Are you having trouble getting Yoast SEO readability score content analysis to turn all green?
I used to have difficulty too. But after a while, I figured out how to improve readability score.
Sure, there is a learning curve and you will change the way you write. But the rewards are worth the effort you put into making your blog easier to read.
So, how much of a benefit does a high readability score have on you?
If you agree that readers are the most important people to our blogs, then the benefit is immense. After all, they are the reason why we want to make our posts easy to read.
For me, if there is anything that I could do to make the reader experience better, then I am all for it. But let me give you another benefit.
Some bloggers think that readability score has a bearing on Google SEO. Unfortunately, there is no confirmation of that.
One thing we do know is that readability affects the behavior of readers on a blog.
By nature, people prefer easy to read posts. Because we make it easy for them, then it follows that they would stay longer. As a result, the bounce rate decreases, which helps improve our relevance and ranking.
Besides ease of reading, there are other factors that affect the readers’ experience.
One of our businesses back, when my father was alive, was import and distribution of ceramic tiles.
The first time we chose designs, we tried hard to pick the best-looking ones and ordered them from abroad.
To cut a long story short, several designs which I thought looked beautiful did not sell well. So, I asked our dealers why some of the most beautiful designs I have ever seen did not do well in the market.
“The thing about ceramic tiles is that one piece may look beautiful,” a dealer explained. “But when you lay down several pieces on the floor to form a wider area, not all designs will look good.”
Our blogs are like that too.
We use a variety of design elements and plugins. As individual components, they may be appealing. But when put together, the sum may be less than the total of the parts.
Take for instance the choices of fonts. Not only are there hundreds of fonts to choose from, we also need to find the right sizes and colors.
In the end, the most important thing is that it looks appealing and easy on the eyes.
1. Choosing the Right Fonts
Do you remember some of the first things you did back when you started your blog?
Besides picking a theme, did you also take the time to find fonts that you liked?
But like how I chose ceramic tile designs, I did not consider how fonts blend with other elements. As a result, the blog typography was not ideal for content readers.
In the early days of blogging, there was a limited number of fonts available for use on blogs. As a matter of fact, bloggers do not have control over the fonts as this was dependent on the user’s computer. In other words, browsers use only the fonts that are available on the computer.
Google changed that when they introduced Google Web Fonts (now called Google Fonts). With that, web typography changed.
If you have not checked out Google Fonts, please do yourself a favor and do so.
There are over 800 fonts for you to choose from, but that is not all it is for.
As you browse through the huge selection, clicking on a font brings you to the next screen. Here, not only will you read about the history of the font, but also see how others use it.
Even more important, you will see recommended font pairings.
We now have the power to control the fonts used to display our content to readers using any device and browser.
2. Font Pairings
Do you know how much the most expensive font in the world is?
FIVE THOUSAND U.S. DOLLARS.
So, that got me to thinking.
How could one font be that expensive?
Curious, I started learning more about how designers create fonts. What I learned was that great designs are not only about creativity, there is also a lot of science.
But my brain did not have the capacity to store much more design information. So, I did the next best thing.
I looked for resources on great blog typography.
One recommendation I often read about is that we should only pick two fonts for our blogs.
For most people, this is a solid recommendation that has merits. But it does not apply to all types of blogs. In my case, I use more than two fonts.
The most important part of blogs are the posts, which consist of the title and the body.
If we use the right font combination, then our posts will have great visual appeal to the readers.
Instead of picking random fonts one by one, I decided to look for inspiration.
Here are three resources where you could find font pairing inspiration for your blog.
1. Font Pair
For further reading on font pairing, I found an excellent post written by Nayomi Chibana. Her post, A Non-Designer’s Guide to Pairing Fonts, offers 11 tips on pairing fonts.
Another interesting article I came across suggests that typography can hook visitors. Check out Content Typography: Why Your First Impression Matters, written by Heidi Cohen.
The fonts I am using for posts are Playfair Display and Raleway. I got the idea from using Google Fonts.
3. Font Colors
It is clear to me that most blogs have a white background, including mine. Of course, you may have a different background color.
Have you ever thought of how font colors affect your readers?
For instance, I see a lot of blogs using solid black on white background. The high-contrast color pair creates a sense of vibration. As a result, it puts more stress in the eyes of readers.
Guess what happens?
Visitors may not finish reading a post and leave the site. So, instead of earning a loyal reader, the bounce rate increases.
But what happens when the contrast is low?
The same thing happens. Low contrast also makes the content harder to read, and our visitors leave.
How do I know if the contrast is just right?
I do the eye test.
There are also free online tools that help you check if your contrast is within the standard guideline.
Another tool that you could use Contrast Checker, provided for free by Acart Communications. Like Color Safe, this tool also conforms to the WCAG guidelines.
Here is the result of using #555555 as foreground color of this post over white background.
Other than the font, the theme we use on our blog also comes with different colors. CheckMyColours is different from the others in the sense that it checks your whole site.
While on the subject of colors, would you like to know how to find the right color combinations for your blog?
Each color matches well with certain colors. Drop by the Material Design Palette to get the right colors for your theme.
4. Font Size and Line Height
Before getting started in blogging, we used word processors and grew accustomed to 12px. Although that is good for books and other printed materials, it does not work well for blogs.
The reason for that is because we tend to have a book closer to our eyes than with a computer or device. Hence, the ideal size for books looks much smaller on the screen.
For a long time, I had been using 16px for body content. As it turned out, this is the ideal size.
“Every paragraph you have ever seen has 3 primary dimensions,” Chris Pearson said. “The first two, font size and line height, are vertical in nature. The third dimension, line width, is horizontal.”
If we want readers to perceive our content in a certain way, then we have to account for the three dimensions.
Chris explained this relationship in his post. Read the Secret Symphony: The Ultimate Guide to Readable Web Typography. He also provides a free Golden Ratio Typography Calculator tool on his blog.
At 18px, the ideal line height is 29px. The recommended content width is 829 with around 105 characters per line.
As you can see, the vertical spacing between each sentence on this post is easy on the eyes.
In fairness to many bloggers, I did notice that they have chosen well, as far as the font they used in the body goes.
Unfortunately, many bloggers do not realize how important font size and spacing is. As a result, some posts are hard to read.
5. Heading Font Sizes
There is no excuse for not using headings. And that is because you want to have a clear structure on your posts.
Google will only index pages that contain at least 300 words. Even with a minimal number of words, using a heading is still recommended.
On the number of words, please aim to publish posts with at least 600 words. In fact, you should aim to write at least 1,000 words. There is a good reason for that, but that is a topic for another post.
Although most bloggers use heading 1 and sometimes heading 2, I use up to heading 3.
One of the tips I read about in the past was that the heading size should be twice that of the body and in bold font.
So, that means if I am using 16px for the body, then heading 1 should be 32px. This is something you could play with to see what works best for you.
In my case, since I am using 3 headings and I wanted them to have different sizes, this is what I did.
1. H1, 40px, bold, line height 48px
2. H2, 32px, bold, line height 40px
3. H3, 24px, bold, line height 32px
For the headings, I did not use the golden ratio to determine the line height. Instead, I opted to have a little distance between lines.
Flesch-Kincaid Readability Score
So, how do we create easy to read posts?
First, we have to understand what the Flesch-Kincaid readability tests are.
There are two tests to determine the level of difficulty in understanding when reading. Even if both tests use the same core measures, they have different ranking factors.
Flesch Reading Ease. Uses a scoring system where a higher score means it is easier to read. Bloggers should aim for a score of 60 and above.
Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. Determines the readability by presents the score as a U.S. grade level.
WordPress users with Yoast SEO plugin installed should see the readability score of posts. Unfortunately, Yoast has yet to include the Flesch-Kincaid grade level in its plugin.
As an option, there is a free online tool that can measure your readability score. Go to Readable.io and try checking some of your posts.
Here is the result of this post.
It does not matter which platform you are using. Before finalizing your post, use the above tool first and work on improving before posting.
If you do use the tool, one thing to note is that pasting the text of your content is more accurate than posting the URL.
Creating Easy to Read Posts
So, you have decided that your visitors and readers are important. And one of the things you could do for them is to make it easier for them to read your posts.
To make that happen, use the tips and recommendations in the following sections.
I do that too and the result is that I almost always have a great readability score. Also, that is how I get all greens in the WordPress Yoast SEO readability score content analysis.
If you are using another platform for blogging, that is okay.
The tips and guidelines here are not specific to WordPress. In fact, Google does not favor one platform over another.
It does not matter how long your posts are. It could be 1,000 words, 3,000 words, or more, so as long as you do not post anything less than 300 words.
As you can imagine, the longer the posts are, the harder it is to read if you do not use headings.
A typical post would have three sections – the introduction, the body, and the conclusion. Even for a short post, you should put one or two headings.
Under each heading, keep the number of words below 300.
One of the best things about using proper headings is this.
Not all visitors will read your post completely as some will scroll down and read only parts of your post. The headers you use should give them an idea of what your content is about so they could decide if it is worth reading.
In other words, the use of header increases the likelihood that visitors will read your posts. And when they do, they will also have an easier time reading.
2. Paragraphs and Sentences
The shorter the paragraph, the easier it is to read.
Have you ever seen paragraphs with 10 or more sentences?
I have and I almost always end up ignoring those posts.
As a general rule, try to have, at most, 4 sentences in one paragraph.
If in case you have sentences that exceed 20 words, you could break it down into shorter sentences.
The idea of shorter paragraphs and sentences is that it does not overload the readers.
To have an idea of how to write shorter sentences, take a look at this post. Read 5 Verbose Sentences Made Shorter, written by Mark Nichol.
Another thing you need to remember with sentences is this. Avoid having three consecutive sentences that start with the same word.
3. Words and Syllables
While it is good to expand our vocabulary, the more we use complex words, the harder it is for the readers.
Sure, there are times when it is unavoidable. I have a lot of posts here that use scientific words, and there is nothing I could do about that. But for most other posts, I could write using simpler words.
In calculating the readability score, the number of syllables in words are also considered. Words that have more syllables are more difficult to read than words with only one, for instance.
An example is the word responsibility, which has 6 syllables. A shorter alternative could be duty or job.
4. Active and Passive Voice
Readers understand your post better if you use active voice. For that reason, we try to avoid using passive voice.
As a general rule, keep the number of passive voice under 10% of the content.
To have an idea of the difference between active and passive voice, I had to search for resources on Google.
If I could, then you also could.
Here are two of the countless resources available online.
5. Transition Words
Transition words connect words, phrases, and sentences. It also helps readers progress from one idea to the next.
As a general rule, use transition words in at least 30% of the content.
It took me some time to understand the difference between passive and active voice. And then it took me several more days to understand transition words.
But even if I had to spend the time to learn, it was worth it.
A list of transition words is all over the web. I do not have to provide you with useful resources.
Final Thoughts on Improving Readability Score
Are you curious about the readability score analysis of this post?
Here you go.
In the early part of this post, it was all about choosing the best typography for your blog. In the second part, we focused on the things you need to do to increase your readability score.
Of course, there are several ways of writing. For instance, AP news style is different from creative writing.
When it comes to blogging, there are no rules or specific writing style that you should stick to. And that is the great thing about blogging. We have freedom in writing about anything in any manner we like.
So, why is there a fuss over readability score?
It is for the benefit of the readers. Moreover, it is also the direction Google is heading.
Bloggers and social media influencers talk about SEO all the time. But in the end, Google has only one recommendation for good SEO practices. And that is to create high-quality content and deliver it with the best user experience.
Google rewards post with original and well-written content that readers find useful. In turn, your readers deserve to read your posts in the easiest manner possible.
So, there you have it.
Everything I did to create easy to read posts.
Do you mind if I ask you for a small favor?
If you find this post useful, please share it with your friends.
Oh, if you have a question, please leave it in the comments. I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Note: Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin is such an amazing tool that I now use the premium version. Here’s my review of how the additional features work.