Can you spend 4 minutes reading this post?

12 October 2017 by    Claude Malaison
Can you spend 4 minutes reading this post?

The question may seem simplistic or incongruous, but when you think about it, it opens the door to many different answers.

We’ve been blogging since 2009 and in these immemorial times, best practices dictated short posts of about 600 words, divided up into roughly 60 words per paragraph, so a bit less than a dozen of those, with subtitles, images or videos and many hyperlinks, and keywords.

These best practices fostered a fast-paced , burst-like reading dynamic,  in line with how people generally behave on the Web, which made it difficult to retain a reader for more than a few minutes and sometimes even seconds.

Several studies have actually focused on the subject of the average reader’s attention time on blogs and other electronic media.

This is from a 2014 Time magazine article that refers to a study by Chartbeat:

Chartbeat looked at deep user behavior in 2 billion visits across the web over the course of a month and found that most people who click don’t read. In fact, a stunning 55% spent fewer than 15 seconds actively on a page. The stats get a little better if you filter purely for article pages, but even then one in every three visitors spend less than 15 seconds reading articles they land on.

Now, 15 seconds isn’t a whole lot of time to influence or engage a customer. But in Chartbeat’s defense, It can be argued that 15 seconds is probably a realistic average for the entire Web. Would corporate blogs be any different?One wouldn’t think so, but since 2014 something has been changing. It would now appear that writing longer blogs is better. Just to make sure, I asked M. know-it-all (Google).  Amongst the habitual results-overkill (38 million) one answer sticks out as interesting:

 

So, the ideal length for a blog would be about 1,600 words but it’s also specified that the best SEO results would come from even longer posts, up to 2,500 words. The average reader reads 300 words / minute, so a 1,600 word post would take a little more than 5 minutes to read. 5 MINUTES !!! This is eons compared to 15 seconds…

If you’re researching this subject you’ll inevitably come across the results from Orbit Media Studios, a company that conducts an annual survey of blogs and bloggers.

According to their latest study (2016 being the third year), blog length increases from year to year:

By 2016, Orbit Media noted that the length of an average blog post had risen to 1054 words (up from 887 in 2015). Short blogs just don’t get the results that most bloggers are hoping to meet. Longer blogs—those measuring 1500+ words—tend to get more social media attention and lead visitors to spend more time on your site.

The trend should continue in 2017:

As shown in the screenshot above, only 18% of corporate blog posts exceed 750 words, leaving a lot of room to catch up to this new trend.

And what if this relative shortness of corporate blogs was also the reason for the lesser commitment to them? According to point 4, long posts generate nine times more leads and it’s not only a matter of length according to Orbit Media noted by Blognutt:

The point is to produce high-quality posts that people are genuinely interested in reading. Readers aren’t looking for fluff content. They’re looking for posts that will tell them more than what they can find in half a dozen different places across the internet. It’s also more important than ever to include other media with blog posts: images, video, and audio help attract readers and genuinely interest them in the content.

At least those good practices haven’t changed: the text must be accompanied by images, videos, and, in my opinion, hyperlinks to captivate, retain and engage the reader / potential lead. I would also insist on the length of the paragraphs: long posts but short paragraphs!

What is often forgotten is the importance of titles and their keywords. Noah Kagan wrote an excellent post after analyzing a million blog post titles.  What caught my attention in this well thought out piece of research is the use of the Advanced Marketing Institute platform to analyze the emotional quality of titles, using a measurement called “Emotional Marketing Value” or EMV.

… most professional copywriters’ headlines will have 30%-40% EMV Words in their headlines, while the most gifted copywriters will have 50%-75% EMV words in headlines. A perfect score would be 100%, but that is rare unless your headline is less than five words.

 

Are we following the trend here at Exo B2B?

As with all corporate blogs, whether in B2C or B2B, at Exo we’ll also need to spend more time writing bigger posts because on average, the roughly 800 posts published by Exo team members average 700 words. In the graph below, the time spent writing and also researching has increased at the same rate as the length.

 

We’ve already started to publish long posts. Here’s an example. It’s a post I published on March 16, 2017, which deals with marketing influencers. In fact, I turned it into a Top 30 list of influencers. The result: a post with 1540 words, 3 photos, 2 lists, 9 paragraphs and 95 hyperlinks !!! And what is interesting is the EMV of the English title used on Twitter: INFLUENCE IN MARKETING: OUR TOP 30. Here is our result and keep in mind that a score between 50 and 75% is excellent:

Two weeks ago,  Marc Ruel published a post on B2B content marketing that had 1600 words, 4 images, 10 subtitles, 31 paragraphs and 4 hyperlinks. Readers spent more than 3 minutes reading it, less than expected according to the reading rule of 300 words/minute.

And if we go back into older and shorter posts, obviously the reading time decreases proportionately. At 300 words/minute, a 500-word post takes 1m30, as exemplified by Clothilde Eito’s “Your emails are not spam” which for 533 words generated a reading time of 1m22s.

Oh! I also did some Twitter research. I rated the most active posts we tweeted in the last four months, from May to August:

May: Will AR, VR, or AI Hold the Most Promise for B2B Marketers?  This is a 940-word post
June: A proposed model for organizing the chaos of marketing technology  The shortest one, at 597 words
July: Great B2B campaigns that lit up the Cannes Lions last week  The longest one, with 1622 words
August: Why B2B Marketers Need to Think About Demand Generation In a Customer Experience Context A 740- word postWhat’s the takeaway

So, what’s my takeaway on the trend of longer more deeply researched blog posts? Readers actually have a growing interest but this interest hasn’t yet fulfilled its potential. Reading time has increased, but not proportionally to the length of the contents. We haven’t yet reached the 5-minute mark. On the other hand, the 300-word/minute rule is not absolute or immutable. There are fast readers and diagonal reading out there, too.

So how long did you take to read my 1204 words?

About Claude Malaison

Because knowledge is also knowing that when you have arrived, you have to return and that only half of the work is done! After studying journalism and information at Laval University, Claude Malaison started out as a journalist at Progrès-Dimanche and at Le Quotidien de Chicoutimi, for seven years. From 1999 to 2005, he founded and co-organized Intracom, the first international conference about intranets. Then from 2006 to 2012, he was a program director for an international conference called webcom-Montréal, as well as for other conferences such as webcom-Québec and Boule de Cristal.  He was awarded the Cartier Prize at webcom-Montréal in November 2011, which highlighted his exceptional contribution to the promotion of new information and communication technologies… Read more

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