Web content is a top marketing priority for many businesses. A strong web presence is an invaluable tool for promoting and selling services, offering information, and actively engaging with clients. However, achieving results involves far more than simply posting content online. The quality of that content is of vital importance — and this is where readability comes into play.
What is Readability?
Simply defined, content readability is the ease with which content can be read and understood. Crafting readable content requires the consideration of several elements, including word choice and sentence length.
Writing correctly (e.g., correct grammar, spelling, and punctuation) is not the only element involved in readability. Clarity (how easy it is for the target audience to understand the content) is also a key aspect in determining readability level.
If a person finds a written text easy to read and understand, the text has good readability. Conversely, if the text is poorly organized and contains many long sentences and complex words, it has poor readability.
Key Features of Readable Content
To create content that has good readability, several basic factors must be kept in mind.
- Word Length: The more syllables a word contains, the more complex that word is likely to be. The more complex the word, the more difficult for a reader to understand.
Readers should not have to consult a dictionary to understand your content. It may be tempting to use long, complicated words, this is not appropriate for most non-academic web content. Instead, common words and plain language make a much deeper impact on readers.
- Sentence Length: Just as long words negatively impact readability, so too do long sentences.
When it comes to reading on the web, readers tend to scan content to determine if it suits their needs. Their interest will be lost if sentences are overly long. Splitting long sentences into shorter sentences can greatly improve readability.
- Active Voice: Using active voice is more effective than using passive voice. Active language is more direct. And, active language can help reduce sentence length. This does not mean that sentences should be short to the point of feeling unnatural or choppy. Generally, website content should be natural and conversational in tone, appealing to a broad audience.
- Well-organized Content: To be readable, content should be organized. This means that content should be divided into short paragraphs than large blocks of text.
Further, headings, subheadings, and bullet-point lists are an excellent way to organize content and improve readability.
These formatting techniques make it easier for the reader to quickly scan the page to find what they are looking for.
Considering the importance of readable content, it isn’t surprising that a number of assessments have been designed to determine content readability. These algorithms work by measuring the features mentioned above, including word complexity and sentence length. A readability score is assigned based on these measurements.
One of the most well-known assessments is the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. Other readability tools include the Readability Test Tool by WebFX and the Gunning Fog Index. Many times, readability assessments provide an estimated grade level a reader needs to possess in order to access the content. The lower the grade level, the more accessible the content is.
This article, for instance, has a reading level of Grade 12 according to WebFX. This is largely because the word “readability,” used frequently in this article, is itself considered a complex word.
Why Does Readability Matter?
The goal of web content is to captivate readers and convince them to engage with the content presented. Readability is a fundamental aspect of this process. Optimizing content for readability improves accessibility and benefits search engine optimization (SEO), resulting in positive returns for your business.
Readable Content is Accessible Content
It is important to avoid discrimination when creating content. With that in mind, web content should comply with the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) to ensure that it can easily be accessed by anyone, including those with disabilities.
Among other requirements, WCAG notes that written content should be clear and easy to understand. In other words, it should be readable. Simply put, content that is readable is also accessible. Convoluted content is not.
In practice, accessible content is also more likely to hold a reader’s attention. This increases the odds that your audience will actively engage with your content. Engagement is the primary goal of any content marketing strategy, and producing readable content is the first step toward that goal.
Readable Content Improves Search Engine Rankings
Readability is important because it positively impacts search engine rankings. By improving the readability of content, the way users interact with your website is also improved. They are more likely to stay longer, view multiple pages, and click links. These are all details that increase the quality of your site and are taken into account by search engines.
On the other hand, content that is wordy and complex is unlikely to be ranked highly in search results. Remember that search engines prioritize content that is effective and high-quality, so to strengthen your SEO strategy and improve your rankings, focus on readable content.
Of course, there are some circumstances in which content may need to be complex. For instance, content geared toward high-level academics or specialty fields will require a more advanced level than content for a general audience. Assessing and understanding your target audience is necessary to be certain that content is written at the best level for your readers.
Because creating quality content with good readability is so crucial, it’s imperative that your content creation team is up to the task. Many businesses use professional services such as okwrite or okgrow to help with this. Regardless of your particular content strategy, keep readability at the forefront of your creation process. By doing this, you can strengthen your web presence and ensure that you gain the most return from your efforts.