Thanks to the wide reach of the Internet, people are reading like never before. We aren’t talking about poetry and literature, but a vast variety of written content that make up the World Wide Web. Text content has exploded across the internet, changing the way we read online.
Moreover, many people access websites on their smartphones and tablets. People who do not own laptops or computer systems can access the internet effortlessly, unlike earlier days. So the number of readers has increased as well!
If we only consider the statistics about blogs, one can find 5,60,000 new blog posts every day on the Internet. Then there are news articles, e-commerce content, social media posts, etc. that internet users read frequently.
But not all people online read in the same manner. While people read newspapers and magazines quite thoroughly in their leisure time, that’s not how they read on their phones and laptops.
Researchers have studied the behavior of online readers. They considered scroll depth and speed, time spent reading, and the length of interactive engagement. And they identified a few different reading styles.
As a writer, knowing how your audience read could help you meet their expectations better. In this post, we will discuss the different reading styles of online readers.
Different Types of Online Readers
These readers are far and few. They spend a few moments on the blog, and they have very low engagement levels. Either they were searching for information that they didn’t find in the blog. Or the information was not conveyed quickly.
What Should I Do?
To encourage shallow readers to read more, you have to give them a glimpse of what’s ahead in the first paragraph itself. Or you can introduce a ‘post summary’ section in your blog, to give a snapshot of the content of the blog post.
Also, intricate text scares away shallow readers. Bring more clarity in your writing to make them comfortable. Breaking down your text into smaller paragraphs and short sentences would also help.
These are the folks who go through the entire article real quick to find the information they want. The readers go through the blog at a rate of 1823 words per minute. This is a very fast speed, and it implies that the audience is not reading in-depth or grasping the meaning of every sentence.
What Should I Do?
Use subheadings to give a better experience to scanners. It will assure them the content of the blog is useful to them and reading it is worth their time. You can also enable a plugin that shows the time required to read the complete blog so that scanners don’t walk away from blogs that require less time.
These readers take long, idle pauses while reading. They scroll slowly and spend a long time in every subsection or paragraph. These usually happen when-
The text is complex and requires deep understanding. For instance, a subject-specific write-up in which the reader pauses to reflect.
On articles like how-to guides which people read while executing the actual task.
When people are multi-tasking. They might be checking emails and reading a blog at the same time.
What Should I Do?
If you are writing a how-to guide, use sub-headers and bullet points to break a complex process into simple steps. You can also use images and infographics to convey complex information in a simple form.
These readers go through your entire article at a slow but steady pace. Their reading speed is around 200 to 600 words per minute. Such people read a lot and tend to remember more, so you can’t get away from copied ideas or unverified facts.
What Should I Do?
The easy and best way to appeal to this group is to deliver high-quality content. Write authentic articles rather than spinning content. And present interesting insights and new opinions on familiar topics.
This is an extension of the previous group of readers. These people take a keen interest in your work and ideas. They are not just reading the entire text, they want to go beyond it and find more information. They also want to share their insights and interact with the writer.
What Should I Do?
The evolved readers would be happy if your blog has links to pages where they can read more on the topic. Include links to other articles in your blog, and share a list of suggested readings. You can also include polls and quizzes in your blog to increase engagement.
Answer the questions they ask and satisfy their curiosity. Get involved in their conversations on the comment section, and thank them when they point any discrepancy or error in your work.
How to Understand Your Readers?
After learning about the different types of reading habits, you would want to know how your existing readers fit into these categories. All the info you need is already out there, you just need to interpret the right metrics. You must already be familiar with Google Analytics even if you have spent a brief period in content creation.
Most amateur bloggers are keen to drive up their page views. It is an important metric and tells about your most popular and least popular blog posts. But it doesn’t reflect how the visitors interacted with your content, which is what we want to know. If you want to learn more about your readers’ behavior, you should focus on the following:
Average Time on a Page–
Look for average time (or dwell time) for each of your blog post. You already know the average time required to read the complete blog post.
You can compare it against this metric and assess if a majority of your readers are scanners and skimmers, or they fall in the Readers category.
However, you should also take a second look at your blog post if the average time is less than satisfactory. Readers and evolved readers have higher expectations. Don’t expect people to stay and read your complete blog post if you have used a misleading title or a poorly written blog.
Quantity and Quality of Comments–
Readers who take a deep interest in your work often share insightful comments. Shallow readers and scanners won’t spend an extra minute for typing a comment. More number of comments indicates an audience who read every line and is ready for a discussion.
If people are visiting the same page again, it’s a strong sign that they value your work, and read it deeply. It shows that your content has great utility. Visitors who couldn’t finish it in one go want to finish reading it. Or they read it once and want to see it again for a better understanding.
This metric is a bit tricky to locate. If you don’t know where to look for in the Google Analytics page, follow these steps-
Go to Behaviour> Site Content> All Pages
Click on the Secondary dimension dropdown, and select User type.
The User type shows the number of new visitors and returning visitors separately. You can view this metric for all individual blog posts. If you don’t see ‘returning visitors’ against a particular post, it means no one read it for a second time.
Final Words (If You Are Still Reading!)
As bloggers, we all want more page views. But we end up appealing to only one group of online readers as most of us are set in our writing styles.
By learning more about the reading habits of our readers, we can figure out how to tweak our work to keep them interested. While it’s great to stay focussed on writing on new topics, take some time to interpret your analytics, and to interact with your audience. A moment of reflection would help you achieve your blogging goals fasters.