Love the site. Great design!
I only ask about sessions vs pageviews because a lot of people get them confused.
Pageviews usually drop because of modernization of platforms and subtle changes such as increasing topics/comments per page. What use to take 3 clicks now take only 1, etc. Yes, small changes can have huge outcomes (negative/positive) on sessions and pageviews.
Mobile is another biggie. The more growth you have in mobile the more likely you will see a decrease in overall pageviews and/or sessions.
With your mobile numbers so low there may be something else going on. What are your demographics (age)?
Our mobile growth is currently at 60% (sessions) / 55% (pageviews).
By the way, your topic list pages does not look good on mobile. Content wider than screen. https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/mobile-friendly/?url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.wallstreetoasis.com%2Fforum%2Ftrading
Google does not hate forums. It never has.
A few things are happening...
Google is getting really good at finding "quality" topics. A quality topics isn't just a 1,000 word topic. It's whatever people react to... A 200 character post, an image, a video, downloadable files, etc. Whatever people like ... share ... comment ... revisit, etc .... over and over again.
Google wants to make sure that their users are satisfied with their search results. They will show the most relevant, popular, local, etc topics first. (Focus on FRESH hot topics. Get traffic to these pages. Share on social, email, etc.)
Your organic search visitors are not getting what they want and leave quickly (bounce). This is an important signal to Google nowadays. They will rank pages lower as this continues. (This could be thin content but most likely it's user intent. Google got it wrong. But, they are getting really good at it nowadays.)
Google previously showed a lot of duplicate "junk". I'm not talking about the same topics ... I'm referring to different URLs pointing to the same topic but appearing on Google. Poof. All gone now. This was years ago but some people fail to make a connection (or forgot about it).
Anyway, all of these changes plus some have decreased traffic to many sites.
Oh, don't forget that there's more competition these days. This means Google has more content to rank which may rank better than yours. So, you need to work harder!
So, how do we help Google find "quality" pages on your site.
For starters, I think you are doing a good job. Increasing internal links to topics is very important and you are doing a good job here. I even found them in profile pages which is great.
Increase internal links wherever possible. More links to a page tells Google that the page is important to you. (regardless if it's a thin or auto generated page) .... Check Search Console > Internal Links and find the most linked to pages. If you find that these pages are not getting that much traffic than you need to fix it. (eg. Sites usually have highest # of links to Terms, Privacy, Register, etc ... change this so that the hottest/popular topics are always on top - revolving)
Check Google Search Console (aka Webmaster Tools)...
Look into Crawl Errors, Crawl Stats, Index Status, Search Anlaytics, Links to Your Site (maybe disavow a few sites), Internal Links, etc.
Pay close attention to Index Status. This should be growing but it can drop. If you delete or NOINDEX you will see a drop here.
Be really careful because you can do more harm than good.
NOINDEX is good because shared links to these pages within and outside of the site will still work.
You are not gaining anything by deleting pages. Once it's gone it's gone. Manual deletes are ok but stay away from mass deleting.
As you know, topics in forums move quickly. Sometimes a great topic ends up with no views or comments because it was just a busy day in the forums.
If you are going to flag thin pages I recommend looking at some or all of the following:
- 3+ years old only
- no views
- no comments
- less than 300 words ?
- RSS generated content (from outside sources posted on your site)?
My approach to SEO is to learn everything that you want to learn, make corrections, but let Google do it's thing. Don't focus too much on Google. As long as you have the basics covered you will be ok.
DON'T FORGET THAT THIS IS A FORUM that we are talking about. Content is user generated. You can only do so much.
With that said, I recommend creating more in-house articles/images/videos/files/etc. After posting, let 1 day pass then share on social media ... another day past, share in newsletter.
Focus on improving ALL your traffic channels...
- Organic search
- Social (Use it to direct traffic to site)
- Newsletter / Email
- Conferences / Events ??
- Mobile apps
- External pages (sister sites)
Your facebook page is a big FAIL. (Almost) every post is linking to a 3rd party. Take this opportunity to direct readers to your site. Mix it up with images and throw in some 3rd-party links every 10+ posts. Grow your followers/likes.
This isn't EVERYTHING but I hope it helps.
(Never thought about merging topics. I think it's a great idea!)