By Neil Patel published January 18, 2016

How to Make Visitors Read Your Entire Article

visitors-read-entire-article-cover

You spent a long time writing that blog post. Your visitors had better read the whole thing.

But here’s the cold hard fact: They probably won’t.

Is there some method that will help readers stay engaged for the entire article? Is it even worth it to aim for higher dwell time and full scrolls?

The bad news

The Internet is full of information that conspires against you. Basically, people don’t read entire articles.

Take this Slate article by Farhad Manjoo. Apparently, 16,000 people shared it, but how many read it to the end?

you-won't-read-this-article

Or take this cheery headline from The Verge:

The-Verge

True to Adrianne Jeffries’ prediction, the article garnered several thousand shares. How many people read the article? Meh. Probably not a whole lot.

The stats in these articles aren’t all that inspiring.

Check out the graph below. You can see that a paltry few are even going to view the entire article. That leaves maybe your best friend and mom who are scrolling to the end.

Percent-of-article-viewed

Image source

But what about all those tweet numbers, Google plusses, and Buffer shares? Don’t get too excited. Chartbeat’s research demonstrates that there is “little correlation between Twitter activity and article completion.”

Tweets-amount-article-read

Tweets-complete-readers

The Verge’s report had a similar depressing scientific analysis of shares vs. reads.

Shares-vs-reads

Image source. Statistical analysis from Upworthy

Jakob Nielsen, the venerable godfather of Internet research, told us way back in 2008 that most users read about 20% of the words on a page. In today’s content marketing world of 1,500-word articles (like this one), I’m surprised if people get that far.

According to @NNgroup, most users read about 20% of the words on a page via @neilpatel #contentmarketing Click To Tweet

Sorry to disappoint you. When you look at the data, you might feel like all the time and money you spend on blog content creation is a glorious waste.

Here are the facts:

What’s the problem with people?

Smart people have tried to explain why people don’t read all the content. Here are their guesses:

The good news

As a writer, however, I’ve skillfully held back some important information until this critical point.

Statistically speaking, this is the golden spot in the article at which I’ve lost all the disengaged readers, and am speaking only to a coterie of engaged learners.

(Hi guys. Thanks for hanging on.)

Even though your articles are frequented and shared by hypocrites, quitters, and cheaters, a few chosen ones will read the whole thing.

These are your engaged users. They’re the only ones who really matter.

Let’s go back to some data shared by Slate:

Heatmap-of-engaged-time

This thermometer measures the readership of Slate articles, and its stats are pretty good. Your mileage may vary.

The red-hot spot in the middle represents the people who really love you – the people who are intensely engaged in the article. You are speaking to them.

Interested people will read your article. The whole thing. Even if (to quote Jay Baer), “your blog post is too damn long.”

Interested people will read your entire article. Even if “your blog post is too damn long” via @neilpatel Click To Tweet

And that then begs the question – How do you make them interested? How do you get them to read the whole thing?

The secret to engaged readers

Here is a process-driven method that will help you understand the facts of life (not everyone’s going to read the article) and develop a strategy for the future (how to connect with the truly interested).

  • Step 1: Don’t worry if all your users don’t read the whole thing. Some will. Some won’t. Focus on the best; forget the rest. Your goal isn’t to attract all the readers. Instead, your goal is to satisfy the ones who are the readers.
  • Step 2: Know exactly who you’re trying to reach with your content. Every successful content marketing initiative is built on the foundation of a successful customer journey and persona. You can’t reach your audience, let alone the read-the-whole-article folks, unless you know who that is.
  • Step 3: Create content that meets their deepest needs. Every piece of content should be designed to solve some hairy problem that your audience faces. People will do anything to get rid of pain or to achieve success. If your content promises and delivers on that point, you win.

Here’s what is important

Should you forget about the huge percentage of your readers who are skimming, sharing, and bouncing on your article? Should you completely neglect them, and focus only on the elite group of marathon readers?

No. Of course not.

Your content can still be effective, even if the skimmers, sharers, and bouncers aren’t that engaged.

Content effectiveness does not always require sustained engagement.

How can you make an impact with your non-reading users?

Consistency – Get them to come back for more.

Each piece of content should possess appeal. You may not engage readers for a long duration, but you should try to attract them into your conversion funnel.

One approach for doing so is through email captures.

The most successful inbound marketing channels are those that invite users to subscribe via email. Noah Kagan’s blog, OKDork exploded with massive traffic as he snagged thousands of email addresses from interested users.

Blog-OKDork

Buffer’s viral growth hack happened when it started pulling in thousands of email addresses through its sizzling hot content.

Actionable-social-media-advice

Style – How you do it is the message.

Every content platform and channel has a certain style and approach. When you can create a consistent brand vibe in your content, you are communicating to your users, even if they don’t read the whole article.

Take my blog, for example. My goal is to produce content with the following characteristics:

As long as I’m producing content with these qualifications, I know that my content marketing is effective.

Both casual users and regular readers (there’s a difference) know what to expect from your content because it has a specific style. That, to me, is a win. I’ve established a brand message, even if I don’t get eyeballs on every blog post, every paragraph, every word.

The essence of content marketing is not the individual words of a given blog post. The essence of content marketing is successfully communicating with and attracting the right prospects.

Big idea — The main thing is more important than all the little things.

I would love it if every reader remembered the details of my blog posts – all the tidbits of research, facts, stories, and images that I showed.

That’s obviously not going to happen. A common statistic is that people remember only 10% of what they read.

Dale-Edgar's-Cone-of-Learning

The claim is misleading and not research-backed, but the point is plain: We don’t remember everything we read.

But what about the big idea? Every blog post ought to contain a central, compelling point. Can you get your reader to remember that?

Take a look at a standard assessment of read time on an article:

Read-time-assesment

Image source

There are a lot of people in that low-read-time quadrant, aren’t there? A lot of my articles on Neil Patel and Quicksprout clock in at around 3,000 words. An average reader could plow through that article in less than 20 minutes.

Read-time-calculator

But 20 minutes is a long time.

I applaud long-form content. It persuades better, converts better, shares better, ranks better, and is better.

But some of your readers probably aren’t going to read every word. And that’s OK. As long as they get the big idea, you’re going to be just fine.

How do you communicate the big idea? Here are a few ideas.

  • Write a strong headline. More people will read your headline than any other part of the article.
  • Communicate the main point in images. People do look at pictures.
  • Restate the main point in various bulleted and numbered lists. Lists are easy for the eye to intake rapidly. Skimmers love them.
  • Emphasize the main point in each of your headings. Since headings usually have large typeface, they are easier to read as a user scrolls through or skims the article. They are more likely to be read and remembered.
  • Restate your main point at the conclusion. If a reader doesn’t get through the entire article, she will probably jump to the end to understand your conclusion. Use this section to make your main point again.

The entire article should make a single point, and you should say it again and again and again.

Conclusion

Let me leave you with the big idea. It’s not essential that you get users to read your entire article.

You can and should strive for engagement. But you don’t need to obsess over a full and glorious readership. Instead, give your users a memorable experience, deliver the point, and let the few readers – no matter how few – enjoy every last word.

What does your data say? Do users read the entire article?

Want to read the average 20% or be a star reader and consume 100% of expert insight, tips, and inspiration for your content marketing? Subscribe to the CMI blog.

Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute

Author: Neil Patel

Neil Patel is the co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue. The Wall Street Journal calls him a top influencer on the web, and Entrepreneur Magazine says he has created one of the 100 most brilliant companies in the world. You can connect with him on Twitter @neilpatel.

Other posts by Neil Patel

  • Emma James

    The numbers are kind of shock. I’ll try some of your tips, thank you, Neil.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Let me know how it works 😉

  • http://hashimwarren.com/ Hashim Warren

    Neil, why write long form content if only a few read the whole thing?

    • Hephzy Social

      Hi Hashim, long form content are useful in:

      * Generating high ranking in search results
      * Helping readers spend an increased time on your site
      * Positioning you as an authority in your niche
      * Helping you to optimize your inbound marketing efforts
      * Attracting backlinks and organic traffic from Google timelessly etc.

      Although, it is hard to create, the advantages far outweighs the disadvantages.

      • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

        Thanks Hashim, You’re spot on.

        You want to provide value ultimately and if people are engaged they will take their time reading and extract value while coming back for more.

  • https://www.mikesawyermedia.com msawyer80

    Long form content is not just good for SEO or SEM practices, but good to keep skills sharp for longer forms such as guides. No need to play into the less attention spans, when there are those who wish to read long forms of content. We should not be in the business to produce whimpy content.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Agreed: I like to provide value at every opportunity. You never want to bore your audience.

  • rogercparker

    Very important article with action tips, Thanks, Neil, for sharing in such detail. I especially enjoy the point where you wrote….

    “Statistically speaking, this is the golden spot in the article at which
    I’ve lost all the disengaged readers, and am speaking only to a coterie
    of engaged learners.”

    Masterful. Fun. Thanks for stressing the differences between “engaged readers” and “disengaged readers.”
    Roger

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Glad you liked it. It’s all about testing to see what type of content resonates with your target audience. Looking forward to hearing more from you!

  • Ed Catto

    Really appreciate the insights. Good stuff.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Glad to help!

  • http://sharonbrodin.com Sharon Brodin

    Thanks for this great info — very informative and encouraging!

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      :)

  • Mel Wicks

    I am one of your avid readers who believes that 20 minutes is well spent if the content tells me something new. And this post certainly did that. But I also love the concept that it’s OK not to stress over the skimmers and sharers (although, God love the sharers!). I have personified my audience into one imaginary person, and every time I write I do it as a conversation with her. I like to think she is glued to the page from beginning to end.

    Thanks for taking the time to write this post, Mel.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Mel, glad to help. I think you have the right mindset — it’s a growth mindset 😉

  • Adam Mullett

    Great article – some of those graphs about sharing vs read time are surprising and interesting. It makes me wonder whether the articles on my social feeds have been read by the person spreading them…

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Adam, you never know. That’s why I always test and add calls to action so I can know 😉

  • Wellness Way 4 U

    Thanks for the informative insights. have a great day

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Glad to help!

  • Jabe Esguerra

    Awesome post Neil! And just in case you’re wondering, I read the whole thang! lol I admit skimming through some of your posts over @ Quicksprout, focusing on the big idea. But this one, I just had to read every word (because I’m writer and I’m interested in improving my readership) and you did not disappoint.

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Jabe, then my job is complete — I have to keep people engaged as a writer (as you know)

  • http://promotraffic.pl Marcin

    I gladly would read more about the summary. How to effectively write the summary. Thank you, Neil – great article ( I read a whole ) .

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Marcin, just condense the article with the main points.

  • MaximvanOostrum

    Superduper. Thanks, great insights and a laugh too;-)

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Glad to help :)

  • Ola Kopacz

    Great article! I’m adding it to the required readings for my marketing com students this semester – … and I’ll make sure they all read until the end :-)

    • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

      Ola, great! Let me know what they think :)

      • Ola Kopacz

        They liked it! And, we’ve been applying your advice in practice — thanks!

  • http://neilpatel.com Neil Patel

    Spot on — it’s all about keeping people’s eyes on your content then having them convert 😉

    • http://abhishekjain.guru Abhishek Jain

      thats exactly the point :)

  • Jelena13

    Most of the articles I read till the end and often I open links inside of them:

    1. as respect for writer
    2. to learn something ( new or to comfirm what i already know)
    but also
    3. to make my english better ( Grammar & Vocabulary)

    Some articles I save for later, or read in 2-3 steps, mainly in order to organize impressions from the previous reading.
    Sometimes I save articles and read specific parts of again.

    Because we all don’t have much time for everything we all need to make selection what we will read. depending of what we want and need.
    I think we need to read article till end, then read few more articles of same writer to know what we can expect and find out do we want to spend our time reading that.

    I didn’t write a lot. Some subjects were interesting and people did read more, some has specific public. This points I will use for sure in my future writing.

    Anyway, by reading your posts and from other, I did learn a lot in many ways, and get habit to read till the end; sometimes we can find awesome surprises like :

    “Hi guys. Thanks for hanging on.”

    Thank you Neil!
    Jelena

  • Amy

    Great article – very in depth

  • http://www.fatbit.com/ amit sharma

    Inserting useful internal/external links into the content is also a way to get readers engaged with the content. I always read complete content of contentmarketinginstitute, quicksprout and similar blogs for learning about new tools or sources that author has mentioned in the content.

    @disqus_5pPRxXyRW3:disqus, You never publish my comment on quicksprout that is something worried me :(

    Anyways, Thanks Neil for sharing another excellent blog post with us.