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 test||total words versus total sentences; total syllables versus total words||U.S. grade level|
|Coleman-Liau Index||Characters versus words; Sentences versus words||U.S. grade level|
|Automated Readability Index||characters per word; words per sentence||U.S. grade level|
|Gunning fog index||words 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|
|SMOG||Number of polysyllables (three or more syllables excluding proper names) versus number of sentences||years 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||Type||Readability test(s) the tool is based on||Parameters taken into account||Issues|
|Fog||online||Gunning fog index||Number of words, number of sentences||Includes proper names|
|SMOG||online||SMOG test||Number of polysyllables, number of sentences||–|
|Flesh||desktop||Flesch–Kincaid readability test||total words versus total sentences; total syllables versus total words||–|
|Readability score||online||Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning-Fog Score, Coleman-Liau Index, SMOG Index, Automated Readability Index||–||–|
|Edit Central||online||Flesch reading ease score, Automated readability index, Flesch-Kincaid grade level, Coleman-Liau index, Gunning fog index, SMOG index||–||–|
|Read-able||online||Flesch reading ease score, Automated readability index, Flesch-Kincaid grade level, Coleman-Liau index, Gunning fog index, SMOG index||–||Includes proper names|
|Online readability test||online||Coleman Liau index,|
Flesh Kincaid Grade level, ARI (Automated Readability Index),
|uicy Studio Readability Test||online||–||–|
[I described some of the tools in more detail below]
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:
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):
Edit Central is another handy tool that compares a number of readability tests, shows useful stats and also underlines complex words:
Juicy Studio Readability Test displays some really useful page copy stats including average length of a sentence, complex words, etc:
Further reading and sources:
- Everything you should know about readability
- Wikipedia: readability tests
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