Reading Level: Is It a Google Ranking Factor?
You must have noticed a readability score feature if you have optimized your website for search engines using Yoast SEO. Many website owners take the readability factor seriously. They don’t publish blogs and static content until the readability tool turns green. The question is, “how important is the ranking factor in your SEO”? Does it affect your search engine ranking?
The truth about readability scores is that it doesn’t really impact your search engine rankings. Converting your sentences into active voice or using synonyms of certain words does not guarantee a rank on top of the search engine. Whether your content is written at a grade 5 level or grade 11, your readability score has nothing to do with your SERP rank. The only thing that matters is the content quality and its relevance to your niche. You should write keeping your audience in mind. Basically, your audience must relate to your content and find answers to the question they are looking for.
So, Is Readability a Ranking Factor?
John Mueller, Google’s Webmaster Trend Analyst, said that the readability score was not a ranking factor on 23rd January 2018. From a ranking point of view, you don’t have to focus on the readability. So, how does it affect your website visibility and ranking? Let’s understand this with an example.
Suppose you are running a pharmaceutical company or a medical website that shares general information about healthcare. Your content must be valuable to your audience. They should be able to find the best treatment plans for their medical issues. Nearly every sentence of your blog contains medical words that are 15-20 characters long. If we see it from a technical point of view, there is nothing wrong with your content. You check its readability score, and the tool shows a red sign. If you were to turn the tool to green, you would have to remove these long, difficult medical words to read and understand.
Google focuses on whether your content matches people’s search queries instead of whether it has a good or bad reading score. If those medical words have a low search volume, your blog will not rank high in the search engine. Even if they find your website, they will have a hard time understanding your content. You should focus on making content informative and engaging for your readers. You should add keywords that your audience is searching for.
How to Improve Your Website Readability?
Your sentence structure, number of words in a sentence, character length, types of words, and length of the paragraph do not affect your search engine ranking. However, some readability tools make your content readable and search engine friendly. Take Yoast SEO, for example. It gives you tips for improving your content readability score so that your audience can understand your writing and relate to it. That may not affect the SEO directly, but writing for your audience can improve their experience, which ultimately affects your website’s performance in the search engine.
As long as your website content is in line with your audience’s requirements, the readability score won’t matter. However, if your audience includes people who don’t have English as their first language, you should take some time to improve the readability score. Here are a few tips that can help improve your content readability.
- Short and easy-to-understand Words
Not everyone has a great vocabulary. People use search engines to find answers to their queries. They want the content to be in a readable format. Nobody would like to stay on your page if they need to Google the meaning of the words you’ve used in your content. You will most likely end up losing your potential customers with a difficult and professional-level vocabulary. So, keep the language short and simple.
- Keep the Sentence Length Short
Think of it as “one idea per sentence.” The average length of a good sentence is 10-15 words. Of course, you can add more words, but try to keep the length short enough for your audience to understand the meaning. A readability tool highlights long and complex sentences. Some tools also show you alternatives to these sentences or the words you can add to break long sentences.
- Avoid Jargon
Write for your audience and not the Google bots. Your content should leave a good impression on your target audience. It should be informative enough to get people to take action on your website. Unnecessary jargon won’t help you achieve that. Don’t use too many technical terms unless your audience includes tech-savvy people. Likewise, you should keep the language informal and easy to understand.
While readability doesn’t directly affect your search engine ranking, it does play a prominent role in building audience engagement and increasing your website traffic. So, it makes sense for website owners to pay special attention to content readability.