that he’d be even happier to pay you the amount directly, with a bit more. it’s a win-win situation. :)

shirl August 25, 2008 at 12:17 am

Your article on advertizing is very helpful, The part on investigating the money the advertizer is making and seeing about selling it myself was really cool

Eva White September 26, 2008 at 3:54 am

I agree with targeting niche audiences, but the trouble is to identify the one that will work out for you. In fact choosing the niche is the most important.

Martin Reed - Blog Author October 6, 2008 at 8:07 pm

Amish – LOL! I am sure you’ll be fine – after all, you’ve been reading this blog pretty much from day one!

Smiley – I agree; it’s always worth experimenting. If you get ‘stuck in your ways’ you may just find yourself ‘stuck in the red’!

Phil – The problem with comments or user generated content needing to be moderated before it goes live is that it can reduce user engagement, especially in forums. People want to see their content appear as soon as they have posted it – they don’t want to wonder if it will ever appear. They went to the effort of contributing, and they want to receive the gratification of seeing their content on the site.

Sure, if you have a massive problem with spam and undesirable content being posted then you may have to pre-approve all submissions. I prefer to allow comments to appear immediately by default – I check my communities a number of times during the day so spam is caught before it causes too much of a problem.

Peter – Exactly; yet so many advertisers fail to realise the value of advertising within online communities.

Martin – Having content is extremely important; visitors won’t stick around on a site that doesn’t have any. As you mention though, great content is of little use if you aren’t also promoting that content!

Jane – Thanks for your comment, I am glad you enjoyed the article.

Kouji – Exactly! Let me know if you try out that tactic and if it works for you!

Shirl – Glad you enjoyed the article :)

Eva – Yes, choosing the right niche can be a challenge, but if you choose a niche that you have a passion for, you can’t really go too far wrong.

Kevin January 14, 2009 at 4:59 pm

I notice that now you can link your AdSense account with Google analytics. I will give this a try. This should provide some better analysis on keyword volume and how it interacts with your AdSense dollars. I would love to have a good detailed breakdown on how my current traffic is paying through AdSense.