5 Ways to Test and Improve the Readability of Your Content

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By Adrian Cruce

If you want to hold a reader’s attention for the duration of a long-form article or give your SEO a sustainable SEO boost, one of the most effective things you can do is to work on improving the readability of your content. The more readable your content is, the more easily it will elicit shares and backlinks, improving visibility and boosting SEO.

Below are five techniques for ensuring that all your content is as readable as possible.

Try Shortening Your Sentences

The easiest way for most people to improve the readability of the work is to learn to embrace shorter sentences. Using long sentences is something that many writers do instinctively at first. You need to make a conscious effort to start using shorter sentences. However, once you get into the habit of using shorter sentences, and you begin to appreciate how this adds to the readability of your content, it will become second nature.

When you are editing your work, try to use full stops in places of some of your commas. You might be surprised by how often you can improve the readability of your work by changing a complex sentence into a number of shorter sentences. If you are writing a piece of creative fiction, long sentences can be used to great effect. However, when you are writing content for your website or blog, you should be prioritizing readability above all else.

Using shorter sentences to create content that is easier to read will also let you earn some extra SEO points from Google. As Google’s algorithms become more sophisticated and better at picking out well-written content, the direct and indirect SEO benefits of more readable work are becoming even more significant.

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“Never Use A Long Word Where A Short One Will Do”

This is one of George Orwell’s six rules of writing, and it is one of the few rules of writing that is universally applicable. Using needlessly complex words will never make your work better. If you are using an obscure or complicated word then it should be for a good reason, not just because it is a “more impressive” word.

Using needlessly complex language to explain relatively simple ideas might make them seem clever, but it will also make them in penetrable. In fact, anyone who understands the words you have used well enough to decipher their meaning will simply wonder why you didn’t just use normal words, as a writer should. On the other hand, if you are able to take relatively complicated ideas and then convey them using simple and easy to understand language, you will be able to reach a wide audience without having to compromise on the quality or range of content that you provide.

Next time you are reading your own work back to yourself, ask yourself whether you are using the most appropriate language for the job. There’s nothing wrong with using more complicated words. However, you just have to make sure that you are doing so with a purpose. Like shortening your sentences, this will enhance the general readability of your work and have a positive knock-on effect on your SEO.

Are You Writing For Yourself Or For Your Audience?

Targeted content is the most effective content, and there is a good reason for this. When you know what audience you are writing for, you can tailor every aspect of the content to suit them. It doesn’t matter whether the content in question is a marketing campaign or a blog post, content that has been produced with a specific target audience in mind will have a much easier time resonating with them.

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As a writer, especially one that is producing online content, it is important to understand that your creative instincts and the demands of the project you are working on might not always align. As you are writing and reviewing your work, try as hard as you can to put yourselves in the shoes of your audience.

Ask yourself why the content you are writing will appeal to your target audience. You should be able to define the value that you are providing to them. If you struggle with this exercise, it might be worth considering whether there is another topic you could cover that would have more of a purpose with regards to your specific audience.

Make Punctuation Useful

Punctuation should be used to guide the reader through your text. With punctuation, you can create rhythm and ensure that the reader understands what they are reading without having to go back over ambiguous sentences.

However, punctuation should also improve the readability of your text and make it easier for the reader to grasp. Any punctuation that is not accomplishing this purpose should generally be taken out. One of the most common mistakes that new writers make is in overloading their work with punctuation. There is a particular confusion around the semicolon, which should be used sparingly.

If you have forgotten everything that you learned about punctuation back in school, it might not be a bad idea to brush up on your knowledge. Learning when to use punctuation and when to hold it back is an important lesson. This is a vital step in improving the readability of your work.

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Experiment With Different Structures

Breaking up your work into smaller and more digestible chunks is a key part of improving readability. Long unbroken walls of text aren’t popular with anyone and will impact the overall readability of anything that you write. But working out how much to break up your text is not always easy.

Different types of content will favor different forms of writing. Some audiences prefer to have content in the form of relatively long blocks of text. Others are looking for infographic-style articles that contain a lot of information divided up into numerous small pieces.

Try experimenting with different structures for your articles and look for the one that your audience responds best to.

Google’s algorithms are getting better at understanding what kind of content human users are responding well to. Part of this process involves making an assessment as to how readable content is. Improving the readability of your content will give your SEO an organic boost and will help you to climb through the SERP rankings.