Readability matters. A great content experience often includes readable, scannable content. But what do we mean by readability? And how can we measure it? Luckily, I have the privilege of working with super smart colleagues who know exactly how to answer these questions (full disclosure: this post wouldn’t be possible without the patience and insight provided by Sinan Ozel, our in-house guru on all things data related. All errors in this post are solely mine).
Reading Ease and What Great Teachers and Marketers Have in Common
Readability, as a technical term, points to something called the Flesch Reading Ease Score. The score goes from 0 to 100, with the highest score of 100 being the easiest to read. Here’s a breakdown of the scoring system by schooling level.
On this spectrum, at the lowest end, anything that scores below 30 is seen as very difficult to read and corresponds with the reading level of college graduates. At the highest end of the spectrum, a score within the 90 to 100 range means that your content is very easy to read, being readable by a fifth grader.
Think back to your grade school days. More often than not, the best teachers were the ones who made complex concepts easily digestible from your point of view as a student. As marketers, the point of factoring in readability into the content creation process isn’t so much about dumbing things down, but making it accessible.
The Data is In: Marketing Blogs that are More Readable Get More Views
Now, text-based content that’s accessible for reading sounds great on paper. However, at this point, it’s still an open question whether that accessibility translates into results. So we looked into it. We wanted to know whether some ROI could be derived from this extra effort to write in a simple, concise style for a wide audience.
We analyzed a very large set of content from our customer data. And we looked for possible correlations between readability and the number of pageviews a piece of content received. Here’s what we found. First, we looked at the distribution of readability scores among all of our customers’ marketing blog posts.
Here in the vertical bar graph above, we see that most of the marketing blog posts in our database have a readability score at around Grades 7 and upwards according to Flesch-Kincaid Grade Levels. You can tell because five out of the eight vertical bars presented tend towards the right side of the horizontal axis (i.e., bars 7-8, 9-10, 11-12, 13-14, 15-16).
At first glance, this seems good. The audience, prospects, and customers that marketers cater to tend to hold an education above the seventh grade. Great! It’s like we’re winning in the readability department without even trying!
But let’s take a closer look and compare ease of reading scores for a piece of content and the number of views it receives. Here’s what we found. The graph below suggests that there’s a “sweet spot” in reading ease that leads to a maximum number of pageviews.
The tallest vertical bar shows that content with a reading ease score between 75 and 85, or, between Grades 6 and 7, receives the highest number of views on average. Conversely, content that’s more difficult to read (at Grade 8 to college graduate level), sees substantially fewer pageviews on average.
Summing-up Why Readability Matters
From this analysis, we can recap a few key takeaways:
Readability ought to be factored into the content creation process from the start.
The sweet spot for readability is between 75 and 85, or between the 6th and 7th grade reading levels in which, on average, you’ll receive a higher number of pageviews compared to more difficult reading levels.
Readability of content comes down to accessibility. Your best ideas deserve to be understood by the widest audience possible.
And there you have it. Write for readability. It just makes sense. (Note: Using the WriteClearly Chrome extension, this blog scores at Grade 7 reading level, hitting that sweet spot for being readable. Not bad!)