New Feature: Estimated reading time improves content marketing results and engagement

Customers are constantly looking for ways to improve their content marketing so they can engage with their target audience more effectively. That’s why we added a brand new feature to our platform called “Estimated Reading Time.”
We now automatically calculate Estimated Reading Time for the following content types:  Blog Posts, SEO Content, News Commentaries, Informative Articles and Thought Leadership.

Content development to improve your SEO and website performance

Based on a research, we found that by adding this feature to content, it dramatically increases engagement, time spent on site and bounce rates.
Learn more by checking out our 3 part series about estimated reading times: Do You Need Estimated Reading Times, Part 1: What Are Estimated Reading Times?

Do You Need Estimated Reading Times, Part 3: What Are the Best Practices?

How does reading time increase customer engagement?

Reading time does increase customer engagement, but it does not apply to all types of content under 1,000 words.
Adding reading times specifically relates to the audience. Most often, people arrive at blog post because they’ve done searches on search engines or clicked on social media links that direct them to that page. They needed a specific answer or very specific information for whatever it isthey’re trying to accomplish. They are also educating themselves or trying to learn more about your company’s products or services. As a result, they need to be able to see how long it’s going to take to be able to obtain that information by putting their average reading time.
In my experience, I’ve seen that reading time improves two key statistics: time spent on site and bounce rate. If you include the reading time associated with your blog, you should be able to see an improvement of up to 20 percent in both of those metrics in a positive manner.
When it comes to longer form content such as e-guides, white papers, and e-books, including an estimated reading time is not recommended. I don’t recommend it because of the objective you wish to achieve for the reader. The reader isn’t reading an e-guide or e-book to obtain very specific information or knowledge. It’s actually much more broad. They’re trying to educate themselves on a much larger topic or area. As a result, the reading time is not appropriate because they’re already prepared to make a significant investment of their time reading the content that you’re providing.

What makes an article attractive to readers? What is the impact of newsworthy versus evergreen content?

It’s important to differentiate both short-form versus long-form content, what makes it attractive and why is it important. It’s going to help the readers determine whether they want to make the investment. We need to further bifurcating this between B2C and B2B readers. Shorter form content makes sense for B2B readers.
However, I do want to differentiate between line staff and executive staff. Executives are especially pressed for time. As a result, they are much more judicious on how they allocate their time throughout the day.
In addition to providing the estimated reading time to potential B2B executives, you should also provide a punchy and short introduction to your article before the actual article begins. Sharp introductions should consist of one to two sentences and a couple of bullet points clearly describing what the contents are about and what value the reader is going to obtain by reading it. By including that information, you’re much more likely to get the executives that continue to read on and potentially forward the content to subordinates within the organization.
In summary, having an estimated reading time for most situations makes sense. However, be sure to focus more on short-form than long-form content.

Do You Need Estimated Reading Times Part 2: What Is Ideal?

What is the ideal estimated reading time to keep a reader interested?

Most bloggers and corporate sites struggle to balance quantity versus quality when it comes to creating blog posts for their constituents. One of the measures used to generate an estimated reading time is the number of words in the blog post.

Recently, a lot of the data has been pointing toward a longer blog post being better from a search engine optimization perspective. However, from a readers perspective, readers have less and less time available and therefore, readers demand more value for the content that they’re reading in a shorter period of time. This divergence is creating an issue with time spent on site and what I’d call abandonment rates with people coming to the site and quickly bouncing away from it.

We recommend that the content pieces and blog posts should be somewhere between 500 and 1,000 words and should really focus on top of funnel visitors. Top of funnel visitors are are new visitors who are coming to your site. What you’re trying to do is generate awareness of your solution by generating some initial interest. Middle of the funnel content, which is content that should be between 1,000 and 2,500 words, should really focus on educating the customers and ultimately getting them to take a certain action for the purposes of this article.

How much time is the ideal reading time for a blog article?

We’re going to focus on blog posts that are at the top funnel. At that level, I consider it a win when a reader spends more than two minutes on your site reading a piece of content.

So if you’re trying to determine the estimated reading time, you really should focus on pieces being between 2 and 4 minutes in length to read for shorter blog posts. A reading time of 2 to 4 minutes with a strong introduction will have a much lower bounce rate. Anything less than a minute on the page itself is going to create a bounce in terms of Google Analytics and SEO, so it’ll actually work against you. We try to make sure that these posts are short, punchy, to the point and really geared toward the awareness level.

For us, we target two to four minutes in length for the mid funnel-based content. It’s quite common to see someone spend 5 to 15 minutes reading that. Those are great pieces for SEO improvements. While blog posts are excellent pieces to help drive awareness through social media and morality.

To have a successful campaign, you shouldn’t just focus on an absolute metric of reading time. You should balance that between what you’re trying to accomplish and where the content fits within your overall sales and customer acquisition funnel.

In short, blog post should be 2 to 4 minutes reading time, and longer informative articles should be between 5 and 15 minutes in reading time.

Do You Need Estimated Reading Times, Part 1: What Are Estimated Reading Times?

The short answer to this is yes, but before we explain that, let’s describe what the reading time is.

What are estimated reading times?

Essentially, estimated reading time is a gauge for how long an average reader would take to read and consume the entire piece of content that’s been presented in front of them. Many audiences look at articles and other content. If they see that it’s going to take too long for them to get through it, they are likely to abandon the page itself. This increases the company’s abandonment rates, negatively impacting SEO.

Where do you place estimated reading times?

A good rule of thumb is to place estimated reading time at the beginning of each article. The best place for it is after the title and before the body text begins, typically, left-justified. This location directly benefits your target audience. Many people have very limited time available, and if they see that an article is only going to take a couple minutes to read, they’re much more likely to read it, and actually get to the end of it.
If you are trying to target decision makers who are C-level executives, they are even more pressed for time. As a result, the estimated reading time is even more valuable for this target audience.

Should there be other details aside from the reading time?

There should also be a brief summary placed at the very beginning of the article itself. The summary should be one or two sentences with a couple of bullet points explaining what’s going to be covered within the content. That provides a relatively low commitment for the target audience and the target reader. If it is written in a compelling enough way, it will induce the reader to go and continue into the rest of the article.

What are some of the negatives associated with adding estimated reading times for your blog content?

Some of the negatives associated with adding estimated reading time really depends on the type of content associated with it. For blog posts, it’s recommended that estimated reading time should be included. However, for longer-form pieces pieces such as thought leadership, e-guides, and white papers, I don’t recommend including the estimated reading time because of the intent associated with the reader.

What are the benefits associated with estimated reading times for your blog content?

Someone who is going to read an e-guide, white paper, or a deep dive informative article (also known as long-form content), will be more interested in what is going to be discussed and the value that’s going to be provided to them within the content than they are interested in actually saving time. However, with blog posts, the opposite is true. They’re trying to get a nugget or two of information quickly. After they consume the nugget of information, they want to be able to move on.
In summary, estimated reading times makes sense for both businesses and consumers in the B2B audience. If you are focusing on blog posts and other short-form pieces of content that are generally under 1,000 words, including the estimated reading time makes sense. If you have long-form content, it is not recommended that you include the estimated reading time.

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