If you have an affiliate marketing site that is already generating a fair amount of traffic, you might be wondering if your affiliate marketing site should have a forum. I have been earning a full-time living with affiliate marketing for a long time now and I never, ever, ever use forums. Before I get into reasons why I think forums are terrible for affiliate marketing sites, let’s go over some of the positives, because there ARE benefits to having a forum. I just don’t think the benefits are worth downsides. Keep reading to find out why.
Benefits To Having A Forum On An Affiliate Marketing Site
Assuming you are able to successfully launch a forum and assuming you’re able to get a bunch of people to sign up and assuming those members are long-term, motivated and loyal who post on a frequent basis, you will get to experience many unique benefits that many sites without forums don’t get to experience.
Much Higher Number Of Repeat Visitors – When you have a bunch of loyal forum members, they might return multiple times per week or even multiple times per day. This drastically reduces your reliance on other traffic sources such as Google traffic. You can just about always count on a ton of people returning to your site daily in order to view new posts and threads.
Longer Time On Site – The longer someone is on your site, the more opportunity you have to make that free visitor into a revenue generator. People tend to spend quite a bit of time on forums because they want to go through multiple threads and probably make some posts themselves. Seeing an average time on site above 15 or 20 minutes on forums isn’t unheard of.
More Pages Per Visit – As stated above, visitors to forums usually go to multiple threads. The more pages of your forum they visit, the more ads you can display.
You Become An Authoritative Leader – Having a forum is a great way to communicate on a regular basis with your website visitors. Not only can you get a good feel for what your visitors want on your site, but you essentially become a celebrity in your own little world. You can control or moderate conversations and when you make suggestions, such as product recommendations, many of your loyal followers will listen.
It’s A Great Way To Build Your E-Mail Subscriber List – Most forums require users to register for an account. When someone registers, you can state in your terms and conditions that they automatically get signed up for your newsletter or email subscriber list. This provides even more opportunities to turn free visitors into paying visitors.
Disadvantages To Having A Forum On An Affiliate Marketing Site
Now that we’ve gone over some of the advantages, let’s cover the disadvantages. As I stated earlier, I do not believe the majority of affiliate marketing sites would benefit from having a forum. Here’s why…
Forums Are Extremely Difficult To Make Popular – If someone checks out your new forum and they see a bunch of inactivity, limited posts, or old posts, they will skip over it. In fact, it will probably make your site look bad and will hurt visitor trust, which is extremely important for affiliate marketing sites. Most successful forums are started in these ways:
- Creating dozens (or more) of fake accounts and having conversations with yourself for months or years to give the impression that your forum is active, all while you wait for enough real members join.
- Hiring freelancers or individuals to post on your forum for you. Most of the time, these paid members have very little interest in actually helping people and are probably not all that excited about the topic or your potential success. They just want a paycheck, so don’t expect any spectacular threads or posts.
- Having an already established group of dedicated individuals who want to start a forum, and follow through by posting regularly until new members join.
You have to understand that even if you are successful using one of the above methods, those methods often take many months or even several years to pay off.
Forums Are Extremely Difficult To Monetize – Don’t take my word for it, just go to your search engine of choice and start researching how profitable forums are. Sure, there are the few gems out there that earn a decent income due to a very large number of members, but the vast majority of forums don’t earn any significant revenues.
Forums Are Expensive To Operate – Let’s say you are able to build up your forum to 5,000 active members. Those active members visit your site on average twice per day and view around 5 pages each (in addition to your non-forum traffic). Do you know how much bandwidth that takes? We’re talking about thousands of dollars per year in bandwidth requirements. You will need dedicated servers and you either have to know how to manage those servers yourself, or you will need to pay someone to manage them for you. A $10 hosting account isn’t going to cut it.
There’s Only Room For 1 Or 2 Forums In Any Major Niche – You will never see a micro-niche site with a forum simply because there usually isn’t enough demand from a micro-niche to allow a forum to work. Most of the money-making forums out there are centered around very broad topics. Even with these broad topics, there is usually only enough room for 1 or 2 forums to do well. Taking members away from an existing forum can be quite the challenge.
Forums Require LOTS Of Maintenance – When a forum gets popular, which is the ultimate goal for most forum owners, the maintenance on those forums gets to be brutal. For starters, you will deal with relentless spam accounts that are usually automatically created by bots, but are sometimes run by real humans, too. Just dealing with your daily spam can take hours out of your day. In addition, people fight, bicker, and argue all the time in forums. The drama that you’ll have to deal with as a forum owner will never end. You will often need to step in and get threads back on track, stop arguments, and edit or delete posts. But don’t delete the wrong post because if you do, an uproar might start and you quickly become the devil. Finding that balance is a never ending challenge.
You Drive Traffic AWAY From Affiliate Sales – In order to have a successful forum on a site, the forum has to be the focal point of the entire site. You have to promote it on every page and in every article. That means, your strategy must shift form getting people to click on your affiliate links / advertisements and getting them to click on and join your forum instead. If you’re not prepared to make the forum the center of your business plan, don’t start one at all.
Some Final Thoughts
When it comes to forums on affiliate marketing sites, I’m a bit biased. I do not believe affiliate marketing sites are a good fit for a forum and that’s why I never use them on my sites. I am not all that interested in getting all that repeat traffic if it isn’t profitable. I’m also not all that passionate about moderating forums and dealing with the drama that goes on, including the daily maintenance that is required, nor do I trust paying a virtual assistant to handle those tasks for me. Instead, if someone has a question for me, I have contact pages and comment sections on the bottom of each page, which seem to work out just fine for me.
I don’t want to give the impression that forums are bad for ALL affiliate marketing sites. You know your business best and in some cases, a forum could be a great addition to your site. However, I hope this article helped to give you some of the pro’s and cons of having a forum on your affiliate marketing site. Is it worth all the time and effort? That’s a decision only you can make.