As soon as your forum is generating huge amounts of content and traffic every single day, advertising networks will be desperate for your business, right? Sorry, it doesn’t work that way – many advertisers hate your website, regardless of how good it really is.
Advertising networks frown upon user generated content
It doesn’t really matter how popular your website is – if it relies on user-generated content (UGC), the chances are that none of the large ad companies (think Advertising.com, DoubleClick, ValueClick) will accept you as a publisher.
This matters – the larger advertising companies have relationships with the largest and most prestigious advertisers. If you want to move away from running ads offering animated smileys and quizzes about Paris Hilton, you need to get connected with the larger advertisers.
Don’t blame the advertising networks
Advertising networks are not to blame for your UGC website being denied from participating in their ad campaigns – the fault lies with the advertisers who insist their ads do not run on sites that rely on user-generated content.
Many advertisers specify to the networks that they do not want their site to appear on ANY UGC websites. This makes things easier for them – they simply tarnish all UGC sites with the same brush, and run their ads elsewhere. By doing this, they are making a big mistake.
Not all UGC sites are the same
To some extent, I can understand why some advertisers decide they do not want to run their ads on sites that rely on UGC. Many are deserted wastelands, others may be controversial and consequently an advertiser doesn’t want their brand to be associated with extremist or controversial comments. Forums are also renowned for huge page impressions, but low click-through rates.
There are some absolutely brilliant community websites out there, but due to the ignorance of many of the ‘big’ advertisers, their owners are limited when it comes to generating revenue. This is absolutely criminal – in an age when Web communities are gaining in popularity and importance, it is absurd that many advertisers are completely ignoring this core component of the online landscape.
I have no doubt that before long, advertisers will realise their error and begin to open up to sites with user-generated content. If they don’t, they will soon struggle to find websites to advertise on – user interaction and community are becoming the new buzzwords when it comes to online marketing and website development.
Unfortunately by the time these advertisers begin to realise they are in the 21st century, most community website developers will have already found alternative revenue sources.
Perhaps this is a good thing – advertising rates will consequently rise as the advertisers that once shunned us work extra hard to win us back over.
My message to advertisers who shun UGC websites
Community websites are not your enemy. Community websites attract loyal, targeted visitors – an endorsement from a community website is similar to an endorsement from a friend. Sure, you want to avoid certain UGC websites – so establish clear guidelines as to the types of UGC sites you are happy to advertise on. Tell the ad networks you are happy to advertise on UGC sites with clear and enforced site rules, on sites that have more than a certain number of members, on sites that are legal and not overly controversial.
Make your guidelines ten pages long if you like, just do not tarnish all UGC websites with the same brush. It is patronising, unprofessional and you are only missing out on exposing your brand to some of the most loyal users of the Web.
Have you struggled to get your community website accepted by advertising networks? What are your thoughts on the way UGC websites are perceived by big advertisers? How have you monetised your community website? Do you see the situation changing any time soon? Share your thoughts, comments and opinions by leaving a comment below.