Does Anyone Read Your Marketing? [Content Traffic Research]

Content Marketing: How To Drive Customer Attention

Content Traffic Research-Heidi Cohen Time is money as the saying goes. For content marketers, these words have more than one meaning:

  • Your employee (or freelancer) time spent creating content has cost implications for your marketing headcount and budget.
  • Your prospect, customer and public time spent consuming your content has lead generation and sales implications for your business.

But the real question in today’s attention deficient world is: does anyone really spend any time consuming, engaging with or sharing your content?

Content traffic research findings

Here’s content traffic research from the Nielsen Norman Group and Chartbeat to guide your content creation efforts and make them more effective at getting read and driving measurable results. Content Traffic Research-Heidi Cohen

1. Content traffic doesn’t mean content consumption.

Chartbeat analyzed a random sample of 2 billion pageviews generated by 580,000 articles on 2,000 sites for a month to provide content marketers with the data they need to better understand how their visitors consume information.

Not all traffic is created equal. Most pageviews don’t result in content reading!

  • 55% of visitors spent less than 15 seconds actively on a page.
  • 1 in every 3 visitors spends less than 15 seconds reading articles when filtered for purely for article pages.

Chartbeat analyzed most clicked topics that received a very high level of attention per pageview with topics that receive a very low level of attention per pageview.

  • All most-clicked topics produced about the same quantity of traffic.
  • Most clicked, most engaged with articles tended to be actual news.
  • Most clicked, least engaged with articles tended to be more generic information.

BUT–the best performing content yielded approximately 5x the attention of the worst performing content.

If your content keeps a visitor’s attention for 3 minutes they’re 2x as likely to return than if you only kept their attention for 1 minute. This is critical for building a loyal audience that keeps reading your content!

Actionable Content Marketing Tip: Create content that provides real news for your target audience. To this end, provide the 5 basic content formats.

The more specific and high quality your content, the more likely it is to be read and acted upon.

2. Content is consumed in an F-shaped pattern

The Nielsen Norman Group found users’ reading behavior tended to form the letter F and was consistent across sites and tasks based on a 232 user eye-tracking study. Content Traffic Research

The F-shaped reading patter is comprised of 3 movements:

  1. A horizontal movement across the top of the content.
  2. A second, shorter horizontal movement across a slightly lower section of content.
  3. A vertical downward movement to scan content’s left side.

Content Marketing Implications:

  • Know that visitors won’t read your content thoroughly.
  • Put the most important information in the first 2 paragraphs.
  • Put key information words at subhead, paragraph and bullet point beginnings to attract attention when left side content is scanned.

Actionable Content Marketing Tip: Format your content for quick, easy consumption. Don’t assume that your audience has the time or motivation to plod through densely packed information. Use outlining to guide readers through.

3. Quality content gets scrolled through.

Content marketers must leverage the power of reader scrolling activity to appeal to their visitor’s on-page viewing habits. Content traffic research via Chartbeat -Time

  • 71% of content visitors scroll down a page for more information according to Chartbeat’s findings.
  • Only 24% of visitors scrolled down the native ad content page at all based on Chartbeat’s native ad content analysis. If they scrolled down the page, less than 1/3 of native ad content visitors read beyond the first 1/3 of the article.

Chartbeat found that native advertising on sites such as Gizmodo and Refinery29 performs as well as their normal content since their native advertising experience is consistent with what visitors expect from their site.

Therefore, while native advertising isn’t the same as content marketing, this research has implications for marketers. Specifically, your content marketing must provide a quality content experience for your visitors.

Actionable Content Marketing Tip: Avoid producing content that is thinly veiled advertising and promotion. Your audience is smart enough to know the difference.

Develop the quality content your target audience seeks.

4. Visitors spend their time examining valuable information.

Visitors spend their time seeking real information. Their time for content consumption is scarce so they’ve honed their skills for skimming and finding the nuggets they need.

They know the difference between ads, fluff and valuable content. Content traffic research via Chartbeat

66% of visitor attention on a normal media page is spent below the fold according to Chartbeat.

Actionable Content Marketing Tip: Take advantage of your target audience’s reading patterns by optimizing your content to serve them valuable information.

Since visitors scan for high quality information, give them more than one opportunity to see your key messages. Don’t assume that they’ll get viewed if you only include them once.

Take a page from traditional direct marketers and add a P.S. to your information.

5. Social sharing gets your content distributed but not necessarily read.

People who share content are a small fraction of the people who visit that content according to Chartbeat’s analysis of 10,000 socially-shared articles.

This finding makes sense based on the social media participation rule: 90% will lurk, 9% will do something small (such as share) and 1% will create content or participate. Content traffic research

  • There was 1 tweet and 8 Facebook likes for every 100 visitors to content with social activity. (Note: This is fits the social media participation rule.)
  • There was NO relationship between the amount a piece of content is shared and the amount of attention average reader pays to that piece of content
  • The piece of content with the largest volume of total engaged time had less than 100 likes and 50 tweets.
  • The piece of content with the largest number of tweets got about 20% of the total engaged time that the most engaging story received.

Social sharing of content isn’t a predictor of the attention it will yield.

Actionable Content Marketing Tip: Share your content via social media platforms to broaden your content reach. Understand that by itself this is insufficient to get readership.

Augment your social media distribution with social sharing buttons as well as an influencer program.

Your content marketing gets limited attention at best based on content traffic research.

To get potential visitors to consume more of your information, give them what they’re seeking: Quality content formatted for easy consumption.

How do you format your content marketing to increase consumption and action?

Happy Marketing,
Heidi Cohen


Heidi CohenHeidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies. You can find Heidi on , Facebook and .

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