While we daily develop and offer support for our add-ons, we get in contact with a lot of people. In the following, our customer Vanessa Law shares her experiences using Advanced Ads for her websites. She recently reached out to us just to tell us how useful Advanced Ads is for her. The warm and thankful message made us curious, and we are happy that she was willing to answer some questions we sent her.

The interview with Vanessa gives insights into how she faces the challenges in growing and monetizing her platforms for the transgender community, with around 100,000 monthly visitors and 45,000 registered users. In our opinion, Vanessa’s approaches are a great example of how to balance the interests of their visitors while running a sustainable business.

“It’s one of the highest quality plugins I used (and I use a LOT), thank you, thank you, thank you!”

Vanessa Law in her first email to us

Interview with Vanessa Law

Vanessa, please introduce yourself and tell us more about the topic of your websites.

Hi Thomas, thanks for the opportunity to share a little more about myself and the online communities I founded, Crossdresser Heaven and Transgender Heaven.

My name is Vanessa Law, and we started more than 12 years ago with a mission to create a safe, welcoming, and supportive place for everyone in the transgender community. At the time, most references online to crossdressers or transgender people had primarily negative connotations, and we wanted to provide a space where the breadth of diversity and depth of humanity within the community could be celebrated. Members of the community can, at times, find themselves isolated from friends and family, and we felt it was important to offer opportunities for people to build friendships and connect with others who were walking a similar journey.

What are the primary purposes you use Advanced Ads for?

Initially, we were looking for a way to more easily display AdSense ads within the site. We were manually inserting ads and updating template files in WordPress, which quickly became error-prone, and was difficult to maintain or update as new formats became available.

Advanced Ads allowed us to easily expand the surfaces to which we were able to show ads on. We first blended ads in a seamless way within the archives pages and updated all header ads to be responsive using the capabilities within Advanced Ads. We also used the intelligent in-article ad features to ensure a good balance between article text and ads.

Crossdresserheaven.com is a good example for a monetized community website
Crossdresserheaven.com, a monetized community website

As a community, we rely on bbPress and BuddyPress to offer features within the community, and by using Advanced Ads we were able to insert ads into the Forums and Activity Streams. As we’ve grown the functionality of the sites, it also became important to customize which ads we showed by custom page type and custom page archive to better fit with the design of the site. The customization features available in Advanced Ads have been a godsend in this regard.

Both Crossdresser Heaven and Transgender Heaven are membership websites, and we wanted to offer a tier of membership that was completely ad-free. At first, we used the capabilities feature within Advanced Ads and assigned capabilities to WordPress roles, but recently Advanced Ads rolled out support to selectively display ads by role, which has made this even easier to achieve.

In addition to Adsense, we also offer first-party advertising opportunities. The transgender community is a tight-knit one, and we’ve been fortunate to have loyal sponsors support us through the years. The duplicate feature has made it easy to support multiple ad creatives for a sponsor, and the expire feature has saved us time in managing ad inventory as we’ve grown the number of sponsors.

A portion of our ad inventory consists of house ads to draw awareness to different features of the site, as well as to let the community of one site know about the other website we run. We recently used house ads to selectively offer certain paid functionality on the website to free members. The ability to show ads on certain days of the week was important here, and we ended up not only using it for the house ad promotions, but embedded entire site features within an ad to make use of this functionality. While I don’t recommend using Advanced Ads in quite this way, it is possible. 🙂

What types of ads do you embed mainly on your site?

We primarily use AdSense and image ads. We tried working with a DoubleClick Ads Partner, Monumetric, but the revenue from their service ended up being far lower than AdSense, so we switched back.

Are there differences in the ads displayed on transgenderheaven.com and crossdresserheaven.com?

Given the slightly different demographics, we find a difference in which advertisers are interested in advertising directly on each site. Otherwise, we try to maintain similar placements and ad sizes to ensure a consistent look and feel across the two sites. We have some direct advertisers who advertise across both sites. This makes ad sales and management easier.

“As a community, we rely on bbPress and BuddyPress to offer features within the community, and by using Advanced Ads we were able to insert ads into the Forums and Activity Streams.”

Vanessa Law on Advanced Ads’ built-in placements for bbPress and BuddyPress

Your website is a place for the transgender community. It allows users to create accounts and interact with each other online. As a social network, it offers different or additional content and functions for registered users. What does this mean for your website advertising, and how did Advanced Ads help here?

We offer a premium tier of membership that removes ads from the website. This is quite easy to do with Advanced Ads and gives us another benefit we can offer to our most loyal members.

We have explored targeting by member tier, such as selectively showing upgrade prompts to certain WordPress roles, but we haven’t invested deeply in this yet.

Transgender Heaven is an example for the monetization of community websites
transgenderheaven.com is a website for the transgender community that features news, media, articles and a membership area with chat, groups, and forums

If you are using AdSense: there are cases known, when AdSense denied verifying a website because their algorithm suspected adult content on it. Some topics on your website could be identified as edge cases. Did you experience limitations by AdSense, and how do you deal with those?

This is a bit of a sore spot with us. 🙂

While we have strict moderation policies and ensure our content is family-friendly, we often find content that is incorrectly flagged by Google as adult content. Every few months, we go through and contest each page ban with an explanation on how we support the transgender community and that we do not host adult content. This is successful about half the time. Every time a page review request is rejected, it inspires us to redouble our efforts to find direct advertisers who support the transgender community.

You mentioned that you are also selling ads directly. I can imagine that not every publisher is comfortable, reaching out directly to advertisers. How do you approach this, and what would you suggest publishers who get started selling ads directly?

Our direct advertising approach is centered around partnering closely with businesses that strongly support the transgender community. We’ve been fortunate to find a few great partners. Even if we could make slightly higher revenue by courting larger companies, the ability to support advertisers within the transgender community is an important aspect of the service we provide to the larger community.

“We’ve even had a few users mention how pleased they are with the overall ad experience, and have many who disable their ad blocker to help support the community, for which we are very grateful.”

Vanessa Law about the benefits of balancing the amount of ads reasonably

It also depends on the topic of the website, but if done too obtrusive, displaying ads might diminish the user experience. Your community website lets people share their experiences and opinions on their individual concerns and wellbeing. How is your experience regarding the acceptance of advertising on your website and within your community?

We’ve tried hard to balance the user experience with the number and type of ads we show. We chose early on not to use pop-up or sticky ads because we found this compromised the overall experience. We are also careful about how often ads show in an article, archive page, forum thread, or BuddyPress feed. We’ve even had a few users mention how pleased they are with the overall ad experience, and have many who disable their ad blocker to help support the community, for which we are very grateful.

We are also aware of the high-performance cost of showing ads on a website, as they often download MBs of javascript and images. We limit the number of AdSense ads on any page, and our home page does not contain any third-party ads to help optimize the performance of page load. My dream one day is to show no AdSense ads on any of our pages, but for now, they help pay the bills.

How to monetize a community website, example: Crossdresser Heaven
crossdresserheaven.com featuring a directly-sold banner on the home page

Do you have other advice for people who plan to make revenue out of displaying ads?

Firstly, use Advanced Ads. 🙂

We’ve saved so much time using Advanced Ads that it has already paid for itself many times over. There are few plugins with such high quality and consistent pace of updates.

Second, as much as you can diversify your revenue streams. Work with affiliate partners, multiple ad networks (if you can), as well as direct advertisers. This will make you less vulnerable to the whims of AdSense or dependent on any single direct advertiser.

Lastly, focus on the service that you are offering to your users. It’s often easy to spend all your time optimizing ads since you can see direct revenue impact through your changes. Yet most times a 10% increase in traffic is more valuable and sustainable long term than a 10% increase in ad revenue.

Dear Vanessa, thank you very much for your kind answers. We wish you and the community all the best.

Thomas, thank you for the opportunity to be interviewed and featured on your website. I truly appreciate the hard work you and your team do to make using ads on WordPress a delight.


Features and services mentioned in the interview

As Vanessa’s story shows, advertising on a website can be combined with the interests of your visitors. Meaningful ad content can be more successful than a vast amount of unrelatable ads crowding up your website. Working with long term advertising partners can be a reliable and profitable source of revenue and ad networks can help you to fill unused space.

Advanced Ads helps to set up complex ad setups with features like Display and Visitor Conditions. By tailoring your ads and filtering them according to certain specifications, you can make the ads more relevant for your visitors. This enhances the user experience and finally makes your website more interesting for first and also third-party advertisers.

For her community websites, Vanessa Law integrates many features and functionalities of Advanced Ads. Some of them are:

Stories from our Users

Our story category features interviews with customers and users of Advanced Ads. Their comments and experiences on ad monetizing should inspire and help you get started with or improve your income from displaying advertisements on your website.

Do you want to share your story, too? Just drop us a line through our support page.