Tools

Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

There was an interesting idea in the post I stumbled across last week that the readability level may affect your rankings because…

from a logical standpoint, having reading level as a ranking factor among the search engines just makes sense. It’s a good way to match the right content with the right audience.

I never did any testing to confirm that, nor was readability check ever part of my SEO process but it does make sense. So in case you ever need to find out how readable your content is, let me offer you a one-stop overview of readability level checkers and comparison tools.

Readability Level Tests

Readability test name Parameters to take into account The score corresponds to…
Flesch–Kincaid readability testtotal words versus total sentences; total syllables versus total wordsU.S. grade level
Coleman-Liau IndexCharacters versus words; Sentences versus wordsU.S. grade level
Automated Readability Indexcharacters per word; words per sentenceU.S. grade level
Gunning fog indexwords per sentence; complex word per total number of words (complex = words with three or more syllables with some exceptions like proper names or words with common suffixes -es, ed, etc)U.S. grade level
SMOGNumber of polysyllables (three or more syllables excluding proper names) versus number of sentencesyears of education needed to completely understand a piece of writing

A handy tip: if you are not in the USA (like myself) and it takes some serious effort to translate the US grade system, U.S. grade level 1 corresponds to age 6, and in general adding 5 to the grade level gives an estimate of the typical reader’s age.

The page I was playing with to try readability level checkers: NYTimes article. So let’s take a look at readability tools:

Free Readability Level Checking Tools

Readability tool TypeReadability test(s) the tool is based on Parameters taken into account Issues
FogonlineGunning fog indexNumber of words, number of sentencesIncludes proper names
SMOGonlineSMOG testNumber of polysyllables, number of sentences-
FleshdesktopFlesch–Kincaid readability testtotal words versus total sentences; total syllables versus total words-
Readability scoreonlineFlesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning-Fog Score, Coleman-Liau Index, SMOG Index, Automated Readability Index--
Edit CentralonlineFlesch reading ease score, Automated readability index, Flesch-Kincaid grade level, Coleman-Liau index, Gunning fog index, SMOG index--
Read-ableonlineFlesch reading ease score, Automated readability index, Flesch-Kincaid grade level, Coleman-Liau index, Gunning fog index, SMOG index-Includes proper names
Online readability testonlineColeman Liau index,
Flesh Kincaid Grade level, ARI (Automated Readability Index),

SMOG

--
uicy Studio Readability Testonline--

[I described some of the tools in more detail below]

Fog

Fog tool (as the name suggests) uses Gunning fog index to calculate the text reading level. The best things about the tool are:

  • It highlights the “complex” words (those that have more than 3 syllables in blue);
  • Marks separate sentences.

This looks really useful for visualizing “difficult” spots in your text to make it clear if you need any edits:

fog test Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

Readability score

Readability score is a nice way to compare all the listed readability tests (Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning-Fog Score, Coleman-Liau Index, SMOG Index, Automated Readability Index):

readability tool Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

Edit Central

Edit Central is another handy tool that compares a number of readability tests, shows useful stats and also underlines complex words:

edit central Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

Juicy Studio Readability Test

Juicy Studio Readability Test displays some really useful page copy stats including average length of a sentence, complex words, etc:

juicystudios readability Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

Further reading and sources:

 Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability
Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as a base for her writing, tutorials and her guest blogging project, MyBlogGuest.com.
 Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

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10 thoughts on “Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

  1. I’ve been reading your articles for quite a while now and this is your best post yet – it’s something I’ve never considered before opens up an exciting new area to ensure the usability of sites (regardless of whether it helps with SEO or not)

  2. That is quite amazing research done by you, as usual you rocks with very useful information. This is very helpful for content writers or technical writers SEO’s & website analyzers

  3. great post for me refer my clients to. Especially the ones who deal in technical language and acronyms that are beyond comprehension (actually, I’m guilty of that myself!) will see quite clearly how difficult it can be to communicate clearly with new prospects who may not be as insider-savvy on the language.

    Thanks!

  4. Nice post. Thanks for including my tool in your post. I’d be interested in how you think http://www.read-able.com/ could be improved.

    It measures 6 of the most popular readability indices as well as:
    * No. of sentences / words / complex words
    * Percent of complex words
    * Average words per sentence / syllables per word

    I’m always interested in ways that it can be improved, different indices that can be added.

  5. We were just researching this and ran across your blog post. Thanks for the overview of these tools. there is the Scribe tool for Thesis theme on WordPress that analyzes readability in context with SEO, but it is a bit on the expensive side. The readability index is built into Google Docs as well and that is free.

  6. Great info – thanks.

    One thing I would like to see (to help me with a course I am writing) is a direct comparison between Gunning Fog and Flesch-Kincaid grades, i.e., I can see from your test above that Gunning Fog = 9.5, while Flesch Kincaid = 7.7 but is there a 'Conversion Table' somewhere like Centigrade / Farenheit, or does it not work like that?

  7. Great info – thanks.

    One thing I would like to see (to help me with a course I am writing) is a direct comparison between Gunning Fog and Flesch-Kincaid grades, i.e., I can see from your test above that Gunning Fog = 9.5, while Flesch Kincaid = 7.7 but is there a 'Conversion Table' somewhere like Centigrade / Farenheit, or does it not work like that?