Do readers genuinely enjoy your content? Or do they only scan it in search of the information they need and then leave? The difference between content that’s read and content that’s only “scanned” is often one of readability. Learn more about why you should improve content readability and how you can achieve this.
Why Improve Content Readability – Benefits
When you improve content readability, you invite visitors to stay on your website or social media page longer. Not only that, but you enhance the clarity of your message and make it more persuasive. Here are the key benefits of making your content more readable:
- Lower bounce rate
- Higher engagement levels, since readers won’t just scan your content but actually read it
- More trust, as readers will be able to better understand who you are and what you stand for
- Better content experience on mobile – mobile users read while they commute to work or while they are on the go, and their level of focus then may not be as high as that of someone quietly reading at home
- Wider audience – content with a high readability rating appeals to more people than just your targeted audience and may help you to generate more leads over time
- Smoother website experience – content that’s difficult to read is like a slow, poorly optimized website design
- Higher marketing ROI – Content that’s easy to read will likely drive more traffic to your website and invite more shares
Why Poor Content Readability Can Cost You
Ignoring the benefits of highly readable content in our age of short attention spans could cost you more than traffic. It could have a negative impact on your website experience and dilute your brand message. Visitors who come to your site for the first time may find it difficult to understand who you are and what you do.
It can also cost you money since you will have to create more content to explain your mission. The Dutch government experienced this first hand. After running some readability tests on government-distributed content, it found that the readability level was too high for most readers.
However, when it comes to improving content readability, it’s important to avoid falling into that other trap – over-simplifying your content. Making your content easier to read doesn’t mean being less specific or providing less information. Even when it’s easy to read, your content should provide value.
Whether you are creating content yourself or using content creation services, here are some tips on how to improve content readability without lowering its value.
Ways to Improve Content Readability
Making your content more accessible for readers is a process. It begins with knowing your audience and their expectations. For example, a restaurant review website will usually need a much higher content readability rating than say a tech company providing AI-based chatbot programming. The latter targets a more specific and, it is safe to assume, more knowledgeable audience. That said, content readability is something that can always be improved, regardless of the industry you are active in, or your audience.
1. Know What to Avoid
What makes content difficult to read? Or even boring? Usually, the culprits are one of the following:
- Long, multi-syllable, sophisticated words when there are simpler alternatives
- Long sentences of more than 12-15 words
- Repeated use of the passive voice, which tends to lengthen sentences
- Too many technical words or industry jargon (some fields are more prone to this, see legal, medical, or scientific fields)
- Too many adverbs
- Long paragraphs – on the web, paragraphs tend to be shorter than in print
- Poor grammar
- Lack of formatting, such as subheadings, bullet points, and numbered lists
2. Enforce a Readability Standard
Use a readability system such as the Flesch Reading Ease to measure the readability score of your content. This readability formula calculates the readability score of a text based on average sentence length and the average number of syllables per word. The higher the score, the easier to understand the text is.
Scores in the 60s or 70s reflect standard and fairly easy to understand content (accessible even for 8th and 9th graders). There are more advanced readability standards like the SMOG index or the CEFR, but the Flesch Reading Ease works well for web content.
3. Find a Balance Between the Formal and Conversational Writing
Much of the content on the web today is conversational. It uses the second person “you” and addresses the reader directly. This is the natural voice of copywriters, and can also be used to inform, entertain, or educate an audience. The conversational tone is great for social media content marketing too. When you use the conversational tone, keeping sentences short becomes quite easy.
However, depending on your audience, you may not be able to make (all) your content marketing conversational. Even then, you may want to avoid a formal tone. Formal writing on the web today is becoming reduced to academic publications and other specialized websites. It’s a tone that does not easily connect with readers and that will lower your content’s readability score.
4. Monitor Reactions to Your Content
Your readers will often signal to you when your content is not readable enough. Here are some of the key signs you need to pay attention to:
- Low engagement, i.e. few shares, likes, and comments
- Questions that ask you to clarify a point or to provide more information
- High bounce rate for content pages
- Visitors spend little time on your website
- You get views but not enough leads (for content with a call to action)
Most of the time, visitors won’t complain openly about your content – they have better things to do. That’s why, if you want to improve content readability, it’s important to pay attention to the signs above.
5. Outsource Your Content Creation
You know why a lot of content on the web has a low readability score? Because it’s not written by the right person. Asking your lead programmer or Chief Financial Officer to write a blog post or create your next whitepaper is not always the best idea, even if they have useful insights to share.
Unless they have experience as writers, the readability score of their writing may be too high for your audience. That’s not to say their writing won’t be good – only that it may not be sufficiently engaging. And today, engaging content makes all the difference on the web.
If the time has come for you to outsource your content, article writing services could be what you need. By working with a content writing company, you can increase content readability and produce more content with a faster turnaround.
If your organic content marketing strategy is a key component of your marketing, then hitting the perfect readability score for your niche audience is a must.