Why You Should Care About Content Readability

Posted on Feb 27, 2019 by Kerry O'Malley

You want visitors to your website. You want them to read your content. But you also want the bots at Google to like it enough so it ranks it well in search results. What’s a B2B to do, content-wise? Do you sacrifice the joy of writing creatively for the keywords Google looks for? Not to worry, Google is now leaning more towards high scoring readability than keyword saturation. You can’t serve up content that potential customers need to read if Google isn’t ranking your site well. Take the time to score your content’s readability and make the necessary adjustments to satisfy Mr. Google and it will pay off in more qualified visitors to your site.

 

What is Readability?

 

It’s just what it sounds like: If you are a normal human being – not a bot – how easy is your content to read? But additionally, what do bots look for that either places you on page 1 of a search result, or buried on page 10. Readability is how well your ideas are expressed in ways such as:

The vocabulary you use

  • Don’t write in the passive voice.
  • This rule tends to confuse a lot of people, and being able to spot the difference is an acquired skill. A verb is in the passive voice when the subject of the sentence is acted on by the verb, such as “The compressor was repaired by the technician.” Conversely, the same sentence in the active voice would be “The technician repaired the compressor.”
  • Don’t use consecutive, repetitive words in your sentences. This often happens when writing about a product, company, or individual. It’s easy to want to use the subject name at the beginning of consecutive sentences, especially when describing it.
  • Do use transition words and phrases that send a signal to your readers (and bots) that something is coming up that they need to pay attention to. Examples: “because”, “therefore”, “as a result”, “due to”, “equally important”, “consequently”, etc.

Your sentence structure

Avoid the use of too many superfluous words. What is the most concise way you can structure your sentence while still being descriptive?

How the text is organized

Use sub-headings strategically. Inserting sub-headings not only alerts bots to important information contained on the page, but also gives readers a way to easily scan the page to find the information they’re seeking.

The length of paragraphs

There’s no hard and fast rule, but paragraphs of 3 to 7 sentences seem to score best. Just make sure that every sentence in your paragraph supports the main idea of the paragraph. Be looking for digressions or details that belong either in a different paragraph or need a paragraph of their own.

Visual presentation is also important. This includes items like:

  • Overall length of page
  • Length of paragraphs
  • Use of bullet points
  • Use of headings and sub-headings to break up text
  • Use of specialized font features, such as bold or italics to highlight important words or sub-headings

 

Besides Satisfying Google, Why Should I Care About Readability?

 

When was the last time you found an article in a search engine and read the entire thing? Chances are you just wanted specific information on which product was best, how to repair an appliance, who won the Oscar for best picture, etc. Readers tend to exit if they don’t immediately see what they need or right after they get the information they were searching for. The behavior usually follows three steps:

  1. Scan the content for relevant information.
  2. Gauge the length.
  3. Skip to the relevant data.

For this reason, content developers should put themselves in the position of a potential buyer. What types of questions, concerns, or other information might they search for? For example, if you are writing content for a software package, some FAQ’s may look like this:

  • What devices is the software compatible with?
  • What are the operating system requirements?
  • Which tasks does it perform?
  • What are its advantages or benefits over competitive products?
  • What is the price and how much are upgrades?
  • How/where do I purchase?

By using a combination of sub-headers and bullet points, a reader can easily scan the document to find the content that’s relevant to them.

 

How Can I Optimize Content for Readability?

 

Tests such as the Automated Readability Index and Flesch Test were created to gauge the readability of content, but can rely on over-simplified formulas.

If your site is built in WordPress, you can install the Yoast SEO tool to easily see the readability of your content. The plugin can be installed at no charge via the Add Plugins feature. It comes with a specialized analysis readout below your content. The readout scores different aspects of your content’s readability and the SEO keyword you want to focus on. Yoast also offers a readability tab that grades each page of content using a color-coded system. Best of all, you can click on any readability item found by Yoast to highlight the offensive sentence(s) and make edits. Yoast also gives you other useful SEO tools such as the ability to edit your title, meta description, add cornerstone content, social media content, and more.

Yoast SEO is a must have plug-in for us when we develop a new website. No tool can turn poor writing into great writing; but if you’re starting with a well-written page, Yoast can help you elevate it to the next level in terms of SEO.

One caveat concerning Yoast: While it’s great for sentence structure, paragraph length, catching sentences written in passive voice, and other specific areas, it currently does not rank your use of presentation. To help in this area, we recommend you pass your content to a few colleagues to ensure the presentation is logical and tidy, rather than detracting from the content.

Finally, it’s a good idea to read your content out loud to make sure it isn’t cumbersome and that it reads easily. This is because more and more users are utilizing voice search to access content, which means an automated “person”, like Alexa or Google Voice is “reading” your content. Alexa may sound like a real person, but she doesn’t have the reasoning capabilities of a human being. Content needs to be concise and logical if you don’t want to trip her up as she “reads”.

Give Marketects a call if you need some guidance optimizing your content readability. We’ve helped many B2B professionals in this area, and we can help you too!

 

 

Author: Kerry O'Malley

omalley@marketectsinc.com

Marketects was founded in 1999 by Kerry O’Malley, a proven marketing communications professional in international, manufacturing companies. Working on the “other side of the desk,” she hired ad agencies to manage her employers’ advertising and P/R programs. Frustrated over the lack of attention and level of enthusiasm she was looking for in the marketing agencies she worked with, Kerry realized that there was a definite need for a full-service marketing firm that specialized in working with industrial companies. She resolved that her clients would always receive the highest level of service possible and never feel like the last kid chosen for the team.

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