UPDATED: What is readability?
2020 July 01
Content that is easy to consume, understand and is visually appealing is what readability is all about. When a company has ambiguous content on their website it does nothing for them.
When creating content for your website, taking readability into account is extremely important. Optimizing your content to be as easy on the reader as possible takes time to get the hang of, but in the end, it pays off.
What is readability?
Readability makes the content you write easy to understand contextually and visually. There is an entire equation behind what is readability! We are not going to do the math for you, but in essence, this takes into consideration cultural references, voice, word choice and the overall success of the content that readers are consuming.
Good readability practices provide your audience with a simple experience and keep them on your website longer.
Research shows the average American citizen is reading at a seventh to eighth grade reading level, regardless of academic achievement. Even the best authors out there with millions of books sold in a number of types of books never write above a ninth grade reading level! The thing is, lingo and bigger words often get muddled in the content and can leave readers confused more than they already are.
As a general rule, for most of our clients, we do not write above a seventh grade reading level even if we are speaking with CEOs and well-educated consumers. Just because these consumers have higher levels of education and business background does not mean that they will understand your industry’s jargon or wording.
With companies utilizing digital platforms for massive amounts of competing content, writing easy-to-read pieces are critical to making your audience linger on your site. Additionally, 81 percent of potential clients and companies surveyed claimed poorly written content was a waste of time.
How to make readable content?
Simmer down on the jargon.
As much as we would all like to sound like literary geniuses, it is best to write content in a less-complex fashion. Use “plain language” to communicate with your audience.
As always, consider your audience. Create content geared towards your audience and in a way they can comprehend easily and quickly. Jargon is tough to communicate in an effective way, unless your audience is very industry-specific.
Transitional words like ‘moreover’, ‘because’, ‘in addition’, and ‘equally important’ show the relationship between phrases, sentences and paragraphs.
When writing content, transition words prepare your audience for what is to come next without them losing their train of thought in the process.
While transition words don’t directly affect your SEO, they are an important part of creating readable content.
Shorten it up.
Long sentences can be difficult to avoid. However, sentences with an average of 20 words are your best bet for readability.
Long sentences have a tendency to lose your reader. By breaking up your content with a variety of shorter sentence lengths, your readers will begin to pick up on the cadence of your writing.
The same thing should be done with paragraphs. Have you noticed that most of our paragraphs are only two to five sentences at the most in this blog? This is because this allows for readers to skim and pick out the content that they are interested in. No one really reads an entire blog anymore, but actively skims for the content they are interested in.
Make sure to write in an active voice
An active voice clearly indicates who is doing what. Limit your passive voice to five percent or less of your total content.
When keeping your content directed in an active manner, it’s quickly conveyed to your reader without the extra fluff they don’t need.
Active voice example: Denver Media Group loves SEO.
Passive voice example: SEO is loved by Denver Media Group.
While minimizing jargon, utilizing transition words and writing actively does not directly affect your SEO ranking, collectively it increases your readability. And readability is a definite ranking factor in SEO.
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