The bounce rate is one metric that can be used to analyze what is happening on your forum. It is defined as the percentage of visits to a single page on your site and they leave your site from that page without clicking on another link – they only see one page and leave.
You can get your bounce rate from your web analytics program. In Google Analytic’s, you can sort your top landing pages by bounce rate to see which pages contribute the most to your bounce rate. What is a good bounce rate? There probably isn’t one. It can vary from 25% to 75%. Obviously a lower rate is desirable as this means that visitors are engaging more with your site.
A high bounce rate is not necessarily bad: Think of this scenario: You have a problem with your computer; you type the error message into Google; you click on one of the search results; the site is a forum thread discussing the problem you have; in that thread is the solution; you try the solution and it works, so you leave the site. Your visit to that site would have been considered a bounce, yet the site was very helpful to you. You would have been exposed to the advertisements on the site; you may have clicked on a pay-per-click advertisement. Even though you only visited the one page, your visit could still have been monetized by the forum owner. So a high bounce rate may not be all that bad.
However, a lower rate is desirable as that means you have got the visitor engaged with your site and they more likely to convert to a member. How can you improve a forums bounce rate:
- Treat each thread like a baby. When a new visitor arrives, you want to impress them. Its all about the content.
- Delete any old threads that are no longer useful and have no useful information in them.
- Have very clear navigation around the site on each page. The top and bottom navigation bar, and even a side navigation bar must make it easy to find key parts of the site (eg site search; the tags; the table of contents; the registration page). If they are looking for something, make it easy for them to find it.
- Use strategies like have a moderator post early in a new thread with a post that has links to “Related Threads” and activate related threads function in your software. This way, if the thread is not quite what they are looking for, they can navigate to something that may be what they are looking for.
Keep an eye on the bounce rate as part of the analysis of your metrics; look what pages have the highest bounce rate; implement strategies to lower it; try and work out why the rate is high (and if that is even a problem).