In March, we switched to XenForo from PHPBB on a complete impulse. Here are the numbers from 2014.
For this time, we required accounts to view attachments. I also had a small 300x250 ad on the Index page that only guests would see. This was my nagging to get people to register. At the very end of January, a massive event relevant to our site took place that jumped us from about 1350 signs to 1850 on our biggest day.
I got a lot of complaints on other websites about logging in to see attachments and as a result a lot of my website's content was aggregated to different places without link backs, so I disabled this requirement to view attachments in hope of getting proper links to our threads. I feel this has had a negative long-term impact as this is the only time since our move we've lost users at the end of a month.
However, our analytics will show we've kept a lot of our guest traffic. In fact, if anything, it shows we've continued to grow in terms of raw traffic. This week, we had 1,000,000 hits, which is about what I'd expect at our rate of growth.
But, since it's a community, that doesn't mean anything to me. Money comes from donations and donations come from users that love the site. What I want is registrations and posters, and I fear that by respecting guests and not forcing them to get accounts to read the website properly, I've hurt new user numbers.
Today I modified templates a little so that this message appears under posts where the quick reply box would be.
What do you guys think? Should I be more of a jerk and force people to register to see accounts, or should I respect a lurker's right to lurk and be less annoying?