The Elusive Reader

People do not read online content.

Nearly every study since the dawn of the browser has shown the same thing, people do not read your website.  However, that is not to say that they do not read anything!  You can move people’s eyes through your content, and emphasize the important information that will;

  1. Guide people to their content

  2. Make the critical information findable.

people do not read online content

People do not “read” online content.

Guiding people through the content on your website is an important factor in developing page views, clicks and additional KPI’s that measure engagement and improved responses to conversions and sales.  Simple techniques, such as using the mark-up language that is available works wonders both for readers and for search engines.

Here are a seven simple suggestions to increase readability of your web pages;

  1. Use the H1 as a Headline.  If there is one article on the page, then only use one H1 tag.
  2. Make use of H2 (Heading 2) as subheadings.  The more you break up your content with subheadings, the easier it is to scan.
  3. Use H3 as a paragraph heading.  I find that using paragraph headings helps people to find necessary information faster.
  4. Bold important information, which will attract the eye.  It doesn’t even have to contain the complete thought.
  5. Obvious Anchor Text.  People understand anchor text when it is in an obvious presentation.  A different color breaks up the pattern of the text and grabs attention.
  6. Provide ‘Related Content’ above the fold.  Help me find additional content if this isn’t the right page.
  7. Utilize bullets and numbered lists to deliver condensed information.

As you may observe, these are very simple things that you can do to engage people at a higher level.  Or,. at the very least, you are providing important information displayed in a more understandable and scan-able context.  If people may only read 20% of the words on the page, you can guide and direct which 20% they see prominently.

 

Here are recent reading/behavioral studies and articles:

 Website Reading: It (Sometimes) Does Happen:  Jacob Nielsen has more information on this topic than anybody.  His testing shows how “reading” is not even a descriptive term for how people digest information online.  He cites numerous studies and eye tracking research to show how little information people actually consumer on a typical page of online content .

You Won’t Finish This Article: Using Chartbeat to measure audience engagement, Slate author Farhad Manjoo, shows that most people do not reach the end of an article.  10% of people never scroll, most readers only get to 60% of an article. Even more interesting, people who Tweet or share articles aren’t necessarily those who read the article – The data finds no correlation between article engagement and social signals.

The Pace of Modern Life:  The funny thing is that people have always complained about the lost art of conversation and the degeneration of reading.  My favorite quote: “There was never an age  in which so many people were able to write badly.” Israel Zangwill, The Bachelor’s Club, 1891

 

Matt’s Training and Topics in this area:

  • Make Online Marketing Logical
  • Strategies for Integrating Your Online Marketing
  • Rules for Killer Content: Planning, Creating, Developing Presenting and Measuring
  • 10 Sales Techniques that Work Wonders Online

 

 

About the Author:

Matt has taught Google employees how to understand and use Google Analytics, consulted with Experian on how to present data, developed online marketing training for both Proctor and Gamble and Johnson & Johnson and presented analytics methodologies to Disney, ABC & ESPN. As founder of SiteLogic, Matt teaches marketers how to create measurable and profitable strategic marketing plans.
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