It's Not Just WHAT You Say… Why The Reading Level Of Your Website Matters!

  Written by on March 19, 2012

Flesch–Kincaid Reading Levels & SEO Determine your Flesch-Kinkaid level

So you keep on hearing it and hearing it (from our awesome SEO team, anyway!) “Content matters for SEO! More content! Higher quality content! Unique content! Optimized content!”  Well, be prepared to add one more to the list: “Grade level appropriate content!”  For SEO? Flesch-Kincaid? What? Yes, the reading level of your website matters!

Each search engine has it’s own algorithmic system. Google’s is highly sophisticated and proprietary – we can draw conclusions as to what some of the most important components are by trial and error and hands-on experience, but the sum of the whole may largely be surmised.  We do know, for instance, that content is critical. How much, how well written, how optimized, how often it is updated, etc.

But there are signs that among the hundreds of items in the Google algorithm, the grade level of your website content may influence your SEO bottom line to a noticeable degree.  And that particular piece of the algorithm that is based on the  Flesch-Kincaid reading level may be weighted more heavily of late. Here is the actual formula:

  • Calculate the average number of words used per sentence
  • Calculate the average number of syllables per word
  • Multiply the average number of words by 0.39 and add it to the average number of syllables per word multiplied by 11.8
  • Subtract 15.59 from the result

The mathematical formula:

FKRA = (0.39 x ASL) + (11.8 x ASW) – 15.59

To keep it in perspective, both Time and Newsweek are at about a 10th grade level.

How does this work for your site? Let’s say you are an engineering firm in a competitive industry. Your website has an aged domain name, a  good number of content-rich pages,  high quality backlinks that support your relevancy, and a  navigation that is comprehensive, organized, and keyword rich.   All good stuff.  Yet if your Flesch-Kincaid reading level is 3.2, the message is that you’re appropriate to a 3rd grade level reader.  Appropriate or not? You must be the judge!

It makes sense that readability and comprehension apply to search results in that Google (and other search engines – let’s not forget there are others out there!) seeks to return the best, most relevant and appropriate answers to queries.  Therefore, if your engineering firm is on equal footing with your competitors in all other areas, yet is returning data that indicates a 3rd grade reading level on your website, who do you think Google will give preference to?

Whether your industry is hospitality, e-commerce, informational or retail related, it’s more important now than ever to have a thorough evaluation of your content.  When it comes to search engine optimization, your Flesch-Kincaid reading level may actually be a tipping point.

Contact Pam Sissons, Director of Search Engine Marketing at (518) 743-9424 to arrange a free analysis of your website,  or contact us online for more information.

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Posted Under: General Business, SEO & Internet Marketing, Tools & Tips
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