When blogging, one factor that people often overlook is the readability of their content. Bloggers will try to optimize their keywords, meta tags, image alt tags, and hundreds of other on-page SEO factors but they often overlook the most simple of them all — the readability score of their content.
This is probably due to the fact that content readability isn’t outright listed in Google’s search ranking algorithm. However, factors like content readability are one of the many indirect ranking factors that actually matters and has a big impact on your SEO, largely because it determines how long people stay on your page and whether or not they engage.
Readability is about making content clear and easy to understand. For websites, focusing on readability increases the chance that your audience will actually read and interact with your content. For this reason, readability should be a natural part of content management.
Measuring readability is based on factors like:
If written text is easy to read and understand, it has a good readability. There are also plenty of algorithms designed to measure content readability. One of the most popular algorithms is the Flesch-Kincaid readability score.
Flesch-Kincaid takes the amount of syllables in a word and words in a sentence as a measurement. This means you want to use short words and short sentences if you want to have a higher score. The Flesch-Kincaid score ranges from 0-100 with the higher number equaling a better score. Traditionally, a good score is considered to be 60 and above.
Let’s say that you’ve created a communications strategy for your content. Without checking the readability, all of your hard work could go to waste. Here are two big reasons why readability is important:
Whether your website is targeted toward the general public or a specific group, it’s important to know that the average reading age is lower than you might expect. The average American is considered to have a readability level equivalent to a 7th/8th grader. In the UK, the government encourages content writers to aim for a readability level of age nine. This is because at this age, children stop reading common words and recognize their shape, which allows for faster reading. By reducing long sentences and words, you can help improve readability.
Regardless of literacy level, people read differently online than they do reading printed text. Studies have shown that people scan web pages and only read about 18% of what’s on the page. The same studies say if you convert print to the web, you should reduce content by about 50%. Web users also hop around the page. This is because they’re looking for specific information and can get impatient if content is wordy. It’s not enough to copy and paste text from one format to another. To make sure your website is understandable to all users, you must consider easy reading.
Achieving a higher readability score isn’t as hard as it sounds. Here are a few practical tips for getting set on the right track:
The people reading will be humans. So, make it a habit to address your readers in a personal tone. Make use of words like “you” and “I” that hooks readers and engages them to keep reading your content. They need to feel like they are having a real-life conversation with you while reading your content. In this scenario, it’s helpful to avoid complicated words and lofty language. Bring information down to a human level so people read and immediately understand what you’re trying to communicate.
Paragraphs shouldn’t contain more than 4 to 5 sentences. Most readers skip the paragraphs containing more sentences. You should craft your blog post, by considering scanners and speed-readers. The paragraph should include only one small idea and contain lots of blank space. It will reduce the chances of readers skipping a line.
The more active voice you use, the higher readability score you get. Many of the text editors, including MS Word, suggest you use active voice over the passive one. Sentences in the active voice are direct, strong, and appealing, whereas passive ones sound indirect and sometimes difficult to understand.
The words that are unnecessary and lengthens sentences are filler words. In middle school we all used to add the filler words in to meet the word count, but in professional writing, keep it to the point. For example:
Thankfully, with the development of more digital content, online tools have popped up to assist editors and content creators in their efforts of simplifying information. Some of the tools that measure and rate readability score are listed below:
It might be obvious that making your content readable is important, but many content creators make the mistake of not considering how easy (or hard) it is for visitors to make sense of their text. If you don’t optimize your content to be highly readable, you may find that users will bounce off your site faster and return less frequently.