There’s a lot that factors into how well a given piece of content adheres to best SEO practices these days, but user experience is right there at the top of the list. The days when you could trick Google and the rest of the search engines into ranking a page via keyword stuffing and similar tactics are long over.
Today, the only way to rank is by ensuring web pages are useful, helpful, relevant, and user-friendly. Making sure the actual content is accessible, well-formatted, and readable is a big part of that, and that’s where assessment systems like the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test come in.
What Is the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test?
Naturally, you know some texts make for much easier reading than others. However, if you’re like most, you’d have trouble defining precisely why or how. But in 1975, Rudolf Flesh and Peter Kincaid invented an evaluation scale to help people do exactly that.
The Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test isn’t actually one test. Instead, it’s a mash-up of two separate tests, each designed to assess a text’s readability from a different angle.
- The Flesch Reading Ease Test basically assesses what grade level a reader’s education level would have to be to easily read and understand the text. Factors that help determine a score include sentence length and the number of syllables contained in each word.
- The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test is mostly applicable within academic contexts and addresses what grade-related reading level is most appropriate for a given text.
These two different tests correlate in such a way that a lower score on one means a higher score on the other and vice versa. For example, a high reading ease score naturally correlates to a lower grade level score.
Why Is Readability So Important?
While it might seem as if the average adult would read at a level that meets (if not exceeds) the highest grade school level, this notion doesn’t actually measure up to reality. According to the Center for Plain Language, the average adult in the United States only reads at a seventh to ninth-grade level.
If you’re serious about keeping your website text accessible to the vast majority of your visitors, it’s essential to make sure your content isn’t too difficult for less educated readers to understand. However, it’s also important to avoid content that’s too elementary, as educated visitors could perceive it as low in value.
Readable text is the text that hits that sweet spot right in the middle, the better to meet the expectations of as many members of your target audience as possible.
How Does Flesch-Kincaid Play into SEO?
Actual human beings value content that’s high-value and polished but that doesn’t talk over their heads, so Google does, too. Readable content is a lot more accessible to voice search technology, as well.
Where does the Flesch-Kincaid Test come into it all? Google uses it to help evaluate content for readability, so it’s a good idea for content creators, website admins, and digital marketers to do the same. However, it’s also important not to over-rely on it (or any other test).
Not every piece of content is meant for every possible reader, so it’s important to consider your target audience when deciding what reading level to shoot for with your content.
Does your content need to be accessible to a wider audience who likely read at that average seventh to ninth-grade level? Definitely keep your language of choice and formatting on the simple side. But if you’re writing for a highly-educated niche audience consisting of top-tier professionals, scientists, or others, you’ll need to upgrade your language considerably.
How to Boost Readability
In addition to understanding scales like the Flesch-Kincaid test, it’s also important to understand best practices for making your content more readable. Some tips to keep in mind include the following:
- Use features like headings and subheadings, bullet lists, and images to organize your content and make it easy for readers to scan it for what they’re looking for.
- Use well-researched keywords naturally in ways that don’t ruin the flow of the content for the reader.
- Write clear, concise sentences that aren’t too long or complicated. But vary the length, word choice, and sentence structure, as well. It keeps things interesting.
Readable, accessible content is content both readers and search engines love. Craft yours with that in mind, and it won’t be long before your pages are topping the SERPs.