Scroll behavior across the web

You might’ve come across our graphic on Engaged Time below the fold at some point in the last few months in AdAgeBuzzfeed, or on the blog. That figure’s message is simple: even if every reader does not scroll down the page, the vast majority of readers’ collective time is spent below the fold (the typical height of a browser window, about 700 pixels), which has traditionally been an undervalued part of most sites.

I wanted to take a closer look at what goes into generating this effect, so I gathered a random sample of 25 million user sessions from across a wide sample of sites and content types and took a look at where these users spent their time reading.

(Important disclaimer: some of our customers don’t allow us to anonymously aggregate their data; as always, the data presented is drawn from those who do).

Scroll depth

Let’s start with the basics — the breakdown of where readers scroll on a typical site. Below you’ll see data showing the fraction of users who actually viewed each part of the page. For instance, we see that just under 70% of visitors saw the very top of the page they were viewing.

Scroll depth

There are a few notable trends:

  1. Many visitors scroll down the page before it finishes loading, which means that no portion of a typical article is viewed by 100% of viewers and the very top of the top of the page actually has about a 20% lower view rate than slightly farther down.

  2. The most viewed area of the page is just above the fold, at about 550 pixels, with just over 80% viewership.

  3. From this peak at 550 pixels, there is a slow decay in viewership. About 50% of readers see 1500 pixels down the page on content pages, while on home pages and section fronts 50% of readers make it to pixel 1000.

Scroll engagement

On the other hand, because much of an article’s actual content is downpage, those readers who do scroll down spend much more time down the page than they do at the top. We see this represented in the next figure, where we show the amount of time each area of the page was actively viewed by those who actually scrolled to view it at all.

Engagement across the page

Pixels at the top of the page are in view for the shortest amount of time — about 4 seconds — and the amount of time in view steadily rises as we move downpage to a peak between about 1200 pixels down. This portion of the page is viewed for nearly three times as long as the top of the page.

(Related: How the South China Morning Post approaches their digital transformation)

Expected time in view

To look at the tradeoff between these two metrics — viewership and time — let’s take a look at the joint distribution of the two. The graphs below show the expected amount of time that a visitor will view each part of the page for — the product of the percentage of people who view part of a page with the time that viewers spend there.

Expected engaged time

So, which portions of the page have the potential for the highest impact on your audience? That depends on your goals, of course. Two goals we hear frequently are maximizing reach and maximizing exposure time. If the former, it appears that placing it just above the fold is the best possible bet. On the other hand, if you want to maximize the amount of time that viewers spend with it in view — a good goal for brand advertisements and site modules that take time to consume — a placement around 1200px may be better. And, if you want to maximize the tradeoff between the two, positions slightly below the fold between 600 and 1000 pixels typically have both high viewership and high engagement.

Of course, it should go without saying that all of this data is presented in aggregate, and the scroll patterns of your site’s audience may be quite different.

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