Bhutan, the world’s largest book at UWashington Library
Anyone who has ever penned a blog post has asked, how long should this post be to maximize viewership? I’ve often wondered the same thing, particularly in the moment before I click the publish button and broadcast a perhaps-too-short-perhaps-too-long post into the Interwebs.
I’ve written 256 posts in the past 18 months and I sought to understand the impact of word count on every metric I could measure: page views, time on site, time on page, bounce rate, exit rate, retweets and favorite activity.
Here’s the data. In short, post length has no meaningful impact viewership, engagement or sharing.
Below is a chart depicting the correlation of word count to six key metrics. In each of these cases, the correlations are small (<25%) and relatively speaking insignificant predictors of traffic.
|Bounce rate||The fraction of visitors who came to the site to view a post and left without reading any others|
|Exit rate||The fraction of visitors who came to the site on another page and left on this post|
|Time on page and site||Self-explanatory|
|Page views per visit||The number of other blog posts read during a visit|
|Retweet frequency and Twitter favorite activity||The number of times a post is retweeted or favorited on Twitter, which often means saved to read later.|
My posts vary from 100 to 1100 words, with the majority between 300 and 750 and a median of 461 words. These posts aren’t exceptionally short or exceptionally long, but I imagine they are comparable with most blogs that post near-daily. Below is the distribution of the 256 posts by word count.
Plunging into the finer points of the analysis, below is a box plot demonstrating the relationship between page views and word count. I’ve bucketed posts by keyword in 200 word increments. Note the Y-Axis is Log10. The boxes show the distributions of page views in each bucket. The middle line in each box is the median, the borders of the rectangle show the 25th and 75th quartiles and the circles are outliers. More on reading box plots.
There is no difference in the traffic generated by longer or shorter posts. Though the ranges of the box plots vary, the medians are all very close to each other and while the 200 keyword bucket does seem to indicate a narrow distribution of page views, the three outliers at the top indicate the conclusion is likely a product of the smaller sample size.
In the end, the data reaffirms what I probably already knew to start. The best length for a blog post is the length required to capture and convey the message. No more, no less.
My client acquired a large company and I went along for his initial meetings with his new employees.
In the afternoon he planned a company-wide address. That morning we met for several hours with top executives. (Talk about emotions on full display: ego, anxiety, obsequiousness, defensiveness, fear, excitement… when the new sheriff comes to town all the icy-cool corporate masks quickly come off.)
The meeting ended at noon and when we walked out fifteen minutes later he noticed a big buffet set up on the other side of the atrium. There were plenty of people standing around in white coats and black slacks but no one in line or sitting at tables.
“What’s that for?” he asked a person walking past.
“The company arranged a meal for after your meeting,” she said. “A local restaurant closed for the day to come here.” She paused. “I think the chef and her staff were really excited about it,” she said, her voice trailing off at the end.
“Has anyone eaten?” he asked.
“Um, I don’t think so,” she said.
He stood looking a few moments. Even from a distance it was evident the catering staff was confused and disappointed.
“Come on,” he said to me. “We’re eating.”
And we did.
But he did more than just eat. He spent a few minutes talking to every — every — member of the staff. Many already knew who he was and while initially hesitant they quickly warmed up to him.
And why wouldn’t they? He complimented the food. He complimented the service. He joked and laughed. And when we had finished eating he said, “We can’t let great food go to waste!” and borrowed two white coats so we could serve them. Then he made the rounds of the tables and happily leaned into all the selfies.
When we finally left, he waved and smiled.
They smiled bigger.
Sure, it took a lot of his time. Sure, it took him off point and off focus and off schedule.
Sure, they loved him for it.
I already knew the answer but as we got in the car I still asked. “I know your schedule,” I said. “You didn’t have time to stop to eat. Besides, no one else did, so no one would have noticed.”
“I felt bad for them,” he said. “They tried hard to do a good job and everyone blew them off. How bad must that feel? So it was the least I could do.
“Maybe my staff thought they were too busy,” he continued. “Or maybe they thought they were too important. But clearly they were too self-absorbed to notice they were hurting other people’s feelings.”
He thought for a few seconds. “And maybe they’re the wrong people for the job, ” he said.**
Much of the time we want famous people to be so humble they don’t recognize there’s a fuss, or a special buzz surrounding, or that people are excited to see them. We want them to be oblivious to their fame or importance. (After all, if they’re tooaware… that means they’re too full of themselves.)
But what we should really want is for famous or notable people to recognize that in the eyes of others, they are special — and that other people might want something from them, even if that something is the simple recognition that what they do matters.
Because it does.
Picture a CEO walking into a building for an important meeting. Maybe he says hello to the receptionist. (Maybe.) Otherwise he only has time for the people at his level. It’s like no one else exists; they’re just unseen cogs in a giant machine.
Unfortunately, at times, we all do the same thing. We talk to the people we’re supposed to talk to. We recognize the people we’re supposed to recognize. We mesh with the cogs in the machine we’re expected to mesh with, but there are many other important cogs.
So go out of your way to smile to everyone. Or to nod. Or to introduce yourself.
And when someone does something to help you, even in the smallest way and even if it’s their job to do so, go out of your way to say thanks. Make it your mission to recognize the people behind the tasks: the people that support, that assist, and that make everything possible.
Even though most of us aren’t famous or notable, by recognizing people —especially those who have been conditioned not to expect to be recognized — we add a little extra meaning and dignity to their lives.
And that’s the best reason to go off point, off focus, and off task.
Although, when you think about it, you really aren’t taking yourself away from an important task. You’re just shifting to an equally important task: showing people they matter — especially to you.
** Six months later only three of the original 22 remained.
Now it’s your turn. Any stories where a simple act of kindness made a huge difference in your life?