How to satisfy and convert online community visitors

by Martin Reed on 14 May 2008 in Articles

Convert visitors to online communities

Online communities need a steady stream of new members if they are to thrive. Whilst close-knit communities can be successful with just a small number of dedicated, passionate members, if you really want to take your community to the next level you will need to attract new members. This article will show you an effective way of converting visitors into members by offering them exactly what they are looking for.

Online communities need site analytics

If you don’t have comprehensive information about your traffic, you are at a severe disadvantage. For online communities to be successful, they need to cater to the needs of their visitors and members. If you don’t know how people are interacting with your site, you will not really know how to make it more effective at attracting and retaining members.

There really is no excuse not to have a thorough understanding of how visitors use your site. Google Analytics is absolutely free. If you don’t have it installed, go do it now.

How to use Google Analytics to convert visitors into members

A hugely powerful part of Google Analytics is the ability to really drill down into the search terms that people are using to find your site. Once you have logged in, chose a date range depending on the traffic your site receives; if you receive very little traffic at present, select the past 60 or 90 days as your date range. If you receive a lot of traffic, select the past 14 days or the past month.

*Site analytics are a key element of your competitive advantage and should never be shared. Consequently, I have hidden such sensitive information from the screenshots below.*

For this article I’ll be checking out the stats for Just Chat – the site receives around 10,000 visitors per day, so I’ll choose the past month as the reporting period:

Analytics improve online communities

Once you have selected the time period, scroll to the bottom of the page and click the ‘view report’ link under ‘Traffic Sources Overview’:

Analytics improve online communities

Next, scroll down to ‘Top Traffic Sources’ and click ‘view full report’:

Analytics improve online communities

Again, scroll down to the bottom of the page and extend the number of rows to be displayed to the maximum setting:

Analytics improve online communities

Now you have a list of all the keywords people have found your site with, along with information on what the visitor did when they got to your site. Because you are looking to cater to the visitors that came to your site but didn’t find what they were looking for, you want to sort the keywords by ‘Bounce Rate’ – so click on the ‘Bounce Rate’ link to sort by this category.

You will then be presented with a list of keywords that people used to find your site but then left – probably because they didn’t find what they were looking for. The bounce rate refers to the number of people that left your site without viewing any additional pages. Of course, it could be the case that the information on that one page was so good, they didn’t need to explore your site any further. Remember though, you are developing an online community – you want to encourage pageviews so visitors can build a relationship with your site and its members.

Now you can scroll down the list and see what keywords people used to find your site but then left because you weren’t catering to their needs. Keywords that only sent one visitor are probably not worth worrying about – you want to scroll down and look for keywords that sent some decent traffic your way, but still had a high bounce rate.

For Just Chat, some interesting results I found were:

“bank error in your favour” – 10 visits – 100% bounce rate
“boris johnstone” – 18 visits – 100% bounce rate
“ideal measurements” – 13 visits – 100% bounce rate
“live footy doctor” – 51 visits – 94.12% bounce rate
“hunks for you” – 22 visits – 90.91% bounce rate
“soap spoilers” – 104 visits – 69.23% bounce rate

Of course, this information only tells me what keywords people have used to find my site – it doesn’t tell me what those that haven’t yet found my site want. However, using the six random examples above I can now create content so that next time such visitors arrive, they will be more inclined to spend more time at the site. Just from those six examples, I lost 218 potential new members.

Perhaps I need to start up more conversations or threads about Boris Johnson. Perhaps I need to write some TV soap spoilers or write about banking errors. Either way, the more I target those visitors that are arriving at the site but leaving, the stickier my community will become, and the more effective it will be at converting visitors into members.


Analysing your bounce rate can offer you a whole heap of information about your visitors and the effectiveness of your site – in this article I’ve only scratched the surface of what can be achieved. If you haven’t installed Google Analytics yet, I hope this article has convinced you to go and get it!

Your thoughts

Do you use Google Analytics or similar software to learn about your visitors? What do think is the most important information such software provides? Have your traffic stats ever completely surprised you and resulted in you transforming part of your site? Share your thoughts and experiences by leaving a comment below.

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Mr Woc May 15, 2008 at 12:37 am

Hi there

I dont use google analytics, i find it very hard to understand, i have always used statscounter, which is very easy to use, its very important to keep stats of your site though, so i agree if you dont have something like google analytics, you should install something now!

The information i look at the most are the keyword traffic, and statscounter provides excellent reporting of that. over time you will discover trends in your stats, which can help you to gain more visitors to your site, so its a very important part of running a website. althought it does feel like ur playing championship manager going thru loads of stats lol.


Gerard May 15, 2008 at 12:46 pm

Actually, Martin, I take the opposite postion – if people are finding your forum for a particular set of keywords, then you’re already doing fine on that score. I suggest doing a little thinking or keywords research for related phrases or topics instead. That means you diversify the amount of topics on your forum and potentially attract a wider range of readers.

That, and I’m thinking strongly about performing better SEO on forum templates and possibly usability enhancements to encourage non-members to sign up when they reach the bottom of a post.

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 15, 2008 at 4:34 pm

Mr Woc – I would definitely recommend you take the time to use Google Analytics; sure, it looks a little complicated at first, but it’s pretty intuitive once you have a play around with it.

Gerard – You make a good point, and one I was expecting someone to comment on. However, the fact is you aren’t doing fine if people are using specific keywords to find your site then leaving as soon as they arrive. The technique I have outlined allows you to ensure you cater to the specific needs of these visitors that you aren’t satisfying.

Sure, keyword research is a good idea as it helps you attract a more diverse audience, but your time would probably be better spent converting the visitors that are getting to your site, but leaving because you aren’t offering them what they are looking for.

Online Furniture Store May 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm

Interesting post, i had no idea how Google analytics could be used, so that was very informative for me.

Smiley May 15, 2008 at 5:46 pm

I agree wholeheartedly with Martin, Mr Wov. Even if it’s not Google analytics; I use Matrixstats instead for example which is much easier to use but basically does the same function.

I know where my visitors are coming from, I know what they are typing in search engines to find me, I know what URL’s people are being referred from the most etc.

I also agree about targeted keywording. It’s no point having loads and loads of people find your site through different keywords.. if your site doesn’t match those keywords that people are looking for.

Tricking them into going to your site isn’t going to make them stay. It’d more than likely irritate them, I know it would me.

I make sure my keywords match my site exactly. Only people who are literally looking for “friendly chat rooms without having to register with no perverts allowed” come across my site. They get what’s on the tin because of targeted keywording, and I keep a close eye on these keywords via Matrixstats – which I’ve explained basically does the same as Google Analytics.


Don’t be alarmed by the number leaving on the first page — I’ve made it so the client launches from the main page. People tend to launch then go and search other pages or go off to the forums or browse the net while chatting;

Top phrases used in search engines to find the site;

Top referrers;

Session breakdown;

So you see, it doesn’t need to be as complicated as Google Analytics. But I believe you should have something similar to keep a close eye on your site’s stats and find out just who your customers are, and where they’re coming from. That way you can fine tune your targeting and reel more of the same desired people in!

Amish Made Furniture May 16, 2008 at 4:14 pm

When there are options, one tends to use what one is most comfortable with. The point that Martin makes however is, valid. You have to constantly monitor your visitors and try and convert as many of them as possible to be part of your permanent community.

last minute reise May 17, 2008 at 9:11 am

In my thinking I want to do a little thinking or keywords research for related phrases or topics instead. That means the diversify the amount of topics on the forum and potentially attract a wider range of readers and will incraese.

zohai May 20, 2008 at 5:25 pm

Thanks for the quick brief starter course on Google Analytic =) Guess it needs lots of dedication for a site to work =D

Online Furniture Store May 20, 2008 at 5:37 pm

Not only was the post informative, so were the comments. Thanks Smiley for your input, I always enjoy reading the comments which are your contribution to the discussion.

Nicole Price May 22, 2008 at 7:52 am

Anyone not observing his site statistics and traffic sources is missing out on really important information.

Dean May 23, 2008 at 12:18 am

Google analytics is by far the best web traffic program I have come across and it is easy to learn, having a good web traffic program and keeping a close eye on it is a key to learning about how to improve your site and its potential.

josiah May 23, 2008 at 2:44 pm

I tried Google A first, but then I switched to Statcounter. It was hard for me to figure out Google A, while Statcounter gave me more details, mainly about keywords. And I simply love live stats system!

Martin Reed - Blog Author May 25, 2008 at 4:06 pm

Reena – I have only given you one way of using Google Analytics to your advantage, but there are many other ways it can be used. Have you installed it yet?

Smiley – It’s great that you are paying attention to your traffic stats but Matrixstats really does look basic compared to Google Analytics. Have you tried giving it a test run on your site? I think you would be impressed, and I guarantee you’ll learn new things about how visitors interact with your website.

Ramana – Sometimes you have to get outside your comfort zone if you want to achieve success!

Last minute – Keyword research is definitely a constructive way of spending your time, however I still think it is better to spend time converting visitors that are already arriving at your site than attracting new ones that are likely to leave as soon as they arrive.

Zohai – Hmm, not sure about dedication; I would say you need to have a good play around with Google Analytics to get the best out of it. Time well spent though, I would say.

Nicole – I couldn’t agree more.

Dean – I agree with you; I don’t think Google Analytics is particularly hard to learn, it’s just people get overwhelmed with the amount of information it can provide, which can be a little intimidating!

Josiah – I would be amazed if Statcounter provides you with more information on keywords than Google Analytics does. Why do you need a live stats system, anyway? Are you receiving millions of visits per day?

Design May 28, 2008 at 10:27 pm

Google’s Analytics are a bit slow.. and fewer people are starting to use it. The system’s main flaw is the slow updating of the traffic statistics (in 24 hours). I think sitemeter is a lot more useful.

Smiley May 29, 2008 at 10:50 pm

Ah go on then. You’ve always been right in the past, I’d be silly not to take your advice huh??

I’ll give it a gander!

Nicole Price May 31, 2008 at 6:24 am

I tried using the analytics software like you mentioned. I had only been using the basic functionality. The advanced stuff you mentioned has been really useful.

Chat June 3, 2008 at 12:29 am

Martin thanks for the analytics overview. Although I do use analytics occasionally your information was useful. Analytics is a very powerful tool!

Martin Reed - Blog Author June 3, 2008 at 6:19 pm

Design – You’re not the first person to say that. I am surprised that having access to real-time statistics is so important to some people. I certainly don’t see a need for it on any of my sites. I just don’t see real-time stats as a requirement unless you are receiving hundreds of thousands of visitors per day.

Smiley – Let me know how you get on!

Nicole – That’s the beauty of Google Analytics; it offers all the basic information, but if you have a play around you’ll realise just how much detail and valuable information it can provide.

Cody – Glad you agree!

Jeremy November 12, 2008 at 6:57 am

I’ve been using Google Analytics on my sites for the last few years. I’ve always kind of struggled to find creative ways to use it. I really appreciate your articles, and the tips they provide.

One feature I’ve had GREAT luck with is the content drilldown – specifically your ability to track downloads and clicks people make to certain graphics, etc. on your site ( by adding a line of code to your ‘a’ tags )

To those who find Google Analytics a little too much info, check out W3 counter. There is a small fee, but the live, quick, and easy Recent Referrers menu is a great way to see how people are finding your website. I use both on my site!

Martin Reed - Blog Author November 17, 2008 at 8:24 pm

Jeremy – Thanks for the tip; I haven’t really explored that feature of Google Analytics yet. That’s the great thing about it – you can use it for hours each day and still find new ways of getting information on how visitors are interacting with your site.