There are many options for software to serve up advertisements on forums. The simplest way to do this is to not use any software and to just insert the code for the advertisement (eg Google Adsense) into the template. It is fairly easy to do this and for many forums this may be all that is needed. A more complex way and what I do on all the forums I manage, all the sites I manage and even here on Forum Doc is to use the OpenX Ad Server (I don’t use the hosted version, but have OpenX running on my own dedicated server). I have looked at many other options, but none of them come close to OpenX in meeting my needs (which may not be the same as yours!). OpenX is free to use.
Three Basic steps of how OpenX works:
1. Basically, you set up in OpenX your websites. For each website you create zones. These zones are the places you want the advertisements to appear. OpenX then gives you the code to insert into the template or the HTML of the forum or site (or, for eg, a WordPress or Blogspot blog). This code is inserted in the same way you currently insert advertisements, for example the Google Adsence code.
2. After you set up the zones on your forum (and all your other sites, if you have them), you then set up your advertisers in OpenX. The most obvious one here is Google Adsense. For this you just insert your Adsense code into OpenX. You also insert the code for any other affiliates (eg eBay; Amazon) and any other advertisements that you may have sold.
3. The final step is that you then link each advertisement to as many or as few of the different zones on one or all of your sites, and the advertisements appear.
OpenX gives you so many more options. You can insert as many advertisements into each zone on a site as you like. It will rotate through them. You can weight some advertisements to be shown more often than others. You can set any advertisement to be shown x number of times (eg 10 000 impressions) or for x period of time (eg 3 months). The advertisements here on Forum Doc are served up by OpenX – refresh the page and see how they change. There are also many advanced reporting and statistics options to monitor the performance of advertisements (impressions and click throughs) and zones and websites.
The biggest plus of OpenX:
This is what sold me on OpenX: it can geotarget. You can set up advertisements to be shown or not shown in certain countries, based on IP address. If you check the post on the my comments on the book: Managing Online Communities, at the bottom of the post you will see an advertisement for the book, either from Amazon.com; Amazon.ca; Amazon.de; Amazon.fr; Amazon.co.uk; fishpond.com.au; or fishpond.co.nz – depending on which country you are in, as to which one of those you get served! Also see the geotargeted eBay banners for all the regional eBay programs. What is the point of being an affiliate for a company like Amazon.com or eBay, when your website visitors are global?
The advertisers love this option. When I approach advertisers to get paid advertisements for my forums, my first approach is to point out that if they do advertise on websites, and they are a USA or UK or Canada specific company, how much money are they wasting, by paying for impressions from people outside their target market? (this approach does not work so well for global advertisers!). I do try to target country specific advertisers as they are easier to convert to sales using the geotargeted approach. I also sell the advertisements based on a figure of around $6 per 1000 impressions – they love this as they are only paying for the times their advertisement gets seen. I generally sell them in blocks of 10 000 impressions (and set that in OpenX to serve the 10 000) (the selling of the advertisements, allows me to pay for things like Linkvana to build backlinks and get even more traffic to sell even more advertisements!)
I cannot speak highly enough of OpenX and its capabilities, which I have only just touched on here. It was a steep learning curve for me to get started and I still use a consultant to problem solve and get advice (I recommend Erik Guerts for this).
Here are some You Tube video’s that explain it some more: