Updated June 11, 2021
Disclaimer: I set out one plugin and one WordPress theme that I deem to be the very best for infinite scroll. I did not test every option out there but did do my due diligence. This article is based on my opinion based on deploying infinite scroll on 16 niche sites I own.
Fun fact: I increased time-on-site with infinite scroll across my portfolio of 16 niche sites 58% to 330% (not including Fat Stacks).
58% was the lowest increase in time-on-site. 330% the biggest.
Check it out:
Here are screenshots of the average time-on-site before and after deploying infinite scroll. Given this site has over 1.5 million monthly visitors, the aggregate increase time-on-site is incredible coming in at 1,500,000 x 34 seconds per visitor = 850,000 minutes increase per month. The increase in page views per visitor was almost as impressive coming in at an additional 555,000 page views per month.
Table of Contents
- 2 types of infinite scroll
- 2 places on a website to use infinite scroll
- Why don’t I put infinite scroll on Fat Stacks?
- 2 Ways to Deploy Infinite Scroll
- What’s the best way to deploy infinite scroll?
- What’s the best plugin for infinite scroll?
- What infinite scroll plugins did I test?
- Ajax Load More in detail (features I used)
- What’s my favorite WordPress theme with infinite scroll built-in?
- How to turn infinite scroll on with Astra Theme
- Did infinite scroll hurt my SEO?
- Can display ads be shown on sites with infinite scroll?
- Does infinite scroll earn more ad revenue?
- Why isn’t infinite scroll used on more sites?
- My ultimate litmus test
Before infinite scroll: Feb 1 to 29, 2020
- Average page views per session: 1.24
- Average time on site: 55 seconds
With Infinite Scroll: April 1 to 29, 2020
- Average page views per session: 1.61 (30% improvement)
- Average time on site: 1 minute, 29 seconds (62% improvement)
Most of my other niche sites improved even more.
All in all, those gains are huge. I’m an infinite scroll believer. It’s undeniably good for users given the fact they stick around on my sites far longer than without infinite scroll.
2 types of infinite scroll
There are two types of infinite scroll.
The first is where visitors click a “load more” button that loads more posts (on archive pages) or the next post if deployed on individual posts.
The second is where the next content scrolls into the screen automatically.
I deployed the second type.
2 places on a website to use infinite scroll
You can deploy infinite scroll in two parts of a website. One is on category, tag and the home page which loads more post excerpts. This is NOT what I do. However, I do use a load more button on archive pages on my niche sites.
The other is to deploy it on individual posts so that the next post comes into view as visitors scroll down. This is what I have on my sites.
Why don’t I put infinite scroll on Fat Stacks?
I may but the numbers around here are already very good with over 3.39 pages per visitor and average time of site of 2:59.
But for rest of my niches, it’s infinite scroll all the way.
2 Ways to Deploy Infinite Scroll
If you run a WordPress site, and chances are you do, you have two ways to deploy infinite scroll. They are by using a theme with infinite scroll built in or using a plugin.
I typically use a theme with infinite scroll built in but while testing infinite scroll, I tried every plugin out there. I was hoping to
What’s the best way to deploy infinite scroll?
I prefer using a theme with infinite scroll built in just because it’s smoother. However, I totally get it if you prefer sticking with your current theme. Switching themes is a big operation. Often it’s easier to deploy a plugin.
If you prefer the plugin approach, the next question is…
What’s the best plugin for infinite scroll?
After testing 4 leading infinite scroll plugins, one reigns supreme. It’s not even close. That plugin is Ajax Load More (ALM).
The reason I say it reigns supreme is that it actually works with GeneratePress (the others didn’t) and ALM offers more settings, features and controls than any of the others.
That said, ALM is not the easiest plugin to deploy. Fortunately, the support was amazing; I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the support.
Long story short, I did deploy infinite scroll on a niche site with the GeneratePress theme but I didn’t care for it as much as using a theme with infinite scroll built in.
What infinite scroll plugins did I test?
I don’t mean to knock these other plugins but at the end of the day, none of them except ALM worked with Generate Press theme. I didn’t try the plugins on another theme. I was only interested in getting infinite scroll working with Generate Press.
Plugins I tested are:
- Ajax Load More (it’s the best)
- YITH Infinite Scrolling (I upgraded to the premium version)
- Catch Infinite Scroll (I upgraded to the premium version)
- Auto Load Next Post
Ajax Load More in detail (features I used)
ALM has a free option here and a premium option here. I used the premium version. While for most plugins I recommend giving the free version a shot, in this case, you should get the paid version because of that’s what you need in order to deploy it on individual posts and for the SEO feature.
ALM plugin offers a ton of options, features and controls. I didn’t require all of them, but some of them are critically important.
Here’s what I required and ALM provided:
SEO friendly infinite scroll
This is important. This requires that as visitors scroll to new articles, the URL slug changes to the new article. This tells Google that it’s a new article. If you don’t have this operational, Google may lump content across multiple articles into one URL which would be bad.
Ability to cap the maximum number of pages in the scroll
Ability to deploy infinite scroll by category
Infinite scroll only works if the subsequent content is relevant to what visitors are reading. This is why it’s good to have the option to deploy infinite scroll by category. What this means is that the next articles that scroll into view will be in the same category as the first article visited. This can make a big difference if your site is in a broad niche.
Another thing I suggest is to turn your top nav menu bar into a floating menu bar so that visitors can get navigate if far down a scroll. I include a home link as well. This helps keep visitors oriented within your site.
Ajax Load More plugin speed testing results
Steve Teare, a friend, site speed expert and publisher of the very popular and ridiculously helpful blog PagePipe.com did some ALM plugin speed testing. Here are his results that he provided me along with permission to reproduce them here:
1. This test is a blog post and has an infinite scroll feature on it.
Notice item 9 in the waterfall. That is Ajax adding 754 milliseconds to the post’s load time. This is typical for Ajax. Note that TTFB is 1 second. Ajax calls affect server activity thus increasing TTFB, too.
Fortunately, the rest of the page assets are ultralight. So the load time is 2.192 seconds. Not under our 2-second performance budget but close. Fortunately, much of Ajax appears to be lazy-loaded. But on mobile?
2. One more geeky test in this demo: our testimonials page (normally very fast) where Ajax should not be loading because it’s a page — not a post.
Repeat: Only posts are selected in the plugin controls.
Notice TTFB — same server — 664 milliseconds. Load time: 1.585 seconds.
Ajax for the plugin is NOT being loaded. This is a good plugin. It’s been built properly. It uses selective activation. Ajax is always bad for speed (WooCommerce uses it heavily globally). But if you going to
use it, only turn it on where it is needed. Don’t leave the lights on in empty rooms.
Thanks Steve. If you want to learn a lot more about speeding up your site, visit Steve’s PagePipe.com website here.
What’s my favorite WordPress theme with infinite scroll built-in?
To date, I’ve used 2 themes with built-in infinite scroll for posts. They are Bimber and Astra Pro.
In March 2021, I switched all my sites from Bimber to Astra. Bimber is great but it’s far bulkier and bloated than Astra.
Astra infinite scroll for individual posts works great. I had no traffic changes making the change. Fat Stacks also uses Astra (but I don’t turn infinite scroll on for Fat Stacks… only my niche sites).
If you want infinite scroll, I strongly recommend Astra these days.
I used to use Bimber Theme and it’s awesome but far more bloated than Astra. It’s not the lightest theme out there but the infinite scroll is flawless. There are other themes with infinite scroll. I did not test them all. I checked out many demos and I thought Bimber’s capabilities were the smoothest. I am not disappointed with my choice.
It includes all my must-have features set out above.
How to turn infinite scroll on with Astra Theme
Go to the Customize => Blog => Single Post. Scroll down and toggle on “Auto Load Previous Posts” as follows:
How to cap the number of posts in the infinite scroll with Astra theme
While it’s called infinite scroll, I prefer capping the number of posts in the scroll to 5.
To do this, go to Settings => Reading and in the “Syndication fees show the most recent” field, input the number that you wish to cap the number of posts in infinite scroll as follows:
How to turn infinite scroll on in Bimber Theme
Go to Customizer => Posts => Single => Scroll down to the section titled “Autoload Next Post”.
Once there, check the “Enabled box” to indicate the maximum number of posts in the infinite scroll and indicate whether you want them to scroll by category. Here’s a screenshot:
Do you need Ajax Load More plugin if using Astra or Bimber themes?
No, you don’t need an infinite scroll plugin if you use Bimber theme (or any theme with infinite scroll built in).
Go with one or the other.
Is Astra theme fast?
Yes. It’s not the lightest but it definitely qualifies as a lightweight theme.
Is Bimber theme fast?
It’s not the fastest theme out there. However, before buying it and deploying it, I did some research. That’s when I stumbled on Steve Teare’s blog PagePipe and his Bimber theme review. I spoke to Steve further about Bimber. He says while it’s not the best theme for speed, for what it offers, it’s decent.
Did infinite scroll hurt my SEO?
No. My search traffic has grown since using infinite scroll. I’m not suggesting that it grew because of infinite scroll. I’m merely suggesting that infinite scroll did not hurt SEO.
However, you definitely want to make sure you set up your infinite scroll properly for SEO. This requires that the URL slug changes as new articles come into view. I also set it up so that the SEO titles change as new pages come into view.
ALM handles both of these requirements.
Can display ads be shown on sites with infinite scroll?
This is one reason infinite scroll isn’t as popular as it should be.
Many ad networks don’t have the tech to deploy ads on infinite scroll.
The only ad network that can do it that I’m aware of is AdThrive. Hence I’m in the process of moving all my sites to AdThrive.
Now, I did NOT ask every ad network out there whether they can run ads on infinite scroll. I’m sure there are other networks that can accommodate infinite scroll.
Can AdSense ads be used on infinite scroll?
No, AdSense ads cannot be used on infinite scroll.
Can Ezoic ads be used on sites with infinite scroll?
Yes and no. Yes in the sense that ads will show up on the first page view but won’t show up on subsequent page views.
Mediavine and Monumetric may be able to configure infinite scroll for you. I contacted Mediavine and they said it’s possible but I’ve also heard from folks that they were told Mediavine won’t do it.
The best thing to do is ask your ad network.
Does infinite scroll earn more ad revenue?
Again, I’m not sure. I deployed it as COVID-19 hit hard so ad rates dropped drastically but then started climbing again. I can’t say the increased ad revenue was a result of infinite scroll. Frankly, I don’t care. The increased time on site for me is a big enough of a win.
Why isn’t infinite scroll used on more sites?
When you search in Google “is infinite scroll good” you get a ton of posts that suggest it’s bad.
However, what made me think twice is that many top-tier sites do use infinite scroll. Not all of them of course, but many do and you know they test this stuff.
I figured at the very least it was worth trying. I’m sure glad I did. I test a lot of stuff that ends up being a waste of time and money but when something works, it can really work. Infinite scroll is one such feature.
My ultimate litmus test
As a website visitor, I LOVE sites with infinite scroll, especially on my phone. I don’t want to navigate a site with links and menus. Just keep me entertained and spoonfeed me more great content. As long as I like it, I stick around.
If I like it, others must.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
Hyperbole? Maybe, but go check it out to see what some readers say.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.