When it comes to marketing a business, research shows that blogs are a big asset. A blog can boost your SEO, increase the amount of time people spend on your website, and educate customers, among many other benefits.
Of course, this is only the case if your blog contains high-quality content. So, how can you figure out whether or not your blog content hits the mark?
There are a few factors to consider when assessing content quality. One crucial concern is readability. Readability can be defined as how easy it is for your target audience to read and understand your content. This is related to factors such as word length and sentence length. Essentially, the more readable your blog content is, the more likely it is to generate positive results for your business.
The Flesch and Flesch-Kincaid Tests
Readability tests offer an easy way to assess and improve blog readability. Though several types of tests exist, two of the most popular are the Flesch Reading Ease Test and the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test.
A Brief History of the Tests
According to Readable, scholars developed an interest in reading ease in the twentieth century. At the time, books for adults were often too hard for the average person to understand. This made reading largely inaccessible. Researchers began to study the issue, and it was established that factors such as sentence length and word choice play a key role in how readable content is. This sparked the development of formulas to better assess readability.
Rudolf Flesch contributed significantly to the study of readability. In the 1940s, he devised the Flesch Reading Ease formula, which assesses readability using a numbered scale (0-100). This was followed several decades later by the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level formula, developed with J. Peter Kincaid.
How They Work
Though weighted slightly differently, both tests assess the same thing: ease of readability. The most obvious difference between the two is that the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test adds a grade-level calculation to Flesch’s original formula. This means the score for the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test is shown as an estimated grade level rather than a numerical score.
The Flesch Reading Ease Test focuses on long sentences and long (polysyllabic) words. The formula for the test is: 206.835 – 1.015 x (words/sentences) – 84.6 x (syllables/words). Scores are provided on a scale of 0-100 and can be organized into readability categories as follows:
- 90-100: Very easy
- 80-89: Easy
- 70-79: Fairly easy
- 60-69: Standard
- 50-59: Fairly difficult
- 30-49: Difficult
- 0-29: Very confusing
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test also uses a formula that depends on sentence length and word length. The formula is: 0.39 x (words/sentences) + 11.8 x (syllables/words) – 15.59. The resulting score corresponds with the grade level needed to understand the content. For example, a score of 4.3 indicates a Grade 4 readability level, while a score higher than 12 indicates college-level readability.
Using the Tests to Improve Blog Content
You should now have a good understanding of what these tests are and how they work. But how can you use them to improve your blog content?
First, Score Your Content
To score your content, you need to access the tests. There are many free versions offered online; for this example, we will use the tool provided by Readability Formulas. It assesses pasted plain-text content that is 150-3000 words long. Results are given for several different common readability tests, including the Flesch Reading Ease Test and Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test.
Copy the blog content you want to check. Then, paste it into the text box. Click the Check Text Readability button to see your scores. This post, for instance, has a Flesch Reading Ease score of 61.4 (standard) and a Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level score of 8.4 (Grade 8 level).
Then, Edit Based on Best Practices
Grammarly recommends aiming for a 7th-8th grade level for web content, which equates to a score of higher than 60 with the Flesch Reading Ease Test. If your content is scored lower than 60 and has a higher grade level than Grade 8, your blog may be hard for your audience to read.
To fix this, edit content to follow readability best practices. When editing (and writing) blog content, maximize reading ease by choosing short words instead of long words and splitting long sentences into shorter ones. Also, use active voice rather than passive voice to keep sentence length in check.
For an example, take a look at the following sentence:
“There are numerous different considerations that can be taken into account when assessing the quality of blog content.”
The sentence has multiple words that are three syllables or longer; it is also very wordy. Several changes were made to improve readability, including choosing short words to replace long ones and removing some words entirely. The final version is:
“There are a few factors to consider when assessing content quality.”
The final version is concise and easy to understand. It has good readability. The draft version does not.
Remember to Keep Context in Mind
Always keep your target audience and the focus of your content in mind. Don’t oversimplify to the point where your content no longer has meaning. That may give you a better readability score, but defeats the ultimate purpose of creating high-quality content that engages your audience. For instance, removing the word “readability” from this blog post and using a shorter substitute might result in a better score, but it would also make the content difficult to understand. We are, after all, talking about readability!
So, while readability is critical for your blog, follow other best practices for writing web content as well. This includes the use of headings, images, an appropriate layout, and logical transitions between points, among other tactics. These are important factors that neither the Flesch Reading Ease Test nor the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test takes into account.
Both tests are useful tools for improving readability, but they do have their limits. Use them in conjunction with other content marketing and optimization strategies to achieve the best results for your blog.