Our focus when it comes to creating content for this blog has always been on quality.  We want to publish posts that offer genuine advice, support and / or information, or provide an insight into life at Leighton, showcasing exactly who we are and what we do.

With quality always coming first, we continually review the posts we put out. Although we know what topics we want to cover, we need to be confident they’re actually having a positive effect; that they’re being genuinely enjoyed and benefited from.

As such, we look at everything from how many visitors a post generates, through to things such as how long readers stayed on it for, where they came from and what they did after they’ve read it. When we have this information, we can utilise it to understand which type of posts we should be looking to replicate moving forward.

What it also does, however, is open up a discussion around certain blog post components and features – and this is exactly what happened recently with regard to blog post length.

Fact or fiction?

As our focus has always been on quality, we haven’t paid a huge amount of attention to how long posts are. We’ve been fully aware that they generally need to be at least several hundred words long to effectively get across our message, but this has always happened naturally – we rarely publish a post that isn’t 600 or 700 words long.

We recently talked internally about the impact of blog post length, however, and whether there was any correlation to longer posts seeing higher visitor levels, both in terms of overall readers and the quality of said readers.

Now there’s been a lot of research carried out over the years that suggest there is – I always come back to Neil Patel, who said many times over on QuickSprout.com that the most successful blog posts are over 2,000 words long – but I’m personally of the belief that although trends are good to be aware of, they shouldn’t be considered definitive guides.

And so, with that said, we decided to run an experiment of our own and over the last couple of weeks, have purposely produced a selection blog posts we consider ‘long’, which to us is anything over 1,000 words.

The proof is in the…posts

Interspersed with our ‘standard’ blog posts, our longer posts have been:

Producing a number of interesting results, one of the most notable is the fact that of those five blog posts, there was practically a direct correlation between the amount of words and the average session duration (using a period of 29th June 2015 to 7th September 2015).

Being the longest post, ‘24 Digital Tools That Just Work‘ saw readers stay for an average of 5 minutes and 11 seconds, followed by the 1,362 word ‘Is Your Approach To Digital Strategy Holding You Back?‘ with a 4 minute and 47 second average duration. We then saw the posts follow the order of ‘Data: the power behind Wimbledon’s Digital Excellence‘ (4 minutes and 42 seconds), ‘What New Technology Means for the Digital Transformation Process‘ (3 minutes and 32 seconds) and ‘Reaching the Customer you want, the way they want‘ (3 minutes and 19 seconds).

Interestingly, although there were some changes to the above standings when looking at the posts in terms of being the most read, the longest post still remained most popular:

  • 8th (most read post on the blog) – 24 Digital Tools That Just Work
  • 14th – Is Your Approach To Digital Strategy Holding You Back?
  • 17th – What New Technology Means for the Digital Transformation Process
  • 19th – Data:  the power behind Wimbledon’s Digital Excellence
  • 27th – Reaching the Customer you want, the way they want

What’s personally interesting about this latter set of figures is in my eyes, the fourth blog post around Wimbledon is one of my favourites on the blog ever.  It’s packed full of detail, images, facts and figures, and truly offers a great reading experience.

Furthermore, it’s the post that’s been published the longest out of the discussed five, and so combining these points together, I’d have expected it to have performed better – and this itself is a perfect example of why we regularly evaluate each and every post we distribute.

Some things don’t change

What’s also interesting to understand is it appears the length of a blog post doesn’t impact on certain factors, such as the bounce rate.

We’ve known for some time now that generally speaking, our blog posts see higher bounce rates than we’d like. Whilst it’s not something we’ve been unduly concerned about (due largely to additional statistics – our average session durations are good and visitor numbers are positive, for example), we have been developing ways to combat this.

But with these five longer blog posts, interestingly the bounce rates aren’t greatly different from the shorter posts, further cementing our belief it isn’t the content that’s resulting in the higher bounce rate, but the page itself. If we want to encourage greater, continued interaction in the same session, we need to offer more engagement opportunities on the blog post page itself.

Admittedly, this is only a relatively high level analysis of the blog posts, but I feel confident enough saying there’s definitely a lot to be said for posts with a longer word count.

There are obviously a lot of variables that would need to be tracked for a more accurate level of research – for example, did the longer word count posts see more visitors and increased average session durations because they had more words in them, or because of the topic? – but the data we have to hand showcases to me that there’s a clear ROI on creating long posts.