SEO Readability

How important is ‘readability’ in terms of an SEO metric that will actually move the needle?

This is a question worth asking. Content is a key factor within SEO.

Content has to be read by the consumer as well as processed by Google so there is a lot of information out there about how content should and should not be written.

Most people are trying to game the system but we wanted to explore how readability actually impacts SEO.

Most would assume that it does not have a massive impact as Google cannot actually read.

Google, however, is far more intelligent than we are giving it credit for.

On top of that, Google is getting more and more advanced, not the other way round.

This is a tactic we have used to rank for SEO in Derby. Let’s have a deeper dive into this topic…

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Practical experimentation

Practical experimentation is a way of saying… Here is how we tested whether readability is or is not a factor within SEO.

All you need to get involved is Microsoft Word (MS Word).

Why?

MS Word has readability stats like Flesch Kincaid Reading Level and Flesch Reading Ease as well as other things like ‘passive sentences’.

Find a long tail keyword that you want to use for the example. This could be anything.

From there, take the text from the page that ranks for the long tail keyword. Take all the text from the first three pages excluding anything not written by the user (reviews) or in the navigation etc..

From here you can put the data into a graph and start to see if there is correlation between readability and ranking.

The data we managed to plot on the graph taught us the following:

The Kincaid Grade Level did not give us much. No correlation could be found. Maybe the sample is too small anyway?

However, Flesch Reading Ease showed us that higher scored provided higher ranking pages – showing that it is possible that search engines are using this as a metric.

Another general pattern found was that higher ranking pages tended to have fewer passive sentences indicating that Google preferred more ‘active’ sentences. Interesting!

We chose long tail keywords as competition is less frightful. Content and on page work in general becomes more prudent as the site is not simply ranking through vastly powerful links.

If you don’t have MS Word – Flesch Reading Ease gives a score of 100 to grade how easy something is to read. 100 means that your text is easily understood by the average 11 year old.

This does not equate to simply trying to make your writing as easy to read as possible. It means more than that. You should try and write according to your average reader.

For example, Readers Digest has a readability of 65, Time Magazine has a readability of 52 and Harvard Law Review has a readability of 30.

Writing to your average readers’ expectations helps to keep your writing consistent to what your repeat reader will come to expect.

So, not only can you get benefits through consistency and writing style, but it looks like a technique you can add into your SEO content writing to improve your ranking depending on your audience.