Brands may not be seeing optimal ROI from their news content because readers aren't actually reading online content past the fold, or at all.

Brands that want their website content to attract consumers, earn shares and increase conversions should bear in mind that internet users have short attention spans. According to Slate Magazine, most readers never finish the articles and blogs they open online. If companies use content metrics and content marketing strategically, they can optimize pages for better performance and ROI.

How much are visitors actually reading?

After noticing that readers were jumping to the end to leave comments and questions about information presented later in his articles, Slate Magazine’s contributor Farhad Manjoo asked Chartbeat data scientist Josh Schwartz to analyze articles’ site traffic. Data suggests:

  •  61 of every 161 site visitors (38 percent) bounce off pages without any engagement.
  •  5 percent leave after reading the information above the fold, which means they never scroll down.
  •  25 percent make it past the 1,600th pixel on the page (the average article is 2,000 pixels long).
Do you condone reckless sharing?

Further analysis shows little correlation between readers’ time on site and number of Tweets, which means visitors are sharing articles before they ever finish reading them, according to Manjoo. This might not be a problem for brands that simply want more social mentions and links, but this type of behavior won’t drive qualified traffic back to branded websites or improve conversion rates.

Google’s Search Engineer Matt Cutts has said marketers can expect links to be important for years to come, but he’s also advised them to focus more on user experiences. Brafton recently reported on a Webmaster Help Channel video, in which Cutts states that websites perform better with stronger designs.

Keeping people on the page

In the Slate article, Manjoo reports 86.2 percent of the site’s visitors are engaged below the fold. This is better than most websites, according to data scientist Schwartz. In comparison, less than two-thirds of internet users are engaged with Chartbeat sites below the fold. Manjoo reveals this inflated metric might be the result of Slate’s page design, which features images and headlines above the fold, forcing readers to scroll down to read the supplementary web content.

86.2 percent of the site’s visitors are engaged below the fold.

In general, Brafton warns against publishing too much above the fold besides information-dense content. Not only does Google have an algorithm that punishes sites for placing too many ads above the fold, but SurveyMonkey respondents said this was the number one reason why they block websites.

Because we know readers may not stick around for an entire article, it’s wise to get to the heart of the argument (or sales pitch) before they leave. Include eye-catching graphics, deliver what was promised – tips, insights, research – and don’t make visitors work hard to find it. High bounce rates and low time on site indicate readers aren’t getting what they came for. Adjusting page design and content writing strategies can turn these metrics around and yield an impressive ROI.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.