Do you ever wonder how much of your content people read?

When I first started blogging, I had nightmares about that question. In my recurring nightmare, my average visit duration was 0 seconds, and my bounce rate was 100%.

To ease my troubled mind, I decided to research how people read online. Here are a few facts that I've collected over the years…

1. The majority of visitors spend fewer than 15 seconds on a page.

The average visitor will spend less than 15 seconds on each page. The average visitor will read fewer than 62 words.

In his piece for Time.com, Tony Haile of Chartbeat noted that 55% of people spend fewer than 15 seconds on a page.

That's not a lot of time.

Now, take into account the fact that the average adult reads about 250 words per minute.

Which means that the majority of visitors will read fewer than 62 words on a webpage.

That's it.

So, does that mean that we need to write pithy posts like Seth Godin?

As you can see from this blog post, I am no Seth Godin. Don't worry, though. For the prattlers among us, there are other ways to make sure that readers will find the information that they need.

More on this in number 2 and number 4.

2. Visitors spend 2.6 seconds skimming a website before focusing on a specific section.

The average visitor spends 2.6 seconds skimming a web page before reading a specific sectionLet's face it. Many readers won't hang on our every word.

Instead, many readers will skim our content until they notice something that stands out to them. (Personally, I'm curious how many of you are reading this paragraph and how many of you are looking at the image to the right).

Luckily, there are some ways to direct your reader's gaze. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Use numbered and bulleted lists
  • Use subheadings so that readers can find information easily
  • Use shorter, less intimidating paragraphs
  • Use bold, italics, or pops of color to highlight important information
  • Put important information in images. (More on this in number 4).

3. Most visitors will scroll through 60% of an article.

On slate.com, how far do people scroll down?

Image source

4. But most visitors will scroll through an entire page with photo and video content.

Most people will look at 60% of a web page. Most visitors will look at 100% of the visuals on a web page.Statistic #4 shouldn't surprise us. There's a reason why BuzzFeed is an extremely popular site. BuzzFeed readers want to scroll all the way to the bottom so that they can see every last animated gif.

The text-image-text-image strategy works for BuzzFeed, but that doesn't mean that you should copy BuzzFeed by filling your blog posts with whirly-twirly animated gifs. Your visuals have to be true to your brand and to its audience.

Gifs with pop culture references and adorable animals will work for some brands, but they will fall flat for others.

Similarly, posts chock-full of charts will work for some brands and their audiences, but they won't work for others.

Bottom line:

  1. Identify the types of visuals that appeal to your audience.
  2. Then, use those types of visuals to communicate important information.

 

 

5. People who share articles don't always read the articles.

We don't read the articles we share

Image source

We've heard the stats before.

Company XYZ's blog post was tweeted over 5,000 times!

Company 123's Facebook post was liked by over 3,000 people!

Those stats are great, but did anyone read the post? Or did Company 123's Facebook followers simply click "Like"?

Maybe an even better question is, Does Company 123 care if anyone reads its post?

The answer to that last question depends on a brand's marketing goals. Sometimes, a brand simply wants a lot of buzz. In that case, a ridiculously high number of social shares would be perfect for them.

But if a brand is looking for something else–say, deep relationships–then impressive social stats might not be the brand's target goal.

Nota bene: Some sites, like BuzzFeed, report a positive correlation between reading time and social sharing.

BuzzFeed reports a positive correlation between social sharing and read time.

6. Direct visitors are our most dedicated readers.

Direct visitors spend more time on a web site

The Pew Research Center did a study of the top 26 most popular news websites, and they found that direct visitors spend more time on news sites than Facebook visitors or search visitors.

Keep in mind that direct visitors to a news site tend to be loyal readers. They have memorized the news site's URL or have bookmarked the site, and they return to the site because they value that media outlet's perspective.

Why do direct visitors spend so much time on a news website?

Think about why each type of visitor goes to a webpage.

  • Search visitors are looking for something specific. Once search visitors find their answer, they bounce.
  • Facebook visitors likely clicked on a link in their newsfeed. In other words, they are on your site to read one specific article. Sure, they might see other links that look interesting. But eventually, they'll go back to Facebook to see what their friends are up to, and they'll stop themselves from falling farther and farther down your rabbit hole of content.
  • Direct visitors go to a news site because they have some kind of vested interest in the site's content. They want to read that particular site's take on current events.

In short, for news, direct visitors are the unicorns of web traffic. But are direct visitors the unicorns of content marketing?

That question still has to be answered by content marketers. But as the idea of "attention web" becomes hotter and hotter, my guess is that we will hear more and more about who is reading content, how long they are spending with that content, and whether read time has any correlation with conversion.

BONUS!

If you're trying to attract direct visitors, there are ways to make their lives easier. For instance, the ideal length of a domain name is 8 characters long.

Why? It's much easier to remember something like CNN versus something like Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. 

Your take:

What techniques have you developed to attract and retain readers? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

- Mark

 

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Posted by Mark Bajus

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