What the heck is “Scroll Depth”?
It means how far down the page your visitors scroll, once they arrive at one of your posts.
And I should care about it because…?
Because if no-one’s scrolling through your content, there’s a pretty good chance they’re not even reading the post you so carefully crafted for their consumption! And if no-one’s reading your stuff, well, that’s a problem, mmkay? A good average scroll rate (around 50-75%) means that your visitors are mostly finding the title and opening paragraphs of your post interesting enough to stick around for a while, and read a bit further. It’s an indicator of a) the perceived quality of your content, and b) the quality of the traffic coming to the post.
Right. So you’re gonna tell me how to increase my average scroll depth, then?
Yep! Here are several super-easy ways to push your visitors further down the screen and keep those eyes glued to your post.
Get your formatting & legibility right
I know, we’re starting super-basic, but this will doubtless be new to someone, so here goes: if you’re in the habit of posting giant walls of text with no paragraph breaks, consider breaking those walls down and giving your readers a break. Break, break break. Chop that content down into bite-sized, easily digestible sections, to keep your visitors from overloading and leaving your site. (Why do you think people write list posts all the time?)
Then, take a real hard look at the legibility of the font you’re using. You’re running a blog. Reading is like 120% of what your visitors will be doing while they’re there. Publishing your content in a poorly-legible font increases eyestrain, meaning that you’re actually making it physically painful for people to read your stuff. Stahp it! If you’re looking for advice on good, highly legible fonts, check out these useful, research-backed posts:
Space yourself – optimize your image placement
It’s been pretty well proven that adding image content increases people’s willingness to stick around, but their placement within the post is also key. A couple studies have found that pages with images partially peeking into the edge of the browser causes people to scroll more (one study indicated an optimum spacing of one image per 350 words). We can use that little tidbit of bemusingly specific scientific research to our advantage by spacing out our images amongst the text by no more than roughly one screen’s height. This way, if a visitor scrolls through a page of text, they’re more likely to see part of an image peeking in from the bottom of the screen, then scroll further to see yet another picture.
Probably of a cat.
Like this one.
Make the intro useful
In your opening paragraph or two, make sure to explicitly tell your readers what benefit they’ll get from reading till the end. It could be details on a giveaway, a secret you’re going to reveal, whatever. Knowing the possible outcome of reading your post helps them decide whether or not they should stay.
Hinting at some kind of reward at the end of the post is another classic intro method–freebies, or hints at some kind of surprise at the end opens up what content creators call the curiosity gap, a method often applied in the clickiest of clicky headlines that make up like 84% of all tweets nowadays. (I’m kidding–it’s probably more like 99.8%)
Write stories in nested loops
If you’re a huge Walking Dead and Breaking Bad fan like me, you’ll have a healthy respect for how ridiculously crack-cocaine-addictive these shows are. Once you’ve watched one or two episodes, they sink their little pixel-hooks deep into your flesh, and then gleefully commandeer your body around the internet like a puppet in desperate search of any news, rumors, fan fiction, anything related to them.
This doesn’t happen by accident. They’re using nested story loops to keep your attention.
These shows’ storylines are deliberately structured such that each episode resolves about 2-3 storyline threads from the previous episodes–this gives you that “ahhh, now I know what happened” feeling. But each episode will also simultaneously introduce 2 or 3 new threads–so there’s a constantly repeating cycle of resolution and introduction, alternately satisfying your curiosity for that dopamine hit, and piquing your interest to ensure you’ll stay tuned next week. Well you can leverage this approach to your blogging too. How?
By resolving questions and points raised in a previous paragraph, and raising new ones. Heh, see what I did there? I can’t take credit for this observation, it was passed to me from story-telling and sales expert Travis Houston over at Product Launchr.
Use anchor links
Some might call this cheating, but I just call it, uh, expedient linking. For longer-form content, creating an index of anchor links at the top of the post allows your visitors to jump straight to the parts that interest them, instead of starting right at the top–and potentially losing interest before they get to the good stuff that’ll keep them hooked on the page.
Inform your visitors upfront
Everyone’s busy, and most of the time website visitors are forced to go in blind when they start to read a blog post since they don’t know how long the post is, or how long it’ll take to read. Citing an estimated reading time and showing some form of reading progress bar helps them know what they’re getting into and make an informed decision as to whether or not they have the time to spare. If you want to go one step further, offer those folks who don’t have enough time, the means to save the article for later–add something like the Pocket button, or roll something custom like how the Digital Telepathy blog does it:
By empowering your visitors to choose when they get to read your content, you’re reducing the possibility for them to get distracted, and they can then enjoy a more thorough reading of your post.
All of these little blog conveniences add up, and give your visitors fewer excuses to leave.
Let’s get deep
So there you have it–each of the above methods are pretty easy to implement, and should noticeably improve your ability to keep visitors on the page, and scrolling closer to the end of your posts.
Have you tried these tactics and seen some gains in scroll depth? If so, lemme hear your results in the comments.