The internet today has a mind-boggling 44 trillion gigabytes of data. Experts project that this number will grow to the hundred trillions by 2025. The popular digital marketing aphorism “content is king” has taken a life of its own. The internet has become flooded with so much content on everything under the sun. So, it follows that getting high rankings will be more difficult.
Google includes readability among the factors it considers when ranking content. You might have high-quality content that covers new topics and provides fresh insights. Even so, you won’t get the traffic you want if people don't want to read what you publish. Uniqueness it part of what makes relevant content—your words must also be relatable. You can gauge the readability of your article by finding out its Flesch Reading Score.
Developed by Rudolf Flesch in 1948, this score determines how easy a text is to read, and you come upon this score using a formula. This score can predict the level of education a person would need to understand an article or book. For example, if your content has a score of 70 to 80, it means that someone with a sixth-grade education can understand what it says. Marketers use the Flesch Reading Score to check the accessibility of their text.
The formula takes the text’s average number of words in a sentence and multiplies it by 1.015. Then, it adds this figure to the product of the number of average syllables multiplied by 84.6. Finally, it takes the sum of these and subtracts it from 206.835. Here is a free readability checker that could help!
Online word processors like Grammarly and Hemingway also improve text readability. Grammarly provides four criteria—correctness, clarity, engagement, and delivery. Meanwhile, Hemingway provides the reading level of the text, the time it will take for the average person to finish reading, and the word count. It also provides guidelines on adverbs, passive voice, and more.
Different tools provide different Flesch reading scores, which is fine. Since these tools have different developers, what could be ‘complex’ for one might be simple for another.
The Flesch Reading Score is not a ranking factor, but it does affect SEO. First, since it describes content readability, the better the score, the more relatable you will be to readers. If you have a reading score of 60, it means more than 70 percent of readers will understand what you’re saying. With improved readability, people will be likelier to finish the article, which improves your SEO.
Another thing that your Flesch Reading Score affects is voice SEO. People are relying more on voice search today. Alexa, Google Assistant, or Siri won’t choose verbose text as search results. These voice assistants prefer simple, straightforward text delivering exactly what the person needs. If you are establishing yourself in voice search, using simple and relatable text is the way to go.
It is easy to differentiate what is readable and not-so-readable content. It is also easier to maintain readability in long content, since you have enough space to elaborate on ideas. Still, it is not just word length that helps you stay relatable—you need to use the most reader-friendly words and swap jargon out with simpler terms. For example, consider these sentences about local SEO:
According to Hemingway’s readability tracker, item one is fit for people reading at Grade 15, and three of its five sentences are difficult to read. Readability Formulas, meanwhile, shows that the text has a Flesch score of 36—the acceptable range is 60 to 70. Item two is fit for eighth-grade readers, and none of its ten sentences are difficult to read, according to Hemingway. Readability Formulas scores the second paragraph 54.4, a few points shy of ideal. Notably, though, paragraph two is four points above the ideal score for experts, which is 50. It means that the second text is suitable for both experts and beginners.
When reading paragraphs one and two, it’s easy to see how two is more preferable for digital marketing. The first example throws plenty of words a marketing professional might use, but ones that customers or business owners with no marketing background might not. The first example also seems drier than the second one, which attempts a conversational tone.
The first thing you could do to make content more readable is avoid using complex words. Unless you can’t help it, stick to using words that the average person (i.e. the non-expert or beginner) would use. Also, keep your sentence length at eight to 12 words. Again, this might be impossible for more technical posts, but it is a good baseline. It is suitable for articles with a wider target audience.
We ran this text through Readability Formulas’ checker. Without the bulleted paragraphs, its score is 63.5, or Standard / Average. Its Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level is Grade 7.9, and Hemingway says it is suitable for people reading at an eighth-grade level.
The Flesch Readability score is a nice guidepost for ensuring that your audience can read your work. However, it does not make your article magically earn more traffic. The key to your article’s success still lies within whether you can present ideas in a unique, compelling way. When you have a unique point of view, that’s half the battle done—the other half is making other people listen.
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