Blog Readability Checklist for the Content Marketer

by Julee Klein, ETMG CMO

Blog Readability GlassesBlog writing is an important cornerstone of content marketing. So ensuring that your blog content is highly readable is mission critical. ETMG has been providing writing and editing services for almost 20 years now. Along the way, we’ve picked up some practical tips to develop blog content that is clear and engaging. Here’s what we’ve learned about blog readability:

Use Subheads for Best Blog Readability

When it comes to blog readability, we’re not sure there is such a thing as too many subheads. Either as numbered lists, or bullets, or just plain ole simple subheads, these act as guideposts for your reader. Subheads allow your reader to easily scan your content and determine key takeaways and points of interest. Once you’ve created your draft, check to see where you may be able to break up content and insert relevant subheads.

Keep in mind that subheadings are important for SEO purposes as well. Google uses these headings to determine the topic of the content on your website. Be sure to use your keyword phrase for SEO in at least a few of your subheads.

Include Transition Words

Transition words show your reader the connection between sentences and paragraphs. For best blog readability, Yoast recommends that at least 30% of your sentences in your post include transition words or phrases. Sometimes referred to as “signal words”, transition words give direction to your reader. These words show the reader that you are summarizing (and, too), comparing (less than, rather) or concluding something (thus, consequently, hence).

Hit the Target Length

What is too short or too long for a blog post? Well, it really depends on your content. Generally speaking, your blog post should be at least 300 words, ideally about 600 words, and rarely over 1,250 words. Blogs that fall between 600 and 1,250 words are pretty good for SEO and for generating engagement and discussion. But when it comes to blog readability, length isn’t everything. You still have to write a good post, one with a great headline and a compelling premise that solves your readers’ problem.

Check the Flesch Reading Ease Score

The Flesch Readability Test uses the sentence length (number of words per sentence) and the number of syllables per word to calculate the reading ease of content. The lower the score, the more difficult the text. Texts with a very high Flesch reading ease score (about 100) are very easy to read. They have short sentences and no words of more than two syllables. Generally, a Flesch reading ease score between 60-70 is considered the ideal target for web copy and blog readability.

Less is More When it Comes to Paragraph Length

For writing on websites and for best blog readability, we advise creating short paragraphs. Stick to less than 6 or 7 sentences per paragraph if possible. Plagued by a long paragraph? Look for a good, sensible place to insert a transition phrase and split it up.

But what makes a good paragraph? According to Yoast, a good, readable web copy paragraph can be defined by three things:

  1. A paragraph should form a thematic unit.
  2. A paragraph contains one core sentence and an elaboration of this core sentence.
  3. A paragraph should be made visible by using whitespace (above and below.)

Keep Sentence Length to Less Than 20 Words

Less really is more when it comes to sentences as well. Short sentences are easier to read and understand than long sentences. Any sentence longer than 20 words runs the risk of grammatical errors and complexity that can turn off your reader. Occasionally unavoidable, make sure you only have a few sentences in a blog post that run on longer than 20 words and not more than one lengthy sentence per paragraph. A good rule of thumb is no more than 25% of your content should contain sentences that are more than 20 words in length.

Ditch the Passive Voice

It’s really easy to slip into passive voice, but the truth is it detracts from your message and hurts your blog readability. In sentences with passive voice, it’s unclear who or what is really acting. This results in distant-sounding copy that creates ambiguity. Blogs using a lot of passive voice tend to be more difficult and less engaging to read. So it’s best to avoid using the passive voice altogether or at least keep your passive sentence structure to less than 10% of your content.

Blog Readability Should Not Cause a PanicExamples of passive voice:

All of the posts on the website are edited.

Customers are informed of our terms of service.

Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy was written by Douglas Adams.

(With these three examples we’ve just bumped our use of passive voice up to 8% of our content in this post.)

Alternatives to the above:

An editor reviews all of the website content.

The sales manager informs customers of our terms of service.

Douglas Adams wrote The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy.

Why Blog Readability Matters

Generating engaging blog content can be a challenge, but spending the extra effort to review that content for best readability is well worth the additional time. From your audience’s perspective, better readability results in better understanding of your message. And if your reader understands your message, they will be much more likely to share your post on social media or experience a positive influence on their buying decision.

Resources:

Yoast SEO Blog: Practical Tips to Set Up a Clear Text Structure

Readability Formulas, The Flesch Reading Ease Readability Formula

Nail That Paper, 4 Ways to Remove Passive Voice from Your Paper

Further Reading:

So You Want to Start a Marketing Blog?

Choosing a Technology Copywriter for Your Marketing Needs

Growing a Social Media Following: Organic vs Paid

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