The strangest thing about search engine optimization is the mysterious nature of Google’s algorithm. In his piece on Indirect Google Ranking Factors, SEOPressor’s Zhi Yuan noted that Google “has never explicitly revealed” which factors are Google Ranking Factors. That being said, purveyors of the best SEO tips have come to agree on over 200 different factors, some direct and others indirect.
One of the indirect ranking factors is Readability, noted by Yuan as “the level of ease to understand a written text.” As simple as that definition may be, it only reinforces the strange nature of Google rankings. Since everyone reads at a different level, how can Google grade a text based on how easy it is to understand? The answer is the Flesch-Kincaid Readability test, and it’s the reason why Readability is among the most important SEO tips.
The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test
Developed in 1975 for the US Navy, Psychologist and Researcher J. Peter Kincaid was tasked with finding a way to measure how well a message was conveyed using as few syllables, words, and sentences as possible. The formula Kincaid and his team came up with looks like this:
The lower the amount of syllables in each word and words in each sentence, the higher the Readability score. Essentially, content creators are rewarded for using simple vocabulary and short sentences.
SEO Tips for Readability
Readability plays a role in your SEO ranking because search engines (aka Google) want to create an excellent experience for every user. By ranking the readability of each blog post or webpage, they can better serve those who use their search tools with content that quickly gets them the answer or information they’re looking for.
When it comes to improving your readability in order to better your page ranking, here are 3 SEO Tips you should be aware of:
Keep It Short
You may think writing shorter, simpler sentences is easier, but it’s actually not. Most writers have a tendency to over-explain things. Another common tactic is quoting information from other sources. While it’s important to demonstrate your information as credible, it’s not like you can ask those you’re quoting to rephrase their statements in simpler language.
Albert Einstein said, “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.” In other words, improving SEO page rank through readability is another way Google (and sure, there are other search engines, but let’s be real here: until something crazy happens, SEO = Google and Google = SEO) is creating better user experiences by forcing content creators to actually know what they’re talking about. If you can’t keep it short and simple, perhaps you’re just quoting others too much?
Keep It Organized
Aside from the actual words and sentences you use, the readability of a page also has much to do with the layout and design. Look at the difference between these two pages:
Using the right headers and spacing plays a big role in making your page much easier to look at. This also adds to the credibility of your website. Haven’t you found yourself on a site with shoddy page layouts and thought, Surely, this content isn’t trustworthy?
Keep It Visual
How much easier was it to understand the point above (Keep It Organized) after you saw the image comparing the two examples? Pictures and videos not only minimize the amount of text you need to use to explain something, but also add aesthetically pleasing elements to your webpage.
As with anything, this can be overdone to the point where your readers are left with nothing but images to decipher. While you don’t want that, you should take the opportunity to communicate your information through images as often as is helpful.
- Keep your content easy to read by explaining things as simply as possible. Ask yourself, would a 5th grader be able to read and understand this?
- Organize your page layout and design in a way that’s easy on the eyes. It increases the amount readers actually read your content and looks professional/credible.
- Use pictures and videos.