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Local Marketing Blog

Reading on the Web: The Exception to the Rule



From neuroscientists to UX designers, the consensus is clear: No one reads on the web. In fact, according to Tony Haile of Chartbeat, a web analytics software, 55% of web traffic “bounces” after 15 seconds. For the 45% of you who are actually still reading, I have a revelation: Reviews are the exception to the rule. More on that below.

But first, it’s worth looking at how we consume written content online. It seems we have become conditioned to skim and scan our way through the web, largely out of necessity. Aside from some poor reading habits, this need to navigate quickly has led savvy designers and copywriters to format information to be more digestible to the skimming brain; e.g., large headings, short snippets, and bullet points.

Something like this:

No One Reads

Research shows people spend very little time reading content on the web.

    1. 55% spend 15 seconds or less on a site
    2. Less than 20% of content is actually read
    3. You get the point?


While the above formatting is definitely more likely to relay vital information to the average person navigating the web, the fact is, not all content is equal. It turns out, the way we read has everything to do with what we read. For example, research shows that we slow down and read more deliberately when the content is pleasurable to the reader.

Want to know what else gets read? You guessed it…

Reviews also yield longer read times than other written content on the web. This may seem obvious on its face, but this week I conducted a cursory analysis of traffic data to more than 2,000 reviews pages over the span of June and July and found an average read time of about 56 seconds.

It makes sense. Unlike other forms of online content, people actually seek out reviews. When they find them, they read the content earnestly because they are conducting research with consequences. So while it’s a truism that no one reads online, the caveat is that context matters.


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