This site has a lot of visitors.

It has a small number of active users.

How can we convert some of those visitors into active users?

Here are the numbers from Area51

18,362 visits per day

currently 761 users with 200+ rep

currently 65 users with 2,000+ rep

currently 47 users with 3,000+ rep

But it's important to remember that these are not necessarily active users. The "top beta users" list on Area 51 includes people who haven't posted here in a while.

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    Any chance you might be able to put some statistics into this question? What are "a lot" and "a small number"? I know there are stats pages with this info, but it's not easy to pull that up from the mobile app; putting numbers in the question will probably help stimulate the discussion. – Dan Henderson Dec 16 '15 at 21:12
  • @DanHenderson That's a good idea. I've added some numbers from Area51. – user19912 Dec 17 '15 at 9:23

I became a semi-active user after seeing an interesting question on Hot Network Questions, for which I had an answer to offer. The 30-ish upvotes it got over the next couple of days were pretty exciting (to put that into perspective, I came from SharePoint.SE, which has the lowest vote-to-post ratio on the network, where I had been as active as I could possibly be for several months, but still hadn't broken 200 rep there), and encouraged me to continue participating here.

So one way to convert visitors into participants is to ask questions that visitors would want to answer. I'm not exactly sure how to formulate that, but equally important is to convert one-time participants into repeat participants, for which I do have a suggestion:

  • Keep an eye out for posts from new users
  • When you see good ones, upvote generously
  • On poor ones, hold off on giving them downvotes until after you've first made efforts to improve the post through comments/edits and given the new user ample opportunity to apply those suggestions
  • Generally be welcoming and encouraging.

From my perspective, all of this is already happening here, so I'm really more or less just saying, "Keep it up!"

Also, with this site being less technical than most of the network, I think it may be easier here than elsewhere to convert a question for a very specific situation into a more general form (e.g. Explainer badge), which can increase the applicability of that question for visitors; this might help with conversion, too.

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    Totally agreed! And from what I see, this site is really welcoming to newcomers. There's also a lot of help given to people who ask unclear or broad questions. – YviDe Dec 16 '15 at 16:17
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    Your personal experience is useful, as are your suggestions. I think that an extended implication is having more questions asked (fodder for people to write answers), which is something that the site has struggled with for years. – Acire Dec 16 '15 at 23:04
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    So maybe the crux of the matter is: how do we encourage visitors to ask more questions? – Dan Henderson Dec 17 '15 at 12:10
  • Or, how do you encourage answerers to ask questions as well? I'm as guilty of that as anyone - I post frequently but I don't contribute to the question pool. – Ieuan Stanley Jan 20 '16 at 15:42

I visit every once and a while, but have been turned off by answers from ordinary peoples gut feelings - rather than from experts.

This site has the same problem that fitness.stackexchange suffers from. Lots of people giving advice that works for them, but has no scientific backing.

As I see it, it is basically just another forum, not a real stack.exchange site.

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    So, encourage more sourcing, be more aggressive with adding a notice to posts that are more opinionated than referenced? It is tough to define "expertise" in parenting (I have a baby therefore I qualify as a parent!), and I definitely acknowledge this is a challenge for our site -- I'm just pondering ways to help counteract that. – Acire Dec 17 '15 at 14:17
  • I agree it is hard, if not impossible in many cases - but that is my main problem with this site - just as you said, that everybody thinks they are an expert just because they got knocked up. – Thorst Dec 18 '15 at 6:45
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    There is a lot of truth in this, however when compared to other online forums we have already got a much better signal to noise ratio, as we do shut down posts that are too opinionated. Maybe we just need to close them down even faster. We know this will always be a bit "fluffier" than other SE sites. – Rory Alsop Mod Dec 23 '15 at 9:12
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    This is a great answer. This site needs to balance "authoritative answers" & "being welcoming to new users", which is tricky. I see a lot of help from mods & users to shape questions & answers. Some qs are very easy to reference from eg UK NHS or US CDC or other national equivalents. But some qs are much softer, and open to interpretation. I guess we need a way to let askers know that they can specify research or opinion? – user19912 Dec 29 '15 at 11:27
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    Well, there is a middle ground between "gut feelings" (i.e., opinion) and "expertise" (i.e., research), that I've seen work well on RPG.SE - they generally allow personal experience-based answers, but they must be phrased appropriately to distinguish them from research or opinion, and they must not only describe what I did but also what were my results. I think we could incorporate that here - continue to discourage opinion/speculation/theory ("here's what I would do if I were you") answers, but support answers in the form of "here's what actually happened in my similar situation". – Dan Henderson Jan 20 '16 at 17:07

I don't have access to the Google Analytics site stats, but I would expect that a lot of the views on Parenting come from people searching the internet for answers to their questions, reading the answers on the question they find, and then leaving. That is actually a good sign - it means the site is helping people and that there is a lot of useful information on the site.

I also wouldn't say that there are few users. Questions on average get over 3 answers, usually within a day, and almost all questions have an answer.

Here is a community moderator's response to a similar question about user retention saying that the site is looking good: Do we have a problem with user retention?

There are few new questions, though, which may just be because a lot has been asked already. An idea to get an increase in question might be to have what other sites do - weekly or biweekly challenges where a tag or topic is picked and people ask questions they have about the topic.

This has been tried on the site before - from my outsider perspective, it wasn't that much of a success, you can read about it here on Meta. That wasn't focused on specific topics, though.

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    Going just by the Area 51 stats for Parenting, we have ~18k visitors a day. (That's way more visitors than questions, answers, or comments, incidentally.) So yes, I think many views/visitors come from Google searches (rather than, say, Hot Network Questions or word of mouth). – Acire Dec 16 '15 at 23:08
  • But this seems to mean that the site will be stuck in perpetual beta. It has very many visitors, but not enough active users (not sure of correct jargon here) to tip into non-beta site. And the question you link to makes the point that there appears to be a slow "churn" of active users. So some people, who had expert knowledge, no longer post here. – user19912 Dec 29 '15 at 11:16
  • About answer ratio: Area51 says "3.5", which is good. But if I go to questions, and order them by new, I see only 38 questions with 3 or more answers in the first 10 pages (150 questions). (Although XMas may have distorted this!). – user19912 Dec 29 '15 at 11:23
  • After four years, I think it's normal to lose contributors. On the answer ratio: there is no need to have such a high ratio - many other sites have something under 2 there because as soon as a question has an answer there's no need for 3 more saying the same thing. I was just using it to show that there are people answering. I'm not saying everything is great, but I think the problem is more with too few new questions, and not too few active people answering. – YviDe Dec 30 '15 at 9:09

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