woman sitting on steps looking at smartphone

Want Readable Website Content? Follow Our 5 Tips

Most business owners are aware of SEO by now. It’s been a buzzword (or buzz term?) for several years. We’ve survived through the era of websites putting huge swatches of hidden text in footers to keyword stuff (dark days, indeed) and have finally entered an era where SEO is about more than getting in a certain percentage of keywords.

That’s right, website content has done a full circle and we’re back at the beginning: readability, and how helpful the content is to the reader, is the number one concern. Everything we know about SEO and keywords still applies—but if your content isn’t high quality, it’s not going to mean much.

The Hummingbird update in early 2017 officially put keyword stuffing to an end, thanks to the Google algorithm now being able to recognize keyword synonyms. As you’ve probably encountered at least once or twice, keyword stuffing by older websites, or websites following outdated SEO practices, leads to horrible content. There is nothing worse than searching for information and only being able to find websites that are little more than gibberish.

Now, you might wonder: what are the standards of readability?

Everyone has a different reading level. Do you remember in school when you had to take reading tests? Lots of kids tends to score in their age range, but there are always outliers, those who fall below or above the standard reading level. And text should still be applicable to those groups. Both strong and struggling readers should be able to read the text on your website to get the information they need.

There are many “readability” calculators out there that you can run website content through to get a vague guess at how it would be scored in the Google algorithm. But we have a few ideas that will help you write content that is not only highly readable, but helps your website’s SEO and gets you more customers.

1. Grammar Matters

It goes without saying that your grammar matters when it comes to writing high quality content for your website. If you struggle with the basics of grammar (and don’t worry, even some really great writers, like yours truly, struggle with grammar), there are services that can help. I use Grammarly to help keep an eye on my writing. Grammarly is great because it checks your grammar as you write and allows you to see exactly what you need to correct. (I’m particularly prone to typos and switching tenses. Oops!)

Good grammar makes your text highly readable, especially if you alternate longer sentences with shorter sentences. (You might notice that I did that in the paragraph above.) As well, by following the standard grammatical rule of 5-13 sentences per paragraph, you keep your text readable on a screen as well. Shorter paragraphs are just plain easier to read on a phone browser or computer.

2. Keep It Simple

While I was researching this article, I kept coming across the suggestion that you don’t use words with more than two syllables. Not only does that feel relatively impossible (words specific to your niche might just require more than 2!), it assumes the worst of your readers. (That is, that the standard reader doesn’t understand big words. And truly, 2 syllables isn’t even a big word!)

I don’t buy that. However, I do suggest that you keep your word choices simple. Many people are walking thesauruses and sometimes they can’t help showing off that skill. Impressive as it is, it often doesn’t help anyone understand a topic or read an article about something they need. So in the desire to keep your website readable, keep your language as simple as possible. Don’t dumb it down, but do keep is short and sweet.

3. Use Subheadings

Just like using shorter paragraphs, using subheadings can help break up your text. As we know, website pages with text between 1,000 and 1,500 words tends to rank higher than pages with less text or considerably more text. But on a computer screen or a mobile phone browser, 1,500 words can be a lot!

Subheadings help divide your text into chunks that are easier to read. It also makes it easier for readers to find what they’re looking for, as well as keeps them scrolling down the screen as they read. Subheadings can also improve SEO score, if you use keywords in them. Double bonus.

4. Have a Point

This goes without saying, but producing content on your website with no intention to help anyone is counterproductive. Often, we see blogs for businesses that are just attempting to improve SEO; they aren’t written with the intent to inform customers or potential customers.

It is difficult, especially for small businesses, to have so much to worry about. And worrying about website content that serves multiple purposes (SEO, helping customers, providing real, authentic advice or guidance) can feel like just another overwhelming bullet point on a list. However, it’s important that we remember the purpose of websites: if you aren’t creating great content that gives potential customers what they’re looking for, they aren’t going to fill in a lead form, pick up the phone and call you, or even follow you on social media.

Good content has a point. A purpose. A viewpoint. It’s written with the intention of educating, of filling a gap for those searching for specific pieces of information. It entertains. It makes people laugh. Good content takes effort; that’s why good content isn’t cheap!

5. Use Photos

“Photos,” you say. “What does that have to do with readability?”

Well, a lot. The fact is, by using graphics and photos throughout blog posts you can keep readers interested in your content, help illustrate what you’re talking about, and present more complex statistics or information in an interesting way. We’re particularly big fans of infographics in blog posts because they can then be used as social media content and email marketing content.

Related Posts

Want to learn more about SEO, creating content, and more? Here are some blog posts we think you’ll love:

Are You Ready to Start Your Project?