One of the main pillars of successful copy is readability. Here are some tips to help you improve the readability of your content.
Readability Score and Tools
On the web, most of us scan information, jumping from one relevant bit to the next. According to a study by the Nielsen Group, your visitors will only ready between 20 and 28% of the words on your site. So, to make sure your users are getting the most out of the content they do read, it’s important to take care of the tone, sentence structure and form of Web content.
Good Practices for Better Readability
- An airy text
- Paragraphs that do not exceed 6 lines
- Optimal line length is between 50-60 characters
- Short sentences (no more than 12 words)
- No jargon
- Clear and short titles and subtitles
The Flesch Readability Score
Rudolf Flesch has developed a readability score based on the main principles of psychology. When reading, a person develops a provisional judgement that helps to interpret the meaning of the words read. When the eye stops on a punctuation mark, the mind stops and interprets the final meaning of a sentence or paragraph. The longer the sentence, the more complicated it is to analyze its meaning. All this mental work is not necessarily favoured by web content readers.
The Flesch formula measures the mental effort required to understand a text on a scale of 0 to 100. Microsoft Word offers a Flesch readability score in its parameters. Alternatively, there are free online solutions such as Hemingway App.
The value of the readability score for an editor
Testing the readability of a text helps to determine whether the text is clear, concise and easy for a reader to understand. Keep in mind that lowering the level of difficulty does not mean addressing a dumb audience. Reading on screen is more difficult than reading on paper. In addition, the many distractions we encounter in daily life diminish the attention we pay to certain content.
Hemingway App, the best readability tool to check your SEO content
Hemingway’s mission is to make your writing clearer. This application, available online or downloadable for a fee, aims to make the content you write more digestible and understandable to the greatest number of readers.
It is a very playful tool that chases away very complicated sentences, phrases and words.
Sidenote: I love Hemingway App’s Readability Score because it’s straightforward
It is reminiscent of Albert Einstein’s quote: “If you cannot explain something simply, it is because you have not understood it well”.
To help us, brothers Adam and Ben long have launched the Hemingway application that sifts through your content using an algorithm. The result? An in-depth semantic analysis. The tool decrypts sentence and paragraph structure. It also counts the number of characters. This helps identify passages that are too complex and words that should be eliminated for better readability.
Two main criteria guarantee the effectiveness of this tool: passive voice hunting and adverbs. These elements are identified by the software and highlighted in red. Writing like Hemingway is within everyone’s reach: you have to make short, simple and direct sentences (while having a software program on hand to assist you).
A note on SEMrush SEO Writing Assistant
I really don’t recommend using this tool. Yes, the SEO Writing Assistant will give you an aggregate score on your writing. But here’s the deal: they ask for a lot in exchange. You have to give them access to your content in Google Drive and to the contacts you share you content with along with you know…the entire content in your Google Drive. It was SHADY. I asked about it on Twitter and was left even more suspicious about this tool. It’ll check readability, hard-to-read sentences, word count, reading time, tone of voice, but in exchange you give it access to EVERYTHING. Great SEO content checker but the privacy trade-off is too scary. I don’t want to give access to my client emails since I share my documents with them…since they will be used for retargeted ads. I know because they already do some really insistent retargeting with us. Bottom line: great tool but super shady marketing practices so it’s a pass for me.
Yoast SEO Readability Analyzer
Yoast is a free WordPress plugin that many people use to check their content’s SEO. It can also give you a content readability score but few people seem to know about that. Within the content readability score, you’ll find a report that breaks down:
- Variety of sentence structure
- Paragraph length
- Sentence length
- Use of transition words
- Flesch reading ease
- Use of passive voice vs. active voice
If writing is not your strong suit, Grammarly probably retargeted you on YouTube already. The company is aggressively growing in the writing field. Grammarly will address issues in grammar and spelling, but also in tone and structure. It does a great job but I am not super comfortable with the concept of installing what is essentially a keylogger on my computer. If you aren’t as strict on privacy, Grammarly is a great tool for blog posts, site content, articles, emails, messages, and social media posts.
Choose Fonts Wisely
Headlines are shorter so you can use creative fonts. They should always be easy to scan. Make sure to use capital and lowercase letters because the difference in letter height makes scanning the headlines easier.
Use Clear Sans Serif Fonts for Longer Texts
On screen, serifs can easily blur together which makes it more difficult to read. Here are some standard sans serif fonts to make sure your content is readable: Arial, Helvetica, Lucida Sans, Trebuchet, and Verdana.
Font size matters
People prefer different font sizes depending on their age, eyesight, and personal preferences and devices.
More of us multi-task when we browse the web. We scan through things. It’s essential to optimize readability of your content. Keep your copy concise and structure your content with sufficient anchors to help readers scanning. Text analyzers available out there are great to help you get started.