Posted in UI/UX | 6-min read
Since I know you’re strapped for time, I’ll make this piece short. 6.5 minutes, to be exact. You can manage that, right? Isn’t it nice knowing how much time you’ll probably spend reading this piece? That’s where utilizing an Estimated Read Time comes in handy for your blog content.
Why Knowing the Estimated Read Time Is Handy
Whenever we start watching a movie, we know that it’ll be anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours (or 3 hours if you’re watching Avengers: Endgame). Whenever we watch a video on YouTube, we quickly look at how long the video is going to be. We can usually gauge how long a book will take to read based on its thickness. Despite this, when we open a blog article online, we have to scroll down to guess how long an article will take to read. Scrolling is a pain. There must be another way. Well, for the blog platform Medium.com, there was.
“Eons ago, a couple of Medium engineers got fed up. They were sick of having to scroll all the way down the page to see how long a story was. It was wearing out their trackpad, it was making their fingers sore, and they figured there must be a better way. So they sat down and devised a simple formula, and the Medium read time was born.” - Read Time And You
We remember where we were when we first saw the “# min read” function on Medium articles. When one would see a listing of articles, included was the title, a description of the piece, a featured image...and the estimated read time. Suddenly, not only could we decide what we wanted to read, but how much time we were willing to devote to that particular piece.
How Estimated Read Time Can Impact User Behavior
If buying products on Amazon is any indication of the skepticism of the average internet user, it says that we want to know absolutely everything we can about something before we commit to it. If you had to guess, how much time have you spent combing Amazon user reviews for a handful of products you wish to purchase? Frequently, in searching for the best value, we will waste untold sums of time (which is money, by the way) to make sure we’re getting the best deal.
Online content is no different. The more we know about an article or video, the more likely we are to click on it and start reading, viewing, or listening. When a visitor knows approximately how long it will take them to read an article, they can mentally budget for that time and proceed. Not only are they more apt to read the article, but they can also do so with fewer distractions, less skimming, and simply more mental bandwidth.
How to Determine Estimated Read Time
While you could hit a stopwatch before and after a final read-through of your article, we’re guessing that would be a pain to have to do with every article. Fortunately, modern technology is a few steps ahead of us and is willing to lend a hand.
1. Plugins. If your site is built on WordPress, there are a handful of plugins that can determine the Estimated Read Time of an article and post it at the top of the content. You would need to manually add this time to the meta description in order to use it to optimize for the click-thru rate on search engines or social media.
One recommended WordPress plugin for this is called Reading Time WP. Initial testing has found that it works great for posting the Estimated Read Time at the top of any blog page if the plugin is activated.
2. Copy+Paste Content Into ReadTime.eu.
While it may seem like a burdensome extra step to make before publishing, this last step only takes a few clicks.
Once your article is fully edited and ready to be published, copy/paste it into the open field at ReadTime.eu.
Make note of the time listed under “Reading this text takes:” section.
Jot this time at the top of your content. The format doesn’t matter as long as it is clear. Round up or down in half-minute intervals using decimals. “Reading Time: 3.5 minutes” or “(3.5-min read)” — either is fine.
Place this time at the beginning of the meta description in the following format: (0.0-min read). If it is more than an hour, use the hour as the measurement. “(1.2-hour read).”
How To List the Estimated Read Time
Listing the Estimated Read Time is immensely useful, but it should still be done so with tact. Stressed too much and you may make your content seem thin. Stressed too little and it’s not useful. Here at Brookside Studios, we’ve found two areas where the Estimated Read Time can sit nicely.
1. The Meta Description. For those of you who are not familiar with the elements of SEO optimization for website pages, the meta description is the sentence-length summary of a website page located just beneath the title in a preview listing. These meta descriptions show up on a Search Engine Results Page (SERP) or in a site preview on many social media websites. This meta title and meta description listing usually look something like this:
Title of Page | Brand
July 4, 2019 - This is the area where the meta description would be listed on a search engine or social media.
An appropriate place to provide an Estimated Read Time would right at the very beginning of the meta description in the following tactful format.
Title of Page | Brand
July 4, 2019 - (3.5-min read) This is the area where the meta description would be listed on a search engine or social media.
This limited structure will not use up too many limited character spaces for a meta description — up to around 158 characters before it trails off.
2. Top of the Article. Another handy place for the Estimated Read Time for a blog article would be immediately at the top of the content section of the page. There’s no need to make this into a heading or to bolden it in any way. It will be clearly evident at the top.
In this piece, we’ve covered:
- Why knowing the Estimated Read Time is useful
- How Estimated Read Time can increase click-thru rate
- How to determine the Estimated Read Time
- How to list the Estimated Read Time
The goal is to remove any friction that exists between the visitor and the content. By giving your target audience an idea of how long it will take for them to consume your content before reading it, you make it that much easier for them to become your next customer.