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Why You Shouldn’t Care That One-Third of Readers Despise Your Content


The average reader of a brand’s long-form content doesn’t consume 42% of the pages. That’s one key takeaway from our recent B2B Content Engagement Benchmark Report at Docalytics. The findings surfaced from engagement data captured during 180,000 view sessions of more than 1,700 downloadable, long-form content resources like e-books, white papers, reports, and guides.

Not only does much of the content go unviewed, but over 35% of readers spend less than 30 seconds on a downloadable resource, according to our research.

The average reader of a brand’s long-form #content doesn’t consume 42% of the pages via @1StevePeck Share on X

Assuming your readers consume your content in similar, sporadic ways, the question you should ask is:

Should I really care?

You should not.

You could never consistently create content that all your readers will want to spend more than 30 seconds on. Don’t take it personally, but do make a conscious effort to identify the 65% of readers who like your content and whether they represent the audience you want to reach.

Now before I dive deeper into this topic, I feel it important to make one gargantuan disclaimer about my admonition that you don’t need to care about the 35% who don’t love your content: This is not a free pass to create bad content.

Rather, it’s quite the opposite. With the growing content clamor in the B2B marketing landscape it is more important than ever to deliver a high-quality content experience every time. Ann Handley summed up this point well during a recent interview when I asked her the simple question – Does it matter if readers actually consume your content?

Here’s her response:

Of course it matters.

We are long past the notion of creating content for dumb search engines. Search engines aren’t dumb anymore – and neither are your customers, your prospects, your fans, or those who recommend you (they never were, in fact).

Think of your content as not fodder for gaming rankings, but instead think of it in two ways:

  1. As useful, inspired, empathetic content that people actually want, need, enjoy. (‘Marketing that doesn’t feel like marketing,’ as my friend Tom Fishburne says.)
  1. As a way to understand your customers better, as well as understand yourself and your business. Understanding what content resonates with people is also a way to understand your customers, period.

Why does this matter? Because ridiculously good content is what fuels relationships online. And relationships build trust. And trust builds business.

Ridiculously good content is what fuels relationships online. Relationships build trust. Trust builds business. Share on X

If countless expert writers believe driving high engagement with quality content is so important, then making sure all readers find enough value to maximize the time they spend with your content must be paramount. Right?


Set your new course by following two proven approaches of carefree (successful) content marketers – focus and nurture.

Focus: Don’t try to delight everyone

Speaking as a writer who is routinely rejected by editors and readers alike, I get it. It’s personally deflating to put so much into creating a piece of content you love, only to learn that many readers perceive it to be repugnant or worse, utterly drab.

If you’re like most marketers, then your natural tendency is to obsess over why some readers don’t engage deeply with your content, pushing you to adopt a more generic approach to improve audience engagement and drive more mass appeal. After all, more social shares and “likes” equal more effective content, right? Not necessarily.

Successful content marketers view the fact that their content does not resonate with all readers as a testament that they are doing their job well. These marketers write with the explicit purpose of delighting the audiences as defined by their brand’s personas. Any readers who aren’t in those target audiences might as well not have engaged because whether they enjoyed the content or not is a moot point to the marketer.

When interviewed for our 2016 benchmark report, B2B marketing strategist Ardath Albee summed up why this mindset works. Marketers, she said, “must focus on a tight audience for your content. Content written for everyone will engage no one.” So in other words, better to make certain you engage the few you care about the most than to stress over the experience of the many you never intended to reach.

#Content written for everyone will engage no one by @Ardath421 via @cmicontent Share on X

Here are three ways you can accomplish this:

  1. Examine engaged and unengaged subscribers.

Segment subscribers into two groups – those who routinely open and consume your content and those who don’t. If those who open your emails don’t represent your target audience, it’s time to send something different.

  1. Analyze characteristics of registered readers who regularly comment on your blog.

If your target personas are routinely absent from your comment threads, you’re likely writing for the wrong group and need to alter your approach.

  1. Sponsor the same piece of content targeting different segments.

Pay to promote the same piece of content to different targeted groups on third-party networks like LinkedIn. One of the groups should be your primary targeted persona. The other groups can be related but are not the specific audience you value so highly.

You can measure how the groups engage with your content then compare engagement and conversion metrics. If your highest-priority audience finds your content less engaging than the lower priority groups, you need to change the content you promote.

We helped a global financial services firm evaluate whether its content that was part of a broader thought leadership strategy was resonating with its target audience – senior leadership. This is what we found:


After testing a few content offers, the marketing team observed much higher engagement among lower-level employees in the targeted companies. Understanding this discrepancy allowed the firm’s marketing team to refine its efforts to produce new, less tactical-focused material that better met the content needs of the senior-leadership audience it cared about the most.

When the experiment was replicated with new content, the team observed improved engagement and conversion among their higher-priority senior-leader persona when compared to the previous content consumption.

financial-services-evaluation-image 2

By leveraging engagement data to focus on the needs of your specific personas, you can produce more content that your target audience responds well to and less of what engages the broader, less-qualified reader base. In turn, you will help your brand build meaningful relationships in far less time with those readers you care most about.

Nurture: Advance the delighted, reroute the unimpressed

Once you run your own tests and confirm that the readers exhibiting high engagement are the personas you’re striving to reach, you can then resume not caring about the others who don’t like your content and direct your energy to those who love your every word.

When your engaged readers match your target personas it is a wonderful thing. You are now successfully writing to the right group with real pain points that your content effectively addresses.

If you’ve aligned your content well with the products or services offered by your company, there’s a much higher likelihood that those engaged readers are ready to move further down your marketing funnel. This sets the stage for you to leverage marketing automation platforms to strategically nurture those more highly engaged readers toward a quicker close.

This strategy requires a new level of sophistication but can be achieved with a lot of forethought and a little elbow grease. Integration between third-party content analytics providers and leading marketing automation platforms now allow you to push engagement data directly to individual lead records. This opens the door for creation of custom nurturing workflows that personalize follow-up for those who engaged most deeply based on where they are in the buying process. For example, you can send a tailored middle-of-funnel offer to a reader who spent 12 minutes reading all 30 pages of your top-of-funnel content.

Now that you have your target audience highly engaged, you can use marketing automation in an attempt to nurture those readers who don’t like your content. You can never be certain how an initially unqualified lead will evolve. That said, to be successful in converting these readers you must take a different approach.

For example, you can establish criteria to enroll unengaged readers on the always appreciated concierge marketing path with a personalized follow-up email that says, “Looks like that might not have been what you were looking for, can we help you find something else?”

In addition, many leading content marketing platforms are enhancing their analytic capabilities and building deeper integration with marketing automation platforms. These advancements now allow you to replicate the tailored nurturing strategy for individual visitors to your website content or blog articles.

By tailoring your nurturing campaign to account for reader behavior you can anticipate their interests in a way that drives more personalization, improves conversion, and ultimately generates more sales.

Are you among the engaged?

If you’ve made it this far in the post, you’re among the engaged minority and I’m genuinely pleased you found value in this content. If you’re among the 35% who found this post utterly drab and simply skimmed over the article to reach this point, I’d appreciate you leaving a critical comment.

Not because I care, but so I can confirm whether this article was written with you in mind.

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Cover image by Nicolai Berntsen, Unsplash, via