Website Readability Best Practices for Improved User Experience and SEO
August 13th 2019 | By Sarah McInerney
The relationship between SEO and user experience was something we explored in detail in our last post. Emma concluded that by creating the best possible experience for your website users, great SEO results will follow naturally.
With a fast loading, secure site that’s easy to navigate and packed with engaging content, you’ll find visitors stick around for longer. These positive user signals are what prompt the search engines to reward a site with boosted rankings.
Let’s home in on packed with engaging content. What exactly is engaging content?
In our recent post delving into SEO-on page factors, we touched on the subject of content readability. It’s an important ranking factor.
If your content is a tough read, no matter how much sweat and tears you’ve ploughed into researching and writing it, it’s just not going to engage the reader. And readers that depart are no good for bounce rate signals. High bounce rates mean low search rankings.
Why is ease of reading so important?
Did you now that the average reading age in the UK is just 12-13? It came as quite a shock to us too. It made us realise that we needed to simplify our language a bit. Downgrade the vocabulary. Check that everything we were writing was easily digested and clear-cut.
So with ease of reading so crucially important both for SEO and user experience, it’s time to take a look at website readability best practices. Just what should we be doing to target that important reading age so we can please both user and search engine? We’ll come to that shortly, but first we need to talk about the Flesch reading ease test.
The Flesch reading ease test
The Flesch reading ease test is something you may have come across if you’re a WordPress user. It’s an analysis tool provided by Yoast as part of its SEO plugin.
The score tells you how easy your text is to read. The lower the score, the harder the content is to read. The readability score uses the average length of the sentences within the content and the average syllables per word to form an equation that calculates the reading ease score.
Text with a very high score of 100 is classed as easy to read. A score of 60-70 is thought of as suitable for website content. Here’s how the scores rank:
- 0-30 – Best understood by university graduates
- 60-70 – Easily understood by 13-15 year old students
- 90-100 – Easily understood by an average 11 year old student
If your score is too low, there are plenty of website readability best practices you can use to improve it.
Website readability best practices
Here are our top tips to help make your web content more readable. The great news is that by following them, not only will you stand a better chance of improved rankings through regular search, you’ll also benefit from better voice search rankings too. Because the more readable your content, the easier it is for it to be delivered in the spoken word.
Words with four or more syllables are considered difficult to read, so try to simplify as many longer words as you can. For example, earlier on we used ‘clear-cut’ instead of ‘unambiguous’, so that’s two rather than five syllables.
Of course, you may be writing for a technical or academic audience. If so, you’ll want to adopt a certain level of language to suit your readers, and a lower Flesch reading ease score will be fine. But otherwise, try and keep it as simple as possible. In other words, write for your audience.
Shorter sentences make for clearer content. They flow better and are easier to digest, because the reader doesn’t have to spend time trying to understand what you are saying.
Again you’ll want to adopt a style that suits your particular audience. If you write in a fresh and breezy tone, around 15 words is about right for a sentence. Otherwise try to stick to between 20 and 30 words maximum. Avoid rambling sentences of 50 or so words. Always try to break it down as much as you can.
Longer paragraphs are not only more difficult to read, they are also a turn-off from a visual point of view. When faced with reams of unbroken text, readers will often veer away. They may even refrain from reading your content altogether.
Try to stick to three to four lines per paragraph at the most. Vary the lengths too between two, three and four lines. This will remove that school text book feel.
Numbered or bulleted lists
Breaking your content up with numbered or bulleted lists not only makes it look more visually interesting, it’s also more engaging for the reader. Lists are easier to understand than paragraphs, so wherever the chance arises, see if you can include one.
A great bullet list to use, especially for longer pieces, is a summary list that sets out the key highlights of the text. Set at the beginning, these lists provide the reader with an instant overview of what they’ll be gaining by reading your content.
Break up content with images
Images bring content to life. They’re a great opportunity to highlight key points too using captions. Splashes of colour amidst black and white text always please the eye, so throw some relevant ones in whenever you can.
Don’t forget to include an alt tag for your image. If you use your target keyword then you’ll score points for SEO, plus it will help visually impaired users to better understand what’s on the page.
You’ll see we’ve used subheadings right through this post. If they weren’t there, and the images were absent too, do you think you’d even have started reading? That block of tedious content just wouldn’t have had the same appeal, would it?
Subheadings help guide the reader smoothly to the next key point, and give a tempting sneak preview of what they’ll find when they read on. They’re also the ideal opportunity to showcase your target keywords, a fantastic on-page ranking factor for SEO.
A great way to highlight important key points in your content and to draw reader attention is to use call-out statements. Choose two or three major statements to showcase in big, bold text. Putting them in quotation marks makes them more eye-catching.
Website Readability Best Practices – Key Takeaways
Readable website content is a must if you want brilliant search engine rankings. It’s also crucial if you want to create a positive user experience. Don’t forget, the two work in tandem, and both will lead to better online visibility, and therefore increased sales.
At Figment, we have been working with local businesses in London and Surrey for many years and have achieved outstanding results for them in all aspects of SEO. If you’d like to talk through a strategy that works for your business on an individual level, we welcome you to get in touch.