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I personnally prefer articles that are either short or mid length with very short paragraphs i.e. 3/4 lines each.
If you guys have long articles, are they all on one page or broken down down to two or more pages?
Most of my pages are just about the scrollbar's maximum length. And if the conent is more, I give a Continuation link.
Regarding the articles-
We should consider whether we are posting an article for the purpose of giving our visitors content, or the Adsense algo's something to chew on.
I typically post full articles on some of my sites just for that purpose, and it works quite well on some pages that are almost exlusively SERPS traffic.
That's right- you found my site and could care less about reading that long drawn-out article- but "look at all those handy links in the top banner!".
Didn't start out that way, and makes one wonder if these pages are straddling the MFA line, but its hard to say.
Many of my vistors are also in the 0-5 second bracket according to Statcounter and yet some others like 5 minutes. I am not sure about Statcounter's reliabilty.
Unfortunately, some of them will leave before even reading a paragraph. I think an informative and persuasive title helps in that regard.
I'd say average visitor time is a very rough gauge and not very useful for comparing sites except in the same niche -- how long does it take you to read (and take in) 800 words? My main site has an average visitor length of around 9 minutes, with that visitor looking at around 6 pages of content -- there's a lot to read and I guess people find it useful/interesting, hence the long visit time. However, that long visit time need not translate into a good clicking rate on adverts.
Individual mileage will vary
I don't know the magic number of seconds a visitor spends on any website, but I think it depends on the content.
For example, if you come to WW and look at a Google Adsense thread with 12 posts in it, do you read all 12 posts, or jump to the end and only read the last post? If you read all 12, it may take you longer than 45 seconds.
Similarly, if your website displays news, entertainment, travel destination info, etc., your visitors will probably hang around longer than if your site's subject requires them to flip through pages quickly.
I wonder where that 46 second figure comes from, however.
I remember reading something closer to 5-10 seconds.
Basically, invoking any of those numbers is largely irrelevant, since there's really no such thing as an "average" webpage. Obviously, MFA junk pages get seconds, while meaty material that's compelling gets more. Really, it's like saying the average newspaper reader spends 25 seconds on a news article or ad. It doesn't provide guidelines.
Where it is relevant is if it tells us how much time we have to CATCH THE ATTENTION of a visitor so they stay longer. That's an important design issue.
As for the original question, there's no obvious answer. I think the longer the article, the more you need to distribute the ads, rather than cluster them all at header and top levels. What's important is not so much the length but the design and integration of the content and the ads.
For example, on long articles, it makes sense to have one ad at top, one in middle, and one at end, I think.
Because I this I've spent some time setting up my article pages assuming people will glance and hopefully at least scan. Appealling titles, sub headings, short paragraphs and a first paragraph that draws the person into the article all help. I figure only about 1/4 or less of my visitors actually read the article.
I also suspect the ones who don't stay are more likely to click an ad.
I would say that I try to keep the wordcount to a minimum, and tend to have a list of annotations at the bottom of pages for those who (very rarely) want to know where a statement or statistic comes from.
I would also say that though these pages are why people visit the site, they rarely get a good CTR :(
David, I have been putting my second ad just at the end of articles but before the references. Very few people would care about them but having them has really helped the site get some academic and museum links.
I think these statistics are basically meaningless. How many times does an internet searcher come across a site that doesn't fit their needs. A quick glance shows that the site doesn't work and they're gone. It has no relevance on the site's contents, but more as to whether the site fits the users needs.
I think most people do not know how to adequately search the internet, so they often get sites not appropriate for what they're looking for and move on.
How long should an article be?
Wait! This is a classic! I know this one!
It should be like a woman's skirt: long enough to appear substantial, but short enough that you can quickly get to the good stuff.
No wait, that's not it...
It should be like a woman's skirt: shorter when the stock market is up, and longer when the stock market is down.
Dammit, that's not it either...
It should be like a woman's skirt: it should start at the top and go long enough to keep people from casting aspersions on your intentions.
No, that's not right. I see the problem now; it's not like a woman's skirt at all!
It should be like my dog: it should look short and fluffy from a distance, but when you get close it should sink it's teeth into your leg and not let you go until you click on an ad.
There! Got it!
I think articles should be as long as they need to be! :)
My sentiments exactly.
In my sector (travel), there are thousands of sites that offer very little information on the topics they cover. A "destination guide" to a city like Paris, Venice, or New York might be only a few pages long, or it might consist of a single page. The reader who's planning a trip to one of those cities won't be satisfied when he encounters 500 to 1,500 words, and he probably won't return to the site.
Yep, long enough to give them some decent information and not to get them to click on the adverts
Some of my highest clickthrough rates and eCPMs come from articles and sections of my site that have prodigious amounts of information. If your site is an authority for a topic, you're more likely to attract and keep users who are seriously interested in the products or services that are offered by advertisers (and by affiliate partners, if your topic lends itself to affiliate links).
The strategy of capturing users via search and sending them away almost immediately via AdSense clicks has several obvious weaknesses:
1) It requires a constant stream of new search referrals, and it makes the site extremely vulnerable to changes in search algorithms.
2) Because users are unlikely to come back to a site with little information, the site loses other opportunities to profit during the user's personal research and buying cycle. (If you don't understand why this is important, search Google for information on DoubleClick's "research before the purchase" study.)
3) Clicks from sites with little information aren't likely to convert well. (In the travel sector, for example, the clickers are more likely to be "lookers" than "bookers.") This could lead to greater smart-pricing discounts for advertisers and less money for the publisher.
4) Finally--and most important--users who aren't satisfied with the information on a site don't have to click on ads: they can just as easily use the back button to return to the search engine. (Unless, of course, you've been stupid enough to disable the user's back button.)