We have found the best users—those who we can count on to register and contribute in meaningful ways later on—are often funneled into the forum from the parent site. At least, that’s how they discover the forum for the first time.
In a typical example, most visitors in a given day come in via Google and other search engines. A small percentage of these users register, but most bounce. They’re in search mode; not contribution mode. It is very difficult to convert this type of visitor into a contributor.
Another cohort of users—most often users with existing forum accounts—enter the forum via a direct link. E.g., they have the forum’s URL bookmarked in their browser, they’re prompted by an email alert, or they enter the URL directly.
Finally, a third significant set of users enter the forum from the main site. It is this third group that is especially interesting because these users are likely candidates to become contributors.
We can think of several reasons why this is true:
- The user already trusts the site and knows the brand.
- The user is fascinated by the subject matter and wants to engage with like-minded individuals.
- The user browsing for entertainment (as opposed to actively searching).
- The user has a question about the subject.
- The user has knowledge to share about the subject.
- The user wants to share an accomplishment.
While users that land on the forum via Google (who are most likely to bounce without registering or posting) meet the fourth criteria listed above—that is, they have a question about the subject—they often do not have enough trust, spare time, or fascination to compel them to participate.
Users who are already browsing your main site don’t suffer from these same limitations. They have a different same mindset. For this reason, we recommend directing visitors from your main site to your forum because, once the hit the forum, they are likely to participate.