readability as an seo ranking factor | seo and social media maven | stephanie nelson | sbn marketingpost by Stephanie Nelson

Earlier this week, as I was researching a client’s SEO strategy, I came across an interesting debate in SEO ranking factors. It seems content’s readability may be the latest item SEO providers need to focus on.

Readability is defined as the level of ease to understand your content. Per the usual, Google has neither confirmed nor denied whether readability is a ranking factor. And while some SEO providers purport that the search engines do not consider readability as a factor, there are still reasons, in my opinion, to put at least some focus here as you’re optimizing your site.

  • The easier your content is to read and understand, the more likely a visitor is to engage with it. Higher engagement means lower bounce rates and longer site visits. Both of these are confirmed ranking factors. So it stands to reason that readability can help increase organic rankings, even if it’s in a roundabout way.
  • Similarly, readability plays into a visitor’s user experience (UX). If your copy is written “for the search engines” only, where you’ve stuffed your copy with your targeted keywords, it’s boring and hard to read by a live person. If you write for your site visitors, their UX will be better and again lead to more engagement.
  • As voice search increases, having copy that is easily understandable is more and more important. If your copy is read aloud by an Alexa device, by Siri, or by any other device, it needs to be understood by the listener. Readability plays a role here, too.

The Flesch-Kincaid algorithm seems to be the go-to for judging readability. (If you use the Yoast plug-in on WordPress, it’s the algorithm they use.) This algorithm takes the number of syllables in a word and number of words in a sentence to figure the copy’s readability. According to this algorithm, you should use short words and short sentences in your content if you want to have a good readability score. That said, my belief on this point is that you should ultimately focus on your audience. If short words and short sentences come across as condescending to the reader, that’s not going to help your copy convert that person into a client or provide them a good user experience overall.

What’s your take? Would you put the extra effort in to optimize around readability, or would you want your SEO provider to do so?