The Steps to Creating A Profitable Forum

33 replies
Hi Everyone...

The other day, I was reading a post, where someone had wanted to make a forum, to make a lot of money. Now, I actually replied to the post with a very-very long reply, that taught them basically, some of the basics of starting a profitable forum.

But, now it's overflowing my brain with so many ideas, and now I don't have the time to take-action on them all. So I thought I would post, kinda a complete guide here for you all, since I know many of you, have a bit more time, to work on some new projects

Step #1 - Lay The Foundation

The first part in starting a profitable forum is to lay down the bricks (The foundation), what you're going to build the forum on. I'm someone that won't just buy out other forums, because in the end, it's easier if you start it, and run it from the beginning and just bring other forums in. The reason I say this, is because what ends up happening, is you take over a forum, with a admin/mod structure, and then it's very hard to change.

Whereas in the case (which I'm going to suggest below) where you buy and bring in a forum, you actually show them that you're taking over and bringing them into your forum.

Anyways, I got off topic there (as usual), so laying the foundation, is basically doing the following.

1) Domain Name - You need a domain name, where people will go to access your forum. I see this way too much, don't go with some .freedomain.. The domain name should have the keyword, that your forum is going to be targeting in it. So say your forum is about warrior forum fan club, it should be like "WFFanClub" or something that that effect.

The reason I say not to go with a free domain name, is that I am less likely to join a forum that is .ezboards.com or some long url then wffanclub.com. Do you see what I mean?

2) The Hosting - Before you can even decide which forum script you're actually going to run on the site, you need a web host for it. There are so many different web hosting companies out there, that I'm not going to suggest one. I just suggest that you research them all before going with one, so you don't choose the wrong one.

Here as well, I don't suggest going with free hosting, I've heard some really bad horror stories, and I'd rather not hear anymore about Free hosts!

3) The Forum Script - What exactly is going to power the forum system? Obviously your not going to have every member editing the page html, now that's not a forum. (but, that would be a bit funny). With forum scripts, there are so many many options, and some of them (free) are even good options.

For myself, I use vBulletin, the more-expensive paid one, however there are good free solutions like MyBB, SMF, and more. As well as another paid solution, IPB. There is also one that is going to be launched (I haven't checked lately) called Xenforo.

At this point, it's really up to you what forum script that you use. Just look around and see which kind you like. WF seems to be using vBulletin.

4) The Forum Sections - At this point, you need to finish laying down the foundation, with the sections where you want people to discuss. Adding these really depends on the forum software that you're using. Your forum sections, should divide discussions into easy-to-use categories.

Some suggestions to include are: Announcements, Suggestions & Feedback, General Discussion and then related sections to the topic of your forum. Of course, every forum is different, so be different:- change things up.

5) The Forum Rules - You don't need to be strict, but before I even get my forum going, I like to make sure there is a set of rules in place, I want the members to know them, so I don't have any problems, in case something ever comes up. Sure, it's possible to run an incident-free forum, but is it likely?

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Now, that's really the foundation of your forum. At this point, please don't start trying to make money from it yet, because you will find that it won't make money. See, you need active members, and traffic to be able to do any monetization at all... So please, leave the monetization until you've finished the forum.

Part #2 - Building it Up!

1) I'm sure that you've heard of those people, that will hire Professional Forum Posting agencies, and those that will hire freelancers, and while at the end of the day, you're getting posts, it really isn't the best solution. Sure, you get some quick post counts, but, whats better... an interested member, whose going to stick around? Or a member, whose going to take the money, and then go? What do you think?

Obviously the interested member, and yes... I can here you all asking "I just started a forum, how am I supposed to get interested members?". Which is exactly the question that I ask myself. And that's why I came up with the perfect solution.

BUY FORUMS

That's right, purchase out forums in your niche (look, there's tons for sale on webmaster forums, and flippa), and then to merge them into your forum, clean it up - and place them in all the proper sections. And... You know what makes this better then hiring forum posters etc?

a) You're bringing the members over - Dependent on how many members there were on the last forum, thats how many members you've now added to your new forum. Now, you can e-mail the members to tell them about the merge, and possibly get many of the active ones over to your forum.

b) You're merging in the posts - You're bringing in a basis of a large-amount of posts into many of your sections, when you hire a forum poster, you usually find out that having the same name on every post for a while, just doesn't look good. Think about this for a second, are you more likely to stay at a very active forum, or at a dead one?

c) You merge in the activity - When you forward the other domain over after the transfer, you've now brought over the activity from your forum to the new one, meaning that you've just made your forum active . And all it took was bringing in another forum, no having to spend hours working with forum posters or anything.

Now, obviously this only solves the one key problem which is getting members. The cool part about that last step, is that we can do it over and over, so that we keep bringing in more & more threads, and posts and making the forum much larger .

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Part #3. The Traffic Issue!

Now, in the last part, you are bringing over some traffic, but you're not bringing over all-that-much to be able to start selling ad spaces on the forum, so at this point, I would do a little keyword research..

1) Go to the Google Adwords keyword tool, and type in the topic of your forum, plus the word forum, and see what kind of results you get. When you see a good keyword, check it out with Google.com, and see how many others are targeting it. If you find a nice one with a low amount of people targeting it, then you will be able to target that, with your new forum.

2) Start building backlinks to your website with that keyword. Whether it be with angela & paul style links, or w/e, read up on the different methods to building backlinks to your site. Some of them, are what we would call "grey" areas, and many warriors would disagree on my opinions on certain backlinking, so I won't get into all the details on that one.

3) Use Forum Promotion Sites - There are forums, out there; just for you to promote YOUR Forum on. How cool is that? Be sure to utilize these.

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The Last Part: The Making Money

Probably your favorite part right? Well, it's mine as well; of course; as with all of you, I want to make money with my forum. so how exactly do you monetize your forum, after you've built up an active member base, and some traffic.

1) You could add ad spaces to the site, slowly. You can start to filter in advertisements for related things. Say its a sports site, you could put banners up for a ticket affiliate program, or merchandise affiliate program. Or for something else, you could promote as an affiliate.

2) Sticky threads - You could sell Sticky threads in certain sections to "sponsors" who want to get there brand out there, with a section on your forum. You can also throw affiliate links in sticky threads, like "Support Us when you get tickets to the game" or something to that effect.

3) Premium Membership - If there is something that you could offer to users for paying a monthly fee, then do it. Many sites make a ton.... of money off offering premium memberships, its just that you have to have the market to do them

Now, I really hope this post is helpful to someone, now - my hands need a break.

Caleb
#creating #forum #profitable #steps
  • Profile picture of the author abhi1
    Great Post Caleb. I've knew about the premium membership thing
    that one can do with the forum but now I'm getting better ideas. You
    got me thinking. It's like you could have a forum+membership site on
    the same platform instead of having a forum inside a membership site.

    Good stuff mate.
    Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
    Abhi,

    yes, the forum could actually be the membership site

    Caleb
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    Caleb Spilchen

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  • Profile picture of the author Lou Diamond
    Hello,
    I have a forum and website that is starting to go viral, the most important thing that I have found is to make it where members have a reason for coming back again and again, free ebooks current articles and video's work for me.
    Signature

    Something new soon.

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    • Profile picture of the author monday3
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I have a forum and website that is starting to go viral, the most important thing that I have found is to make it where members have a reason for coming back again and again, free ebooks current articles and video's work for me.
      @Lou - What CMS are you using? Is it the vBulletin Publishing, PHP Fox integration or something else? Looks pretty nice.
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    • Profile picture of the author Tony_Brayley
      Originally Posted by Lou Diamond View Post

      Hello,
      I have a forum and website that is starting to go viral, the most important thing that I have found is to make it where members have a reason for coming back again and again, free ebooks current articles and video's work for me.
      Hey Lou,

      Just had a stroll through your new IM site. Very nice! Looks like you've put a lot of work into it and it looks like it will pay off for you. Congrats.

      I will join. After all, I just got used to Facebook. Gotta use this new-found knowledge now.

      Cheers,

      Tony.
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  • Profile picture of the author GuerrillaIM
    I think the secret of successful forums is to catch a niche as it appears. If you come across a newly developed community, give them somewhere to go and establish yourself early on.

    You can of course do it with established niches as well, you just have to plan how to bring the community there and offer them value.
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  • Profile picture of the author gjabiz
    Caleb,

    Very good advice.

    My one addition would be: build it for the long haul. Our forum (Seeds of Wisdom) is celebrating it's tenth year.

    There are only a handful of forums that have been around longer, some, like WF, for 12-15 years.

    So, my additional advice is to build it for the long haul, and let time work in your favor.

    In my experience with several forums, an OPEN forum is good, but have a PAID membership or specialty forum too.

    We use VBulletin too.

    I like it the best, and I have used all the other ones out there.

    You've given a lot of great information. Also, the readers should understand, the relationships you build with a long running forum increase the LIFETIME VALUE of your customers, some of ours have spent thousands of dollars over the years.

    It is a "LONG TERM" strategy we developed over 10 years ago.

    gjabiz aka Gordon Jay Alexander
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  • Profile picture of the author Gary King
    Thanks for the great post, the PM and for your support in my other thread Caleb.

    Gary
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    ===========================
    OFFLINERS! Warning: Unless You Know These Pricing Secrets, You are Leaving THOUSANDS on the Table. Get Your Free Report Now.
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  • Profile picture of the author nczhivago
    Banned
    [DELETED]
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    • Profile picture of the author Kael41
      That's funny..i've had a wso running for a couple of weeks centered all around making money with message forums..in a purely white hat manner too..go figure
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  • Profile picture of the author JackTriggs
    The same rules apply to building a forum as to anything else.

    Offer value, obtain visitors, convert into members...backend sales
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    Make $1000's Every Month By "Cool Dude Marketing"? You Gotta Check This
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  • Profile picture of the author PLRwithAlex
    Great post and ideas. You're right, my mind is spinning on possibilities!
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  • Profile picture of the author supersonic
    Great post, really!
    I have few questions as I am interested in starting a forum.

    If you want to start a paid membership inside your forum, do you need any other software than vBulletin? Can vbulletin handle the members paying and cancelling their memberships? OR
    I need a different software which tracks the subscriptions coming and being cancelled so that members cancelling subscriptions are automatically restricted to access paid areas? Thanks
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    • Profile picture of the author tryinhere
      Originally Posted by supersonic View Post

      Great post, really!
      I have few questions as I am interested in starting a forum.

      If you want to start a paid membership inside your forum, do you need any other software than vBulletin? Can vbulletin handle the members paying and cancelling their memberships? OR
      I need a different software which tracks the subscriptions coming and being cancelled so that members cancelling subscriptions are automatically restricted to access paid areas? Thanks
      I am sure that vb does handle subscriptions ./ memberships there is a guy here called jasper who is from vb who may be able to help, and you can get a free trial of the vb suite if you go to their forum, also keep an eye out for IPB as a good alternative.

      @ Caleb / cheers for the post.
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  • Profile picture of the author supersonic
    can u please show me the url to test Vb Suite as a Trial? Thanks
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  • Profile picture of the author securelogy
    Great post Caleb, Could you please give example of the sites where you can advertise your forum. that could be helpful.
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    The 9 Steps Social Media Marketing Plan Methodology is available at http://zackmo.com/9-steps-social-media-marketing-methodology/
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  • Profile picture of the author supersonic
    While managing paid subscriptions how to do manage to receive subscription payments via PayPal? I was just testing demo and found there are only two IDs:
    - CCBillID
    - 2COPro ID

    Where to enter your PayPal email? Thanks
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    • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
      Originally Posted by supersonic View Post

      While managing paid subscriptions how to do manage to receive subscription payments via PayPal? I was just testing demo and found there are only two IDs:
      - CCBillID
      - 2COPro ID

      Where to enter your PayPal email? Thanks
      Hi There,

      Which software are you using? vBulletin? It's a main option in the back end panel, from what I can see. I'm not personally using vB as my main software, due to recent events with another forum script.

      Caleb
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      Caleb Spilchen

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  • Profile picture of the author NateRivers
    Thanks for the advice. I have a few websites that a forum would be golden for, I just need to set it up and quit thinking about it.
    Signature
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  • Profile picture of the author Justin Wheeler
    Originally Posted by LD Carter View Post

    Calib,

    Just out of curiosity, how old are you?
    Is it important? The question should be how much experience do you have....

    PS Great post Caleb... I have a gamers forum.... which I bought on a whim so any keen gamers interested in running it let me know... You can have 80% of the revenue.
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    I sell my own products and training via www.marketerspassport.com
    I review products and offer bonuses at www.wantabonus.com
    I blog personally, infrequently and a little randomly at www.justinwheeler.net
    And I run a Web Development and Social Media Consultancy at www.vashonmedia.com
    Look forward to knowing you... Drop by on Facebook
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    • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
      Originally Posted by LD Carter View Post

      Me asking that had nothing to do with trying to challenge his knowledge or anything. I just think it's impressive that a young guy (a teenager) has such a strong influence in business. But you didn't even bother giving him a chance to answer, and tried to attack me.

      This is what happens when you speak without being spoken to.
      LD,

      Justin asked me before he made that post.... To me, you pop in a random thread of mine, and make a comment like that -- it looked to Justin like you were trying to challenge my knowledge. Hence, why I didn't reply. I guess, he made the decision to reply.

      he didn't attack you, he just made a comment.

      Talk Soon.

      Caleb
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      Caleb Spilchen

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    • Profile picture of the author ehotbid
      Banned
      [DELETED]
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    • Forums open up so many possibilities!

      Caleb, How Come you are promoting Vbulletin again, a few months ago you were saying to go with another forum software (escapes me what it was) Think it was made by the same guys behind vbulletin or somthing.. How come the change?

      I just got vbulletin suite, i'm setting it up with Digital Access Pass at the moment! If you want a Forum membership site, its gonna be a great combination!

      Forum Monetization could be a great topic for a WSO , lol.... :rolleyes:
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      Alexander Sebastian Just launched his new blog offering High end Training for FREE..
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      • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
        Originally Posted by alexio View Post

        Forums open up so many possibilities!

        Caleb, How Come you are promoting Vbulletin again, a few months ago you were saying to go with another forum software (escapes me what it was) Think it was made by the same guys behind vbulletin or somthing.. How come the change?

        I just got vbulletin suite, i'm setting it up with Digital Access Pass at the moment! If you want a Forum membership site, its gonna be a great combination!

        Forum Monetization could be a great topic for a WSO , lol.... :rolleyes:
        I am not, look at the post date.. September, that was the last time that I promoted vBulletin, because of the law suit with Xenforo.

        My opinions have not wavered. VBulletin does its job, I have nothing against the script, the corporate is my issue.

        Caleb
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        Caleb Spilchen

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  • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
    Originally Posted by LD Carter View Post

    What do they say about the first 3 words in ASSume? Some of you guys on here really need to come off your high horses and buy some tampons. Some of you act like you're constantly on your period, especially YOU. Learn to respect your elders.
    Hey LD,

    Please keep private comments to a PM and not in an open thread :-)

    I'm reporting your post, as it has nothing to do with running a profitable forum.
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    Caleb Spilchen

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  • Ah fair play, i did not notice the post date!

    I check out the other software, i only went with v bulletin because it tightly integrates with DAP!

    Looks good so far!
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    Alexander Sebastian Just launched his new blog offering High end Training for FREE..
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    • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
      Originally Posted by alexio View Post

      Ah fair play, i did not notice the post date!

      I check out the other software, i only went with v bulletin because it tightly integrates with DAP!

      Looks good so far!
      Xenforo is in beta.

      If you're looking to run a big forum, don't use it yet... Till the final version is out.

      Dealing with bugs is a pain.

      Caleb
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      Caleb Spilchen

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  • Profile picture of the author Paul Myers
    LD,
    What do they say about the first 3 words in ASSume? Some of you guys on here really need to come off your high horses and buy some tampons. Some of you act like you're constantly on your period, especially YOU. Learn to respect your elders.
    Respect isn't earned by having been born before someone else. It is also not earned by making comments like the one quoted above.

    I'm mildly surprised you haven't been infraction-bombed for this one.


    Paul
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    Stop by Paul's Pub - my little hangout on Facebook.

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    • Yeah, i will keep a eye on it for the future, i do want to get lots more Community forums up and running!

      So will be good if there is a bit more competition in the market!
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      Alexander Sebastian Just launched his new blog offering High end Training for FREE..
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Originally Posted by LD Carter View Post

    What do they say about the first 3 words in ASSume? Some of you guys on here really need to come off your high horses and buy some tampons. Some of you act like you're constantly on your period, especially YOU. Learn to respect your elders.
    Actually, you're one of the people here who consistently exhibits such an attitude. Not just in this thread, but in others. As far as age goes, you're confusing chronology with maturity. I'll take the latter over the former every time.

    However, it's a fairly common human trait to point out other's faults, and for those faults to be the exact same ones we have.

    I don't give infractions, but I have no problem with little red traingles.



    Also, good luck on being a "Future Billionaire" with an attitude like that.

    All the best,
    Michael
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    "Ich bin en fuego!"
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Anyway...

    I just read over your post, Caleb, and I liked it.



    The trickiest parts are keeping it going and getting people to feel as though they are a part of a community. Not easy tasks.

    All the best,
    Michael
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    "Ich bin en fuego!"
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    • Profile picture of the author Caleb Spilchen
      Originally Posted by Michael Oksa View Post

      Anyway...

      I just read over your post, Caleb, and I liked it.



      The trickiest parts are keeping it going and getting people to feel as though they are a part of a community. Not easy tasks.

      All the best,
      Michael
      So true,

      You need to find the right people -- And once you have it people keep coming back because there friends are there.
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      Caleb Spilchen

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