One important aspect of content marketing is readability. Killer content is great. Yet, if it’s written in a way that’s too difficult or too simplistic, you can lose your audience. There are readability scores that can help determine if your webpages or blog posts need to be rewritten. We use two tools to help cross-check readability as well as search engine optimization.
Flesch Reading Ease vs. Flesch-Kincaid Grade
There are two scoring systems designed to indicate comprehension difficulty. Both use the same core measures — word and sentence length — but they use different weighting factors. Both systems are built upon the work of Rudolf Flesch, a readability expert, phonics advocate and author of Why Johnny Can’t Read.
The Flesch Reading Ease calculates easy-to-read materials with a higher score. So, the more difficult it is to read, the lower the score. Here’s a quick score breakdown:
- 90-100: easily understood by an average 11-year old student
- 60-70: easily understood by an average 13-15 year old student
- 0 – 30: best understood by a university graduate
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Score is just the opposite. Using Flesch’s work, J. Peter Kincaid developed this system for the US Navy in 1975. Specifically created to evaluate readability of military training manuals, Kincaid adapted the model for high-tech education.
If you’re serious about content marketing then you’ve probably heard of one or both of these systems. Whichever system you use, it’s a way to measure your marketing copy’s comprehension.
Content Marketing Readability & Target Audience
There’s a lot of advice about how to structure web content and writing content. Through usability testing we know that a large percentage of an online readers scan copy, stopping only on parts of particular interest. Yes, there are a select few that will read every word. They tend to be data collectors, with a ravenous appetite when conducting research related to a purchase. Catering to both styles is important for audience consumption (and ultimately engagement).
Regardless of your content marketing structure, you first need to determine your content’s readability in relation to your target audience. If your business is mainstream and consumer-based, make sure to keep sentences short and sweet, using vocabulary that’s easy to understand. Writing at a fifth or sixth grade level is probably the highest you should go (I’ll resist commenting on this sad fact). If you have a B2B enterprise where you are targeting the C-Suite, then you can aim higher. In either case, break the content out so its easy to scan. If they don’t actually scan or read the content, it’s moot.
Scoring Your Content Marketing
Since we help clients with writing content as well as SEO, we use two online tools within the WordPress ecosystem. The first is a free, five-star plugin called WordPress SEO by Yoast. In the advanced settings, this plugin uses The Flesch Reading Ease scoring model. Not only does it give a score, but it also suggests how to improve readability. Additionally, it helps you optimize based upon a designated keyword.
The second tool is Scribe, and it’s a paid service. Rather than indicating a keyword, Scribe tells you what search phrases it detects. The complicated formulas calculate readability as well as page optimization. When used to its fullest, this powerful tool can help evaluate your site’s SEO infrastructure and point out its weaknesses.
If your website isn’t on WordPress (why ever not!?), there’s still a way to evaluate readability of your content marketing. Scribe has a stand-alone version where you can paste copy from your Content Management System. You can also use free readability scoring tools.
Now that you better understand readability metrics, how will you apply it?
How can we help?
Launching a website and need help with writing content? Or, are you tweaking your landing pages to improve sales conversion?
We are the spectrum group, and we offer strategic and tactical consulting so you can monetize your online presence. Call us for a complimentary 30-minute consultation to discuss your website’s user experience and translate that into sales.