Here’s What You Need To Know About Readability


If you are undertaking a content marketing strategy or launching a new website, you need to understand a concept called “readability” and the effect it has on SEO value and user experience. While readability was not always an important factor to consider for SEO, it’s becoming hugely significant and you will need to be mindful of it.

What Is Readability?

Search engines use a wide variety of factors to determine which results to display in response to a user’s search. You can probably guess what readability is. The term refers to how easy a piece of text is to read. Obviously, if a piece of content is too difficult for users to read, they aren’t going to read it, and this is a bigger problem than you realize. While readability is not a direct ranking factor, it does fall under the umbrella of user behavior, and how users interact with your website greatly affects organic rankings. If users visit your website and find the content too difficult to read and/or understand, they will leave. Google monitors this user behavior and recognizes when many people leave your website shortly after arriving, as this signals to Google the content isn’t helpful. As a result, Google (and other search engines) will show your website less often in search engine results. While it might seem dramatic, the reality is content that is too hard to read can tank your search engine rankings and your organic traffic. On the other hand, content with good readability can help your law firm website soar past competitors onto the first page of organic search results.

If you still aren’t on the readability bandwagon, consider this: readability is absolutely crucial for voice search. You’re probably thinking most users won’t use voice search to explore your website and/or to find a lawyer – and you’re not wrong. But, Google is measuring readability via user behavior because as more people use voice search technology, Google considers it an important development and will expect websites to be built to accommodate voice search.

Evaluating Readability

It would be a mistake to think readability is a simple concept. Think about what makes something easy to read. Obviously, you should avoid large words and long sentences, but readability goes far beyond these two factors. There are actually many algorithms for determining readability, the most popular being the Flesch Reading Test. The formula looks like this:

Flesch Reading Test

This is a pretty complicated formula and I’m not saying you need to calculate readability this way for each piece of content. Instead, what you need to take from this formula is that some large words and long sentences are okay, but you will need to balance them appropriately.

In addition to the Flesch Reading Test (and other types of readability tests), other strategies can help improve your law firm website’s content readability. For example, using transition words and phrases like “therefore,” “however,” “as a result,” “above all,” and “in addition,” among many others, can help create a smooth flow to sentences that makes them easier for readers to digest. Another important readability factor is the usage of past tense. Past tense word choice should be kept to a minimum, ideally under 10%.

Readability For Lawyers

You’ve likely noticed that I have been very careful not to tell you what readability score you should aim for with your content. Well that’s because it varies greatly. All law firm websites have to walk a very fine line between keeping content easy to read and not dumbing down the content so much that it leaves users doubting your abilities. For many law firms, content that is too easy to read can turn off potential clients looking for thought leaders and experts to help them with their legal issues. For example, this page of content doesn’t actually have a high readability score, but if it did, would you really trust us to do your marketing? Determining the best level of readability will depend on the type of content you’re writing and the potential users you are targeting with that content. As with most things in life, there’s no easy answer. However, if you want to dip your toe into the waters of readability, trying measuring the readability scores for your website’s main practice area pages and see how that impacts user engagement. You can then make better decisions about your website’s readability moving forward.

Readability Done Right

The digital marketing experts at Stacey E. Burke, P.C. can help law firms update or create content to increase SEO value and improve user engagement. Contact us today to schedule an appointment to see how we can help with your marketing efforts.


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