You’re writing a blog post. You’re editing a webpage. You want to sound smart. You want to sound eloquent. You want to sound important. You want to sound informed. Most importantly, you want your website to rank with the search engines. How do you find this balance? How do you know if your text is engaging, but not losing your audience? You can find this balance by using readability statistics for SEO.
In 2010 President Obama signed the Plain Writing Act into law. This law requires all federal agencies to write in a way the public can easily understand and use. President Obama wanted to inspire trust, transparency, and collaboration with the people of the United States. He hoped to help them understand what is going on. He believed that if the general public could understand government policies and laws they would be inspired to become more involved in the process. Government departments could then more easily solicit feedback. There would be more dialogue. There would be more feedback. Trust, transparency, feedback, and collaboration could, perhaps, also be used as a goal for any marketer when building their web pages or blogs and creating an effective content strategy.
The Center for Plain languages was created to support plain writing in government, and support plain writing legislation. They give all government agencies a report card based on the reading level, and how easy it is for users. One of their more entertaining roles at the center is holding the WonderMark Awards. This competition awards organizations, businesses, and government agencies for their clear communication. They also have their Hall of Shame- those that create the most terrible content.
The 2014 winner is a perfect example of writing gone awry.
It’s unclear what they are even stating. Who can and can’t do what? And when? A judge that year said, “I wonder how many accidents happened while folks who didn’t need to read this were distracted reading it. It starts with “No person shall…” but at the end it says it’s really for folks who drive a vehicle longer than 10.5 meters. People who need to pay attention to this law will most certainly have driven past it before they get to the part that says it’s for them.”
Stop and consider- Is your content that confusing?
FLESCH READING EASE TOOLS AND READABILITY STATISTICS
How do you know if you’re pushing the envelope in your writing? How do you rate your own readability? How do you know if you are properly using readability statistics for SEO? There are some great tools to measure how easy your text is to read. Conducting a readability test may help future sign makers!
FLESCH READING EASE SCORE
The Flesch Reading ease score was developed by J Peter Kinkaid in 1975. It was first used by Kinkaid in the army to determine how readable their technical documents were for the soldiers and army personnel. The score is based on a scale of 1-100. Simply put, a low score means the writing is too complex. A higher score means the writing is easier to read.
FLESCH KINKAID GRADE LEVEL.
This rates writing based on the grade reading level. This image shows you the possible Flesch-Kinkaid grade level score you could receive, along with an example of popular publications and how they rank. The average US reading level is 9th grade. If you are targeting the general public with your content, this is a good readability score to shoot for. Microsoft suggests a readability test score with 7-8th grade as a target.
(image courtesy of PathWise.)
USING A READABILITY SCORE FOR SEO
So how can you find your flesch score with your own writing? And how does this relate to SEO and page ranking? If your content is too difficult to read or understand, your audience will leave the page quickly. They will not trust your site, will not give feedback, and will not collaborate with your organization. Having them leave quickly gives you a higher bounce rate, and that could negatively affect your search engine ranking.
MICROSOFT READABILITY STATISTICS
Microsoft Word has readability statistics built into its basic package, and is very easy to enable. Using this tool will show you the Flesch Kincaid grade level of your document, along with the Flesch Reading Ease score. This also shows you what items go into their equation. Words per sentence, sentences per paragraph, and the characters per word are important things to consider when creating content.
As an example of how the tool looks, here are the Microsoft Word Readability Statistics results for this post:
The Yoast plugin for SEO wordpress can be a valuable tool as well to help you in using readability statistics for SEO. It gives an impressive SEO checklist of things to do on your page to help the page rankings. One of the SEO checklist items is the Flesch Reading Ease and readability score.
You can also find a reading level calculator online.
So what does this all mean?
What is the bottom line?
Simply put: Don’t use a big words, when a small one will do.
Using readability statistics for SEO will utimately help engage your readers, and increase your SEO rankings.