If you manage a website, you’re always looking for ways to increase traffic. You research keywords, you employ great visuals, and you optimize for all devices. What if you found out there’s one element of your content that you’ve overlooked? If you’re already familiar with Flesch Reading Ease, get to know it. By making your content more readable, you will attract and keep traffic.
What is Flesch Reading Ease?
The Flesch scale measures readability. So first perhaps you’re asking, what is readability? The readability we’re talking about is different from visual readability. The latter comprises such factors as font choice and size. Flesch Reading Ease concerns how something is written.
Rudolph Flesch, Ph. D developed this formula in 1948. His is one of the oldest and most accurate readability formulas. It’s the standard readability formula used by many U.S. Government Agencies, including the Department of Defense.
What does it measure? It counts syllables per word and words per sentence, puts them into a formula and generates a score.
You earn a score from 1 to 100. A lower score is easier to read. For web copy, shoot for something in the 60-70 range, which a middle school student can easily understand. Definitely keep it above 30, even if you know your audience is college educated. In the next section, we explain why.
Why Does It Matter?
Simply, you will lower your bounce rate and increase conversions. The Center for Plain Language says “But if your digital content isn’t readable, it won’t be of use to your customers, no matter how great your website is.”
You might remember that, a few years ago, the SEO mantra became, “Write for people, not search engines.” That’s not to say that Google doesn’t explicitly figure Flesch Reading Ease into its algorithm. We don’t know all their secrets.
The average American reads at a 7th to 8th-grade level. You might target an audience who is above average. Maybe you sell software to MBAs. But also remember, just because a reader is capable of reading more complex text doesn’t mean they want to. That MBA has plenty of work to get back to. A reader wants to glance at your content and understand immediately whether it addresses their needs.
Some reports say people read only about 18% of what’s on a webpage. This study gives them a little more credit, with up to 28%. Either way, you need to make your point clearly — in as few as eight seconds. Don’t lose them and increase your bounce rate.
Even a savvy reader will appreciate the ability to quickly grasp your meaning and then go read Ulysses later. Using natural language leads to conversions by as much as 40%, according to Kissmetrics.
These factors all work together. “Difficult text will result in a high bounce rate and this will lead to lower ranking in the long run” says Yoast.
How Do I Measure Flesch Reading Ease?
There are several ways to measure your Flesch Reading Ease score:
- Check it in your word processing software, If you’re using Microsoft Word or Outlook, turn on your readability checker. Here are instructions for how to do that. Google Docs used to include reading ease on its word count tool, but discontinued this feature.
- Check on your site itself using a plugin. If you use WordPress, opt for Yoast. Yoast not only tells you your score but offers tips on how to adjust it. It also considers other factors the affect readability, like how many passive verbs you use.
- Use a third-party checker like this one or this one. Some options will also give you the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. It uses the exact same criteria, but generates a grade level instead of a score.
How Can I Improve It?
As you measure your readability, you will learn how to write easier content from the start. To improve your existing content, try shortening your sentences. Take care with business jargon. Your company might use long names for products, for examples. Try to find acronyms or nicknames to avoid weighing down your content.
Read your content out loud. You might feel silly, but you will gain a feel for how it flows. You will quickly notice overly long sentences, for example.
Once you understand and embrace Flesch Reading Ease, you’ll be on your way to a better overall website. Writing isn’t everyone’s strong suit, so hire a professional if you need to. Quality, readable content is more important than ever.