If one statement sums up marketing over the last few years, it’s “content is king”. However, marketers who parry this statement are completely missing the point. Readability is the true metric that will resonate with your audience.
The content marketing secret is well and truly out of the bag. It has been for quite some time.
Content has transformed from its initial beginning as a niche activity that a few cutting-edge marketers practised. Now it’s a mainstream marketing strategy that everyone is doing.
The result has not been pretty. Nor has it been effective.
Keyword stuffing and content sausage factories
Ah, keyword stuffing.
Remember when wedging your keyword into your text just one more time helped you game the search engines? Those were simple times.
Then the search engines got clever. By search engines, of course, we mean Google.
Suddenly you had to think about what you were doing and ranking became far more complex than repeating your keyword as many times as you could.
However, the content bandwagon had been launched.
Marketers realised that creating content was a way to reach their audience who had become blind to advertising. This was a good thing.
Now, creating content became the most important thing for a marketer to do, and the “content is king” chestnut entered business parlance. This was a bad thing.
King Content has turned out to be a demanding beast. Content strategists and creators across the globe cannot satisfy his insatiable appetite, judging by the huge volume of content created daily.
Most of which is poor.
Most of which is abysmal.
Because marketers are focused purely on creating new content, rather than on the readability of the content created.
Mo content mo problems
To state the obvious, this means that half of your traffic jumps off of your website the moment they land on it.
At the same time, the number one challenge that content marketers face is producing engaging content.
Engaging being the operative word. If your content is not engaging, your audience bounces.
And, way back in 2008, when keyword stuffing was what the cool kids were doing, Jakob Nielsen, the high priest of internet research, stated that most users read only 20% of a website page. In 2017, when 1,440 blog posts are published every minute, we can only assume how much of a web page is read now.
Making sure your content is readable is the only game in town if you want to create content that inspires your audience to take action.
Why is readability so important?
People still read, but reading is different to how it used to be:
- Skim reading is prevalent – people scan for information
- Our eyes move quickly across pages
- We read in F pattern formations
- Reading ages are much lower than you think they are
- Bouncing out of a page is only a click away…
Creating content with a high readability score means that you address all of these concerns.
- Know your target audience. Don’t create content exclusively for college graduates if your audience is educated to a different standard
- Get rid of the passive voice
- Use plain language. Nobody likes waffle even though lots of people like waffles
- Avoid jargon like the plague
- Acronyms are not your friend – use less of them
- Keep it simple
- Reduce your sentence length
- Add headings and subheadings to your content
Apart from keeping your audience happy and engaged, search engines will also love you for focusing on readability.
Google’s main mission is to “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”.
Creating content that has a high readability score automatically makes it accessible to all. This is a great ranking signal and your SEO footprint is strengthened by it.
That’s something that the “content is king” mantra never achieved.
How easy is it to make my content readable?
Making sure you incorporate the tips above in your content will immediately increase your readability score.
You can also make use of an online tool for help. One I find really great is VisibleThread’s Readability. It works really well as it can analyze not just text but also PDF and Word docs, and even URLs. It instantly shows you where you can improve your content to enhance readability.
You can pull a report on your content that you can share with your team. The tool also has a tracking function to help you keep track of the changes you make. Once you’ve created more readable content, and see your engagement levels rise, you’ll understand the value readability brings.
Soon, you’ll be part of the movement to dethrone content and place the crown firmly on readability’s head. It’s what cutting-edge marketers are doing now.
— VisibleThread (@VisibleThread) October 24, 2017