Readability and SEO

What is Readability?

To put it simply, readibility is the ease of reading a piece of text. There are a number of factors at play, but the combined effect determines how difficult a reader finds to read a piece of text.


The aims are:

  1. To make sure that the reader doesn’t get fed up, bored or frustrated reading your content, you want them to get to the end of your article.
  2. To make sure that your message is clear and easily understood.
  3. To make sure that your reader can get all of the essential information from your content as quickly as possible. People don’t have time to read long, complicated articles!

Why is Readability important for SEO?

Google rewards websites where visitors hang around to finish reading the content, this is the primary way that Google determines readability and this factor has always been important in determining a site’s ranking in search engine results. If your site is not seen as readable by Google, then chances are it will think that you are writing your content for search engines which is something that websites can be penalised for doing. Google values quality content, the easiest way to prove that your content is readable is to ensure that visitors are staying around to read it! Write your content so that your intended audience can read it easily and so that they want to read it!

How do I check the Readability of my content?

The Flesch-Kincaid test checks spelling and grammar of a piece of text and provides a score for the text based on the age requirement to understand the text. The Gunning Fox Index works in a similar way but compares syllables and sentence lengths.  Again, it estimates the level of schooling required to read the text.

For a quick check on the readability of the content of your website, you can use Google’s Search Tools to filter by Reading level. This gives an overview of the readability for the content on pages in the search results.

All of these tests should be used after your content has been written, as the initial focus should be to write content to suit your intended audience.

For some human testing, recruit some test readers, from the demographic you are targetting if possible (customers!), to review your content before publishing and give you (honest!) feedback.

How do I make my content more Readable?

The easiest approach is to think of Google as your average reader. Although it is an automated process, Google is getting closer and closer to reading your article in the same way that visitors to your website do. So if you make your content readable for your visitors then it will be readable for Google too.

It depends on the subject of your content, and your intended audience, but try not to complicate your content for the sake of sounding more intelligent as it may result in text that is offputting for your audience!

In addition to the words, sentences and grammar, pay attention to the overall structure:

  • Make sure that there is a natural flow to your text so that your audience will want to keep reading.
  • Use headers, bolded text, bullet points and short sentences.
  • Allow a certain amount of white space, it gives your reader a mini break.

In Summary

Content with great readability means your audience will want to read what you write, will get your message, will find it easy to read your articles and as a result will probably share your content.

All of this means that your message is being seen, and also improves your rating with Google which will improve your search engine results in a natural, sustainable way.

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