Making money online can be hard, but it’s not a challenge that you need to face on your own. There are countless blogs out there — like John Chow dot Com — that offer useful advice on search engine optimization, maximizing your profits, and understanding the latest developments in the blogosphere. While blogs are great for this sort of thing, they’re not as good at developing a sense of community as a forum.
The BzImage Webmaster Forum addresses this rising need, offering a community of webmasters, internet marketers, and dot com moguls in the making that can help answer your questions. And you can answer their questions in return. In ordering this review, the team behind BzImage believes that “the members of JohnChow will benefit by joining our forum and posting with us to create the ultimate friendly webmaster forum!” That statement is telling of what you can expect to find within the BzImage Webmaster Forum.
Webmaster Forum Sections
The BzImage forums are broken up into several sections, each of which is further divided into few sub-forums. The idea is that these forums can encompass everything that a webmaster would want to know. The main sections in the webmaster forum are Search Engines, Marketing, Business, Tech & Gadget Forum, Design & Development, and BzImage News & Discussions.
Within these sections, you’ll find sub-forums for everything from Google and MSN to blogging and domain discussion. To get a sense of what sort of topics you should expect, here is a screenshot from the General Internet Business forum.
From what I can tell, BzImage is fairly comprehensive in scope. There is a marketplace for registered members only, where webmasters are able to buy and sell domains, logo design services, and so on. At the time this review was written, there were just over 2500 members and over 20,000 posts. That’ll probably grow a bit after this post gets published.
Making Money From a Forum
The best kind of income is passive income. The beauty of running a successful forum is that you don’t need to produce any of the content yourself; the forum members do this for you and they do so willingly. This is an ongoing source of traffic. All you have to do is assign some forum moderators and the site should run itself.
The BzImage webmaster forum is monetized through two sets of ads. Shown above are the four 125×125 button ads placed in the header. These are visible on every page. Along the right sidebar, there are three 250×250 square ads, but these are only visible on the main page.
By and large, these ads are not intrusive at all, ensuring a fairly good user experience. I know that there are other forums that embed ads right into member posts, so this is a much more subtle approach.
The Internet is International
That’s not to say that the forum posts are going to be completely ad-free! You have to realize that the vast majority of members are budding online entrepreneurs, just like you. They are just as motivated to promote their websites as you are, so user signatures can feel a little spammy. BzImage limits the signature to one image and three links.
Reading through a few random threads, you can tell that English is not the first language of many BzImage forum members. This can be pretty frustrating for some users (like me), while others are willing to overlook the errors. That’s up to you to decide.
Members are offered several opportunities to promote themselves. There are the aforementioned signature links, but I also found that the information underneath each username to be a bit much. Depending on the status of the member, they are able to display their avatar, mood, a link to their latest blog post, forum rank, iTrader rating, join date, post count, and rep power. It ends up feeling pretty cluttered.
On a side note, you’ll also notice that each thread can be rated. Other vBulletin-powered forums have this feature too, but BzImage is highlighting it quite a bit more.
The BZ Image of Webmaster-ing
What makes or breaks a forum are its members. If the forum has a large member base, active discussions, and thoughtful threads, people are willing to overlook design problems and a little bit of extra clutter. On the design front, the BzImage Webmaster Forum is nothing special, but the content can certainly be valuable to webmasters and other online entrepreneurs.