It’s now just what you say; it’s how you say it. There are many masterpieces in literature that aren’t very readable. But in the world of readability, what really needs to be readable is marketing content. And it absolutely matters.
It impacts SEO, user experience (UX) and the success of content marketing. If you don’t care about readability, you should. The days of keyword stuffing are over. Google cares about how readable your content is not just that you used the keyword a few times. As voice search becomes more popular, the emphasis shifts much more so to readability.
If you don’t think readability impacts SEO, your’re wrong. Maybe you’re wrong a lot; I don’t know. I am not basing this on anything but pure experience as a professional writer and content marketer. I write upwards of 5,000 words a day so I understand what it takes to write on many different topics and be interesting. Yes, I care about SEO and keywords, but I don’t force it. I choose quality every time.
Readability is also a factor in UX. If you publish poor content that emphasizes keywords over telling a story, the user will not have positive experience. They then become unlikely to read more of your content or become a customer. Just as every element of design impacts UX, your copy does, too.
The elements of readability
There are certain specific areas around readability. Again, my experience is the basis for these thoughts. I didn’t copy this from another article. It’s just what I think matters.
Kill adverbs and adjectives unless that provide context. You do not need seven adjectives in one sentence. It comes off as being fluff and not authentic. Use them sparingly so that when you do, it’s purposeful.
Vary the length of sentences. It’s good to have a variety of sentence lengths. When in doubt, edit and cut. I was provided copy to review recently, and one sentence had 42 words. 42 WORDS! There is a rhythm that happens with readable content. Read it out loud to understand if you are on point with rhythm. Don’t make sentences so hard to read that it takes three huge gulps of air.
Use active voice. Passive sentences don’t read well. Sometimes passive cannot be avoided. However, consider the syntax of the sentence. Revise as necessary to create a better balance.
Don’t use every word in your extensive vocabulary. Most content should be written on an eighth grade reading level. Unless there is a good reason, be simple. When writing about very technical topics, using big words makes more sense. Remember simplification isn’t dumbing it down. It’s making it more accessible to your reader.
Grading your readability
It is possible to score your readability. There are many tools that will give you a grade. The Flesch reading scale is used by many applications like Yoast. The scale grades how easy it to read the text. It looks for how hard a sentence would be able to read (the 42 word sentence did not bode well). I am a big fan of Yoast. It’s my preferred plugin for SEO on WordPress. I also use the Hemingway App, which is a great working tool that highlights where the issues are.
I encourage every writer, content marketer and SEO specialist to care about readability. I know people don’t read much these days. They scan. We live in a world where content is created and consumed at a rapid pace. But before you publish, do at least this – read it.
(P.S. I scored this on Hemingway App. It received a grade of good.)