Camille is content manager at Yoast. She writes and optimizes blog posts and likes to create content that helps people master SEO.
When it comes to writing, it can be difficult to look at your work objectively. Of course, most of us are able to write a few paragraphs or articles on a particular topic. But making sure your text is entertaining and easy to read makes it more challenging. Too many difficult words, use long sentences and not tie everything into one flowing story. These are just a few examples of practices that hinder the readability of your text and thus deter readers. So let’s find out what readability is and what you can do to increase the readability point of your text.
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What is readability?
“The quality of it being easy or pleasant to read,” is how Google’s dictionary defines readability. This is the ease with which someone can understand a written text. One important factor that plays a role in the readability of your text is the degree of difficulty. The harder a sentence is, the more time someone needs to figure out what the author is trying to say.
But that’s not all. How readable your text is also depends on the use of headings, paragraphs, the length of your sentences, the familiarity of your text and even the style. All of these factors affect the natural flow of your text and the ease with which someone goes through it. Now it often depends on your reader how big the impact each factor has on how readable a text is to them. However, taking these factors into account can help you create a text that is more readable to most people.
Read the readability with an example
Let us apply this practically using an example. Below you will find two versions of a short text about us SEO copywriting training. Although both versions of this text contain the same information, you can see a difference in:
Example text 1 At Yoast we have a training course on copywriting SEO. In just 6 to 8 hours, you cover all the necessary steps from choosing your focus word to publishing and finishing a ready to publish blog post. You will know how to write a wonderful copy that is ranks. Your text will be easy to read. Your copy will disconnect visitors from Google. Your content will be unique, well structured and to the point; exactly what the search engines need to start ranking your page.
Example text 2 At Yoast we have a training course on copywriting SEO. During this course you will cover all the necessary steps from choosing your focus word to publishing. In addition, you get a ready to publish blog post. All this in just 6 to 8 hours.
Upon completion of this course, you will know how to write a wonderful copy that arranges. To begin with, your texts will be a breeze to read. Second, your copy will uncheck visitors from Google. Lastly, your content will be unique, well structured and up to date. Exactly what the search engines need to start ranking your page.
Which one do you prefer? Example text 1 is of course not impossible to read. And it gives the same information as example 2. However, using transition words, shorter sun, en paragraph the second version becomes a little more readable. It is not difficult and you can earn a lot by spending some time on it!
Why is this important?
The importance of readability for readers
Readability determines how easy your text is to read and getting a high score on that quality is definitely something you want to strive for. You may be wondering why, so I’ll tell you. First, keep people on your site through readable text because it takes them less time to go through it. I know, that sounds a little contradictory, right? But a text that is easy to read requires less effort from your visitor and will help them find the answer to their question. Text that is too difficult to read will cause people to become frustrated and leave your site immediately. People these days are used to getting their information quickly, and this is especially true online.
Content that is easy to come by creates trust between you and your site visitors and increases the chances of them actually going beyond the first sentence. And to click to your other pages to read more about related topics or your products. You can compare it to opening a new book. If the first chapter is really hard to get through, the chances of you actually completing the book become much smaller. But if the book is easy to read, you are more likely to finish it and buy more books from the same author (or return to your site more often).
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The importance of readability for SEO
To understand why readability can also play a role in your rankings, it’s good to know that search engines are getting better at imitating people every day. Where the early days of SEO made it possible to simply fill your content with your keyword, Google is now much better at recognizing quality content. In addition, search engines are better at predicting what people want to read. Focusing your content on readers and their experience is therefore the way forward. This means that readability also becomes more important when it comes to your rankings. Read more about this in our blog post on ease of reading and SEO.
The importance of readability online
Writing in a way that is enjoyable and easy to read should always be a priority. However, it is even more important when it comes to online content. Because we are easily distracted online. Other content is just a click away and we are used to having more resources at our disposal at all times. In addition, it takes more effort to read from a screen and because it costs us more energy to stay focused, reading online requires more of us. That’s why readability is especially important when writing for an online audience.
How to improve the readability of your text
As we mentioned earlier, there are a few factors that determine your readability point. The importance that you are not likely to be surprised by is the level of complexity. In addition, it benefits your readability to structure your text and write in an active and engaging way.
The complexity of your text
How complex your text may be may depend on your audience. If you are writing for a very niche group of readers, you can get away with a text that is very complex. However, most of us want to reach a larger audience. And most of us have a laid back attitude when it comes to painting a picture about ourselves. By writing content that is not too complex, you make your content more accessible to everyone.
One well-known score for the complexity of a text is the Flesch Reading Convenience Score. This score tells you how readable a text is on a scale of 0-100. To give you an idea of the levels: a text obtained between 0-30 is considered readable by academics and a score between 90-100 is readable by 11-year-olds. This test looks at two aspects: how the number of words relates to the number of sentences and how the number of syllables relates to the number of words. For an online text, reading comfort of 60-70 is considered acceptable.
Bring structure to your text
Another way to improve your readability is through structuring your text. What we mean by this is to divide your text into reasonably sized paragraphs and use headings to divide your content into smaller sections. It can scan your text and it gives readers some space to air between your paragraphs. No one enjoys a wall of text that does not give an overview of the topics discussed. Read how to bring structure to your text here.
An active and engaging tone of voice
Something we see happening a lot, even in our own writing, is the overuse of passive voice. Which makes your writing further and less clear. I’ll give you an example. Alex called me is a sentence in the active voice. I was called by Alex is his counterpart: the passive voice. It makes your sentences longer and more complicated, while usually not necessary. That said, some sentences do ask for a passive voice, but it’s good to avoid it where you can.
The easiest way to do this is to write your text and then go on to see how active your tone of voice is. While you are busy, you can also improve other factors that influence the intake of your content. Like the length of your sentences, which you should try to keep short. Or try switching between longer and shorter sentences. Another factor that can negatively affect your text is the use of consecutive sentences, sentences beginning with the same word. You will be amazed at how often this happens without you even realizing it. A good solution to this, and to maintain a natural flow in your text, is to use transition words. These words show readers the connection between your phrases and paragraphs.
Yoast SEO checks it all for you
Complexity, structure, tone of voice and transition words – this is a lot to keep in mind (especially if you are trying to optimize the keywords in your text at the same time). Fortunately, the Yoast SEO Plugin check it all automatically for you!
The built-in readability analysis will mark any aspects that can be improved. You get an overall rating for the page you are working on, as well as focused feedback on various readability factors, indicated by red, orange or green bullet points. Which means you can relax and write naturally and focus on working out your message instead. Want to know more? Check out this blog post about the features in our readability analysis and how to make the most of it.
To sum up
It can be difficult to write a text that is entertaining and easy to read. However, it helps you to convey your message and keep visitors on your page. Which also benefits your SEO. Therefore, you need to take some time to work on the readability point of your content. Work on the complexity of your text, structure and tone of voice to create content that makes both users and Google happy. The readability analysis in Yoast SEO can help you with that.
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