People feel the need to write complex sentences to sound smarter; whether it’s replacing words with their longer synonym, or adding an extra adverb here and there. My personal favorite is making nouns into verbs (I’m looking at you, “trending”).
And I get it; you want to appear as the subject matter expert on what you are writing about. Now, what if I told you that the simpler you write the more engaged your readers will be with your web content. And as everyone knows, great engagement has the potential to result in great SEO.
(Source: Flickr Creative Commons, License)
Readability and How It Affects SEO
Since the release of Google’s Hummingbird algorithm, SEO specialists are encouraged to stay on top of the industry by becoming more “precise and fast” than previous years when planning their content creation. Merely targeting keywords without making content easily digestible will often result in hurting a client’s results in the long run. This is why it’s imperative for content to have readability, as it’s considered to be a ranking factor for Search Engines. What is readability?
Readability (n) – The ease with which a reader can understand a written text.
As a hotel reviewing property website content or marketing collateral, think about future travelers: Are you using industry jargon or buzzwords? Can potential guests understand the message?
Like all digital marketers, you’re thinking “how can something so subjective be measured?” Lo and behold the Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Test.
The Flesch-Kincaid Reading Ease Test
Want to test your content to see if it could be understood by the masses? There’s a formula for that!
206.835 – 1.015 (total words/total sentences) – 84.6 (total syllables/total words)
When you plug in your data into the formula, you get a score between 0 and 100. This is how the score should be interpreted below:
- 90 – 100: Understood by an average 11-year-old
- 60 – 70: Understood by an average 13-15-year-old
- 0 – 30: Understood by university graduate
So the higher your score, the more readable your content is! I realize if you were a non-math major like me, you are probably scratching your head just looking at the formula. Here is the break-down; when it comes to the amount of words in a sentence:
- The more words in a sentence, the less readable it is.
- The less words in a sentence, the more readable it is.
When it comes to the amount of syllables in a word:
- The more syllables in a word, the less readable it is.
- The fewer syllables in a word, the more readable it is.
Don’t feel like doing the math? Check out Readability-Score.com, from there you can copy your text or submit your URL and your content will be scored for free!
What Does This All Mean?
I’m aware that I’m not the first person to tell you to keep it “short and sweet.” You probably do want your content to appeal to everyone, but I must iterate that you have to know your audience. If you find that your clientele is sharper than most, you wouldn’t want run the risk of watering down your posts by trying to appeal to the general public. They might lose interest and you might lose the engagement that you were trying to seek in the first place. So take this test with a grain of salt, and write for your audience, not for Mr. Flesch and Mr. Kincaid; strive for genuine readability.
Want to Improve Your Readability? Try this.
Want to improve your readability without cutting down on words, sentences and voice? Try these tips.
By providing the audience headings and subheadings, you make your post more “scannable.” This allows readers to pick and choose whether the content is relevant to them or not.
Make it Visual
Humans are inherently visual creatures, use graphics and colors to strengthen your points. Also use italics or bold fonts to highlight key words or phrases for quick hits.
Less is More
Keep the reader’s interest by shortening paragraphs. It makes the content less intimidating. Long paragraphs make readers think that they don’t have enough time to read the entire thing. By breaking a long paragraph into two, you give the reader a chance to catch his/her breath.
Have you tried this test before? If so, leave us a comment detailing your experience. Oh and by the way, if you were curious, this blog post has the reading ease of 73.7.