The Highly Effective Habits Of Web Readers — What We Aren’t Doing

We all do it. When we read online, we skim, scan, and sometimes rifle through content, the same way we (used to) flip through fluff magazines or cumbersome pages of newsprint.shutterstock_130330691-book-reading

Thanks to aggregate web analytics, we now have a better idea of what web readers are up to… and what they’re not. Bottom line: read-through rates suck. I wrote about the issue in 2011, and it seems the problem has only gotten worse since.

A 2013 aggregate web reader study conducted by Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at web traffic monitoring service Chartbeat, showed that:

  • Over 30 percent of readers bounce immediately after landing on a site, not engaging at all
  • 10 percent engage but never scroll past the fold
  • Only half of readers who don’t initially bounce keep reading after the first few hundred words

Schwartz’s study also analyzed reading behavior in real time, collecting browser data second-by-second. (That’s right. This very moment, someone/some bot might be recording your reading habits — or lack thereof — and adding them to an ever-mushrooming digital data pile.)

The study further found that the relationship between scroll depth and sharing is tenuous at best. Contrary to common perception, a lot of shares do not necessarily translate into high read-through rates, and high read-through rates do not necessarily translate into a lot of shares.

Take my article 8 Brain Triggers Guaranteed To Boost Your Social Media Marketing. As of June 2014, the post generated 4,500-5,000 social shares, but according to Marketing Land’s metrics, the post generated about 6,000 page views. Most of the social shares came before the 2,000 page view point. These data suggest that a high percentage of those who shared the article (thank you!) did so before reading through.

Why have we become readers on the run? At the risk of losing you to the link, it is in part because reading online is an interlinking experience, as opposed to a traditional linear one? But why else would a reader share before reading through? Why have you?

Blind Social Sharing

Veteran tech journalist David Spark suggests we blind share content because:

  • We trust the source/brand (guilty as charged)
  • We like the title (guilty again)
  • We are helping out a friend (friends, I’ve got your back… and thanks for having mine)

A study conducted by social media sharing tool AddToAny breaks blind sharers down into two categories:

  • Those with clout
  • Those without

The study showed that trusted credible experts in their fields with already high click-through rates might see an increase in that rate, regardless if a share is blind or sighted. Your average Joe, on the other hand, who might be blind sharing to boost online presence, probably won’t benefit from sharing before consuming.

Content Kings Wear Crowns

Whether you are with or without clout, sharing and creating content with a killer opening paragraph, an inverted pyramid, boosts scrollability and sharability. Content is king, so give yours a crown. Bedazzle us at the top and incentivize us along the way as we swan dive down through your well-wrought post to its end.

An inverted pyramid promises to:

  • Lower bounce rates
  • Maximize conversion rates
  • Increase engagement and read-through rates

inverted pyramid

Keep in mind that, to date, online traffic studies do not include a content-quality metric. Until someone (please don’t let it be a bot) figures out how to rank each piece objectively and add that metric to the mix, bad content, no doubt, will continue to contribute to sucky read-through rates.

Speaking of read-through rates, are you still here?

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.

Related Topics: Channel: Social Media Marketing | Content Marketing | Social Media Marketing | Social Media Marketing Column


About The Author: is the Senior SEO Manager for the agency, Red Door Interactive.

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  • Michael Martinez

    I think the most important takeaway from this article is that we should never stop trying to understand our readership even while accepting that we can’t be all things to all people.

  • Cynexis Media

    I manage our social media, which involves a lot of content curating. I am definitely guilty of sharing from reliable sources after only skimming the article! I have other job responsibilities besides social media, so I don’t have time to read every single article I share, especially since many articles I skim are NOT good enough to share. I find a few good articles each day, though, that do manage to draw me in with the “inverse pyramid.” I bookmark those and reference them again in the future.


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