Does reading ease score matter in SEO content?

When you’re creating long-form content – especially blog content, think pieces and evergreen resources for an online audience – reading ease score is a useful, but often underestimated metric.

Now, more than ever, readers are fickle. As users favour ‘scanning’ their content, or will quickly bounce off pages that don’t serve their purpose within the first few seconds, ensuring your SEO content is as ‘readable’ as possible is crucial.

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So, what is readability?

website readability factors

It might seem like a given, but ‘readability’ is all about how easy or hard it is for a reader to follow a piece of content.

Several different factors are considered as part of a readability score. These can include:

  • Word choice
  • Word complexity
  • Sentence length
  • Sentence structure
  • The average amount of syllables per word

Together, they can help tools get a sense of how likely the piece is set to be understood by a reader. Remember, the average literacy age is 9 years old.

How can we use it in SEO content?

Trying to improve the readability across your website improves the likelihood that the reader will fully understand the thoughts and concepts presented. A high readability score reduces the chances of misunderstanding and allows the user to fully process the article – without getting fed up and bouncing off the page.

As such, writing readable text can also improve your organic SEO. With Google now favouring human-led, useful content thanks to the quality-led E-E-A-T algorithm, readable text is key. And with the rise of voice search on the periphery, readable texts can also contribute to higher rankings.

How do I check my reading ease score?

In content marketing, readability is one of the cornerstones of production – mainly because it is a ‘make or break’ factor in how readers engage with your pieces.

Although you might be able to check as you go along or pass your work along for editing or peer review, it can be tricky to gauge how it would be perceived by a genuine user.

So – we turn to tech. The simplest and easiest way to make sure your writing is readable is to use a tool to help you automatically ‘grade’ its viability.

At Embryo, our team of in-house content experts is fond of the following tools.

Tools used by Embryo

The majority of these tools provide a readability score based on the Flesch reading ease test, which is a very well-known formula.

readability score calculation

What is the Flesch-Kincaid readability score?

A popular method of reading ease scoring is called the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level. Through this, we determine a text’s approximate reading grade level based on word difficulty and average sentence length, generating a score that matches grade levels in the US.

Although there are a number of tests available, changing from tool to tool, the Flesch tests are arguably the most used, as it’s recommended for all sectors and disciplines.

The algorithm works off the average length of your sentences (measured by the number of words), and the average number of syllables per word, it provides you with a score between 0 and 100.

A score of 100 means your copy is very easy to read, while a score of 0 means your text is very tricky to read – something you’re obviously keen to steer clear of.

Score Notes

  • 90-100: very easy to read, easily understood by an average 11-year-old student
  • 80-90: easy to read
  • 70-80: fairly easy to read
  • 60-70: easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students
  • 50-60: fairly difficult to read
  • 30-50: difficult to read, best understood by college graduates
  • 0-30: very difficult to read, best understood by university graduates

Utilising this score chart, a text with a high readability score is often thin on two-syllable words and short sentences. As a rule of thumb, try to stay away from longer sentences and complex words – and don’t be tempted to pad your piece.

Final thoughts

It’s hard to quantify language and content itself. Out of all the SEO pillars, content marketing is never an exact science – but utilising a readability score can help improve your piece for the shorter attention spans of an online audience.

However, it’s important to note that these tools don’t take the ‘hard’ rating of your subject matter or the audience itself into account. So if you’re writing about very technical subjects, you might have to trust your own judgement during content creation.

These tools and ratings should only be used as a guideline – as no one understands the human brain better than, well, another human brain.

If you’d be interested in talking to our content team about our process – or would like some expert input into your organic SEO strategy, get in touch today.

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