Interaction is the key ingredient of any community website. When your forum is young, it can be hard to determine just what gets your members talking, therefore it is important that you keep an eye on your traffic statistics to understand what forum threads and posts your members like and make more of them!
Use Google Analytics to improve your forum
Google Analytics is a fantastic service that gives you a huge amount of information about your site traffic, and what is more it’s completely free. In this article, I will be talking about a specific feature of Google Analytics – namely the ‘Top Content’ section of the analytics package.
By using the ‘Top Content’ section of Google Analytics, you can determine what threads and sections of your forum are the most popular. Once you have this information, you can ensure that you post more threads on similar topics – indeed, on the flip-side you can reduce the number of threads you are posting on subjects which are proving to be less popular.
Using the Google Analytics ‘Top Content’ feature
To identify the most popular sections of your forum, simply log into your Google Analytics account and click the ‘Content’ link on the left hand menu. This will then expand, allowing you to click the ‘Top Content’ link.
Screenshot showing Google Analytics ‘Top Content’ feature (click to enlarge)
For this example I have used my online television community, Soap Forum. As you can see from the screenshot above, once you click on the link you are immediately shown a list of the most popular pages of your website according to page views. Now, you need to be careful when using this feature as there will often be a bias in favour of older pages on your site – an older page has had more time in which to collect views compared to a brand new thread or section.
To counter this, you can view the top content by a variety of criteria – namely by the time spent on the page, the bounce rate and the number of people that exited after viewing the page or pay attention to specific date ranges.
If you prefer, you can view the information in a pie chart:
Screenshot showing Google Analytics ‘Top Content’ pie chart (click to enlarge)
To order the list by different criteria, you can simply use the drop down menu:
Screenshot showing Google Analytics ‘Top Content’ criteria (click to enlarge)
As you can see from the screenshots, the five most popular pages in terms of page visits for Soap Forum are:
From this information, I can determine that the most popular soaps for my current membership base are Coronation Street, Hollyoaks and EastEnders. Therefore, these should be the areas I should focus on when creating new content. To find the most popular posts, I simply look deeper down the results for the URLs that contain links to actual posts rather than forums.
The top five threads for the date range 5 December 2007 – 4 January 2008 were:
Now I can see what type of posts (or at least thread titles) attract the most interest, and ensure I encourage – or create – more threads of a similar nature.
Google Analytics is a fantastic tool that everyone should consider installing on their website. If you think traffic statistics tell you little about your members and what they want, you are mistaken – this article has proved that a little delving within your traffic stats can teach you about the tastes and demands of your members.
By taking the time to investigate your traffic logs, you can continue to improve your website and offer the content that is in most demand from your members.
Do you use your traffic stats to identify popular forum posts and threads? Do you even consult your traffic statistics? Have you found anything from analysing your traffic that surprised you or made you change your site design or content? Share your thoughts and opinions by leaving a comment below.