Reality Check: 40% of Your Article Goes Right Down the Drain

Pamela Vaughan
Pamela Vaughan



shocked-doggyAnd when I say 40% of your article goes down the drain, what I really mean is most readers only get about 60% of the way through any given article you write. As a content creator, you might be experiencing that maddening/frustrating/what the hell am I doing all this writing for feeling right about now. All of the above sentiments ring true for me, at least. recently asked Josh Schwartz, a data scientist at the traffic analysis company Chartbeat, to analyze how readers look through Slate's articles. Schwartz also analyzed several other sites using Chartbeat. And while the results aren't exactly shocking, they do warrant a closer look, especially if you're a content creator.

Here are some of the juiciest nuggets from the analysis, and what you should take away from them. We're specifically going to focus on the data that came from Chartbeat's analysis of multiple sites -- not just

Exhibit A: How Far Do People Scroll?


This graph represents only people who spent time on the page -- excluding people who immediately bounced after landing on the page. And the reason the X axis extends past 100% is because it includes elements that come after the article ends, such as the comments section. Here are the interesting bits ... 

10% of people don't scroll through your article at all.

Eek. My guess is, they take one look at the title, and decide it's just not worth it. Or maybe they read a sentence or two of the intro and aren't very impressed. ORRRR ... maybe they just get turned off by a ton of bells and whistles near the top of the page -- like CTAs or design clutter -- get overwhelmed or frustrated, and say sayonara. The lesson here is clear. You've gotta grip 'em right off the bat. Write an exceptional blog title, pull them in with an engaging intro, and just give them the content already. Or else.

Most visitors only get through 60% of an article.

This one actually made me raise an eyebrow at first. I'm surprised most people make it this far. But are they actually reading that first 60%, or are they scanning to see if anything interesting captures their attention, and then at 60% decide it's just not going to happen, and leave? It's hard to tell, but this could definitely be the case. To get those scanners to buckle down and actually read what you've written, try breaking up your content with visuals, interesting headers, bullets, and bolded text to call out any interesting tid bits like stats, quotes, or just particularly engaging commentary. This will help you draw the attention of those scanning readers, and hopefully, hook them to keep reading.

Most visitors will scroll through an entire post made up of photos and videos.

Wowza! Slate reports that the 100% mark in the chart is an anomaly caused by pages containing photos and videos. And on these pages, people scroll through the whole page. This makes a whole lot of sense, doesn't it? Visuals are just generally more engaging. They're also a lot easier and faster to get through (maybe with the exception of some longer videos). Need I mention the takeaway? Incorporate more visuals into your content, and you may see a boost in engagement.

Exhibit B: Do People Tweet Before Reading?

Answer: Yes. Err ... it seems like it.

Although Chartbeat can’t exactly track when individual visitors tweet links to definitively say people are tweeting before reading the whole article, it can consider the overall number of tweets to an article and compare it to how many readers scrolled through the entire article.


Essentially, what this shows is that there's a very weak relationship between how far down a page a reader scrolls, and tweeting:

  1. Articles that get tweeted a lot of tweets don’t necessarily get thoroughly read.
  2. Articles that get thoroughly read don't necessarily generate a lot of tweets.  

How ticked off do you feel right about now, fellow content creators? I, for one, am pretty far off to the right on the "I'm pretty flippin' ticked off" spectrum. I'm not even sure what the takeaway here is. I certainly can't tell you to go off and write crappy content since the Twitter lemmings will just share anything with an interesting-sounding title. I'm just going to tell you to keep on creating high-quality content, write exceptional titles (again), and move on to Exhibit C. That's all I can do.

Exhibit C: Where Do Readers Spend Most of Their Time?

The final piece of Schwartz's analysis was a look at where people spend their time on the page, portrayed using a heatmap. Check it out ... 


About two-thirds of the time people spend on a page is “below the fold.”

“We generally see that higher quality content causes people to scroll further," says Schwartz. In other words, the more time below the fold, the better! And it just may be an indication of content quality. 

Not so fast. Beware that the design of the page can cause this data to be misleading, especially if the page is designed so that visitors have to scroll down past large top banners, CTAs, and/or big article titles to see any of the actual article. For websites where this is the case, below-the-fold engagement will probably look pretty high. For pages whose articles start higher up on the page, this below-the-fold engagement won't look as stellar.

Did any of Schwartz's discoveries surprise you?

Image Credit: sarihuella

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