What Is Readability?
Having a blog that is easy to read won’t just make your audience happy—it will make Google and other search engines happy as well. By improving the readability of your blog posts, you will improve your SEO, and in turn, rank higher within Google. And higher rankings = more free traffic.
So, what is readability? Readability defines how easy it is for your audience to understand your content.
In other words, if your blog post is easy to read and follow along with, it will most likely have good readability.
Why does readability matter, and how does it affect SEO?
Having content that is easy for your audience to digest means they will be more likely to read more of your post, which could mean they are more likely to convert on the call-to-action within your blog post. Essentially, if your visitors aren’t reading your blog post because the readability is poor, they won’t be likely to convert!
Your bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave your website after just one page) and time spent on page can also be impacted by readability as well.
Google and other search engines also take into account the readability of your content. Search engines aren’t necessarily going to give your blog post a readability score and rank you based on that, but a post with better readability will likely have more social shares, a lower bounce rate and longer time spent on the page. This signals to Google that the content is good, and we all know that Google wants to rank good content higher.
How to improve your readability
Luckily, improving your blog’s readability is easy. Unlike keyword research for SEO, which can be time-consuming, improving your readability is a quick way to improve your SEO (and let’s be honest, we love anything that is quick and easy).
Let’s take a look at some things you can incorporate to improve your blog’s readability:
- bulleted lists (like this one)
- appropriate language for your audience
- larger font size
- appropriate font color
- appropriate font
- alt tags
- smaller paragraphs
- bold words
Add more headers
I’m going to tell you something, and it’s not meant to hurt your feelings: there’s a pretty good chance the majority of people are only spending 15 seconds or less reading your content.
People like to skim.
Once they’ve skimmed the content a little, if they feel they could benefit from spending more time reading it, they will stick around.
But if they aren’t able to skim your content and get the main points, they will likely leave. Which is why headers are the first thing you should add into your posts.
Headers should be larger lines of text that jump out to the user, giving them a roadmap of what your content is all about.
Use bulleted lists
Lists divide the content up and give the reader a snapshot of information that might not be read if put into a paragraph.
Up above, I used a bulleted list to list off things you can do to improve readability. If I had put all of that into a sentence it would have looked something like this:
If you want to improve your readability, you can use headers, bold text, lists, appropriate fonts, larger font sizes, bold words, alt tags, smaller paragraphs, and appropriate language.
See how that is much harder to read? The list makes it so much easier for the user to digest content quickly.
Use appropriate language
Most people would have named this section “use shorter and easier-to-read words”, but I’m going to go out on a limb here and disagree with that.
In most instances, the advice to use shorter and simpler language holds true; however, as a brand strategist, I know the importance of speaking to your audience in a brand voice that they will relate to.
If you are writing to a group of highly educated individuals on a very advanced topic, I truly don’t feel that using shorter and easier-to-read words is going to benefit you. If your audience enjoys reading posts that challenge them and use a high level of vocabulary, then using shorter words will likely cause your readers to leave your blog.
You need to determine what type of language your audience wants to read and adjust your posts to match that. In most cases, people will want shorter words. But not in all cases—and I want to make that clear.
Improve your font selection
Have you ever visited a website that used really small font, or a font that was so light that you could hardly see it?
Making sure your font is an appropriate size, a contrasting color against the background of your site, and nothing too fancy will help improve your blog’s readability.
Use alt tags for your images
Using alt tags for your images helps search engines see what your images are about. As a search engine can’t actually “see” the image, it relies on information you provide to determine what the image shows.
Adding alt tags to describe your images certainly helps search engines, but also can help the user if an image does not load or if they are visually impaired.
Your alt tags should be a short sentence or two, describing what the photo depicts. If possible, you can incorporate keywords into your alt tags, but don’t try to stuff keywords in just for the sake of adding them. The main purpose of alt tags is to tell the user what the image is in case they aren’t able to see it—not to pack in keywords.
Write smaller paragraphs
Before I began blogging, the last time I had done any writing was in University, where paragraphs are meant to be at least several sentences long for academic papers.
For writing online, you want your paragraphs to be much, much shorter.
Shorter paragraphs make your content easy to skim and also easy to read in general. If you are used to writing in large paragraphs, this will feel completely unnatural (and wrong) at first, but it will become habit eventually.
Bold specific key words
Bolding key words helps the user—and search engines—see what is extra important throughout your content.
When bolding, use the <strong> tag and not the <b> tag—this tells search engines that that particular phrase has strong importance.
Take a look at the two entries below. They both have the same content, but the one on the left has smaller paragraphs, bolded keywords, lists, headers and an easy to read font.
How you can test your readability
There are a few quick ways you can test your readability. First, you can skim over your content yourself. Give yourself a 10-15 second time limit, and see whether or not you are able to get the key points from your blog post. Ask yourself if you feel the reader will be inclined to keep reading after that.
This can be effective, but you are also biased (and already know what’s in the content). A better method is to have someone else scan over your content in 15 seconds and let you know their thoughts.
You can also use a website such as The Writer to see how your content scores against several readability scores.