oh yeah I know that it'll start slowing down, and I'm more or less prepared for that to happen. Slow and steady wins the race :)
My current goal is to generate the type of numbers that'll get me some more mainstream coverage. I think 100K-200K visits a month, should at least get me some mentions here and there. Which will in turn drive traffic to the site, but most important will boost my link juice and will rank my questions higher in search results.
I wished I had some rabbit in my hat that I could pop out to give you a boost but the 'match' between what you're doing and what I'm doing is pretty slim.
What I've found about media over the years is that it works wonders but only for the moment, it is very hard to translate that in to longer term sustainable traffic.
The way you are going about it right now is very close to the optimum, with more coverage you'd reach some more people quickly but you'd also risk killing the atmosphere that you have right now.
100k to 200k visits / month looks like an achievable goal to me, but you'll have to determine how many people you think that translates in to. You could be looking at a 'hard core' of between 3 and 6 k visitors that comes back every day all the way to 3 and 6 k visitors / day that will never come back.
The first is obviously the one to go for, so visits / month is a bad metric to optimize for.
The numbers from analytics that have the most importance for you at this stage imo would be 'time on site', 'bounce rate' and 'recency'.
Those are hard to get under control but that's where the real pay-off will be. As you increase time on site and decrease bounce rate you are increasing stickyness, which in turn should lead to people re-visiting.
Bounce rate is mostly landing page optimization as well as making sure that you're found for the right kind of stuff, as well as linked in a way that creates an expectation in the mind of the person that clicks that matches the impression your site gives when it first presents itself.
Otherwise that link is a wasted one, not that it would be better without, but the text of the link could have selected people more likely to convert in to repeat visitors.
Time-on-site is another measure of how well you are doing in this respect, a 'bounce' is just the shortest way of being on your site, increasing time on site shows that people found what they were looking for and will dig deeper to find more.
Don't worry about it, you've given me a ton of help already.
For me media, is mostly link juice. Q&A sites are very content oriented, so the more link juice I have, the more traffic I can get. Even if I get a jump by one search engine results position, it'll equal thousands of people long term.
Yeah I'm focusing on uniques too, right now with 35K visits, I had 28K uniques.(I just use visits since it's a a bigger number hehe). My return/recency rate seems to be about about 22%, which isn't that bad since people who come through Google tend to have a horrible bounce rate, so they screw up the results.
I'm not sure I can use time on site and bounce rate to track progress. The Google people tend to throw numbers off. Since most people who come through there, are only on the site to find the answer(don't really care where they get their answer). So when they find it, they just close the page and move on.
+ I think my current design is too polarizing, it's about 50/50, half the people love it, and the other half think it sucks. So I'm probably losing a lot of people on that one aspect alone. So a more streamlined web design should help improve the bounce rate big time.
Yeah A/B testing is good. I'm doing that right now for ads to see what type/positioning converts best for me.
Yeah I use the Stack Exchange platform, but it's heavily modified. At this point I have something like 4,000 lines worth of modifications.
I kinda agree with the design, the users they are kinda split 50/50. Fashion people like it, techies hate it. The current design was more or less hacked together due to user feedback, which is why it looks like it was designed by a committee.
So my next version will be a lot more universal. It'll still have a fashion feel, but it won't send regular people running for the door :)
10-20 clicks a month(and that's what those signature links tend to get you) is not worth it. My time is better utilized on SEO.
Because with SEO it's a linear increase, every month you get slightly more visitors. With forums, you hit your peak right away. And that 10 new users are no different than the 500-550 a day I get from Google.