The site currently generates fewer than 5 questions per day, although we have a good answer ratio (98% of them receive two answers), and a sufficient number of 'avid' users. Is this fairly normal during the public beta phase? If not, is there anything we can do to generate more questions?
Don't worry. The Area 51 indicators are based on highly optimistic growth previsions, and almost every beta site has had “worrying” numbers of questions and visits in the beginning. Taking the most recently graduated site, for example: IT Security had 6.9 questions/day and 912 visits/day when it graduated; Home Improvement had 4.4 questions/day and 1077 visits/day.
On a related note, you may see some mention of a 90-day evaluation. This is the earliest a site is supposed to be considered for launch, and most sites have taken considerably longer. Don't worry when the 90-day mark approaches and the site isn't ready for prime time yet.
As your site grows, it'll start featuring more and more on search engine queries. That will lead more people to discover the site and start contributing. Which in turns leads to more growth, more search engine visibility, and so on.
Asking great questions and providing great answers is a good way to make the site more attractive. This doesn't mean you should ask questions for the sake of asking questions; bad questions help nobody. But if you're an expert in your field, and you had a small problem that you solved easily on your own, do ask a question about it — the next person to face the same problem might be a novice who wouldn't have been able to solve it on his own, and you might even learn something from your fellow experts.
See also Robert Cartaino's blog post: When Will My Site Graduate?
In my opinion, this will help the site more than anything else:
Don't wait around to answer a question in your area of expertise, post good questions and answer them yourself.
If this site is successful, it will be because 90% of the traffic is from Google. We can get more hits from Google by seeding the site with more good questions and answers.
So, do you know an expert that is waiting around to post answers to questions that aren't showing up? Gently encourage them to think of a few good questions and post great answers themselves.
I would do this, but I'm not an expert yet -- although I might be an expert in pumpkin growing before the year is out.
In Summary, more seeding will bring more traffic which will bring more experts. Besides, even if I am wrong about this, we will have made the Internet a better place.
It's not exactly "normal"; It's on the low end of traffic.
I just submitted a blog post that say it's not necessarily dire, but there are steps you can take to improve your traffic. You can read the details here:
I've been waiting for some questions in the only area I can answer, bonsai.
I've asked some dummy questions today. I guess it's a chicken and egg kind of situation at the start, if everyone waits for good questions and nobody asks then we end up with limited question and everyone watching.
So hopefully I can ask some good quality questions in the area and we can attract more questions and also some enthusiasts.
I also think this sites scope is currently quite limited so we need some questions outside of just vegetables.
The best ways to get more questions are to get more traffic and to ask more questions.
We currently get about 200 visitors/day. If we can drive traffic then we will get more questions for a while. This is certainly not a guarantee of more questions as some site with more traffic get even fewer questions then we do. But it would be a good start and a good way to drum up more interest.
For now its up to us to ask questions. As we get more questions, especially more awesome questions we will get more traffic and generate more questions. So for the time being the two things we should be doing is pointing people to the site and asking awesome questions.