The Skimming Effect

ClickTale
May 19, 2011

May Marketing Madness Content Week, Post #19

By Adam Greco
Senior Partner, Web Analytics Demystified

Greco11 The Skimming Effect

While every business hopes people read everything in glorious detail on their website, the truth is that in today’s busy world of 140 characters, people skim content. It is the reason CNN puts bullets at the top of its articles because it knows people are too lazy to read the entire thing!

I can illustrate the skimming effect in a fun story…As a frequent blogger, I often write pages of (what I think) is super-useful information. I spend time thinking about the content, come up with good examples and do my best to structure it in a way that makes sense to the reader. The same is true for any website content. However, I never really knew how people consume my content. Using web analytics I could see which blog posts were more popular than others and look at time spent on the page for an indication of interest. I thought I was pretty good.

Then, however, I added ClickTale to my blog and the strangest thing happened. With ClickTale I started to notice a large percentage of blog readers who would open the page, zoom all the way to the bottom and then either leave or zoom back to the top! I was really confused and wondered what the heck was going on…So I started asking some people about it and one person said to me: Adam – your blog has great stuff, but your posts tend to be on the long side and very meaty. I often scan to see how long it is to determine if I have enough time then and there to focus on the post and absorb it…This was supported by the behavior I was seeing in ClickTale!

Greco23 The Skimming EffectSo the next week, I added a phrase at the top of each blog post that provided an estimated time required to read the post. Then I reviewed the subsequent ClickTale session playback recordings and I saw a dramatic decrease in people zooming down to the bottom of the page! This helped prove the original hypothesis to be correct.

Does this mean that the answer to content skimming is to simply tell people how long it will take to read your content? Of course not! In this one particular case, doing that helped, but it is undoubtedly not going to apply to all situations. The real moral of the story is that people have been trained to skim and it will probably only get worse each year. You need to understand how people are looking at your content and using tools like ClickTale or fivesecondtest.com. These can prove to be invaluable resources in that regard. Unfortunately, since many people have probably skimmed this article, they won’t be reading this and will lose out icon smile The Skimming Effect

This post is one out of ClickTale’s month long May Marketing Madness series. Each of our daily posts will highlight and explain today’s best practices, useful tips and smart tools to measure and improve your online business performance. This week’s theme is content. Make sure to stay tuned in for more!

About the Author

Adam Greco2 The Skimming Effect

Adam Greco is a longstanding member of the web analytics community who has consulted with hundreds of clients across every industry vertical. Mr. Greco began his web analytics career managing the website for the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, became one of the founders of the Omniture Consulting group, and was most recently Senior Director of Web Analytics at Salesforce.com. Adam is now the Senior Partner of Web Analytics Demystified.

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