Earlier this week, we asked ‘Why’ five times in a row to understand why the bounce rate is high on a forum. We concluded that highly personalized and accurate advice is hard to come by because people with the expertise necessary to answer certain questions are rare. Furthermore, users with questions often require an answer customized to their unique circumstances. This makes sense. If the knowledge needed was readily available or widely understood, it is unlikely the user would have a question about the topic in the first place.
So how does this insight help us solve the high bounce rate problem? Well, it could be that users find what they’re looking for and bounce right away. Or, more likely, they don’t find what they need but they don’t have enough confidence that posting a new thread or follow up question will garner a better response.
We need to do more to instill confidence in the user their question will be answered accurately and in a timely fashion. Specifically, we think that by (1) showing related threads; (2) encouraging users to “ask our experts” and (3) showing the average response time for getting a reply, we can lower the bounce rate and instigate more activity on the forum. These steps should help us overcome shyness and/or lack of confidence and, in turn, lower the bounce rate.
One reason popular forums have high bounce rates is because they draw in so many users from Google. We theorize that many users who land on a forum after a Google search leave the forum without clicking around because they’re in a narrow-minded “search mode” instead of a relaxed, open-minded “browse mode.”
Put another way, “searchers” are looking for something specific. Whether they find what they’re looking for or not, they’re likely to bounce quickly. By contrast, “browsers” are seeking entertainment and they’re more likely to stick around if anything at all tickles their fancy.
Although it is extraordinarily challenging to convert someone from “search mode” to “browse mode”, we propose the following techniques to lower the bounce rate on your forum:
- Show related threads at the footer of the page or in the sidebar.
- Encourage the user to search the forum if he or she did not find what they were looking for.
- Make the site impossibly easy to navigate so the user is enticed to view more content.
- Invite user to join the forum and explain member benefits.
- Display photos recently uploaded to the community photo gallery.
- Limit content visibility and require user to log in to view additional content.
- Include a “before you go…” popover before the user exits the page.
- Use a Hello Bar or WOAHbar to appeal directly to the user and ask him or her to stay longer. Employ cookies to craft specific messages just for the user.
We’ve noticed that forum bounce rates are particularly high for users on mobile devices. This makes sense because users are already low on patience thanks to the small screen, longer load time, and other obstacles wrought by mobile computing. We don’t have a good solution for this scenario. At least not yet.
However, we think the best way to get a “searcher” to stick around (no matter what device they’re on) is to show related content. Proving your forum has high quality content is a great way to introduce the user to the breadth and depth of the knowledge your community has to offer.