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Resource for Checking Your SEO Content Readability

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Ann Smarty
Ann Smarty VIP CONTRIBUTOR
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 indexIncludes 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

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

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

Juicy Studio Readability Test

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

Readability test

Further reading and sources:

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Ann Smarty

Ann Smarty

Brand amd Community Manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas

Ann Smarty is the blogger and community manager at Internet Marketing Ninjas. Ann's expertise in blogging and tools serve as ... [Read full bio]

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