Our thanks to Katie Johnson for this guest contribution.
Blogging seems simple enough doesn’t it? Well, once you’ve figured out how to make a website and start blogging in the first place it is! You write about the topics you want to write about and your audience will read them. But what if your blog content is difficult to understand?
Poor readability can reduce the number of visitors that return to your site or even read your blog posts. There are lots of things you can do to improve the readability of your blog. So, let’s learn a little bit more about some simple tasks you can do to help measure and improve the readability of your blog.
If your posts are full of typos and errors, then your audience will become easily frustrated. Typos can happen to even the most meticulous grammar experts, and the good news is that even just a quick read through can prevent them.
Sometimes, it’s okay to ask for help. You could have a friend or family member who has a lot of English knowledge for their feedback. And if you are really ready to take your blog posts to the next level, consider hiring a professional proofreader or editor to read over a few of your posts and summarize some feedback for you.
This aspect of readability only takes a few moments. Read through your posts and break up longer paragraphs into shorter ones, two or three sentences in length. These chunks of information allow your reader to process the information you’re giving them in pieces, instead of feeling overwhelmed by one long paragraph.
It is helpful to read a few articles on AP style, which is very easy to learn. Formatting involves consistency in the use of headers, lists, and other subheadings. There are lots of resources that can show you how to implement formatting style that will work best for your blog.
This is a more technical way to examine your blog’s readability. Simple words and sentences will receive a higher score, while longer and more obscure words and sentences will receive a lower score.
With blog posts, an ideal score range is typically between 60.0 – 70.0. You can also use Yoast SEO, a WordPress plugin that calculated Flesch-Kincaid reading scores within your posts. This is one of the most surefire ways to determine your blog’s readability.
It may take a little practice, but as you write using this plugin, you’ll eventually learn to blog in a way that becomes more and more readable.
If you’re running a WordPress blog, plugins can make the readability process so much easier for you. There are numerous programs that can take the guesswork out of making your blog posts more readable.
One plugin we mentioned earlier is Yoast SEO. This multitasking plugin lets you know if your blog contains the right amount of SEO keywords while still maintaining readability based on your Flesh-Kincaid score. You can also use various tools on your WordPress dashboard to help you format headings, pictures, and other features of your posts.
Another useful plugin for bloggers is MonsterInsights. This is a Google Analytics plugin for WordPress which allows you to see how visitors are behaving on your website. If your bounce rate on certain pages/posts is high, you know there may be an issue with the readability of it.
These tags are simple HTML tags that are incorporated throughout your blog posts to ensure that headers, line breaks, and paragraphs are all formatted consistently. For example, <br> can be used at the end of a line of text as a line break.
This only takes a small amount of time to review before you hit “publish.” However, the simple things can make a dramatic difference in your blog’s readability.
Less is More
Keep your outlines and the number of concepts simple by only including one idea per paragraph. Don’t clutter your blog posts with complicated sentences and inconsistent formatting. Consistency and simplicity throughout your content is key.
Sometimes, it’s appropriate to use stream-of-consciousness writing in your posts, but that shouldn’t be the norm. Make your major points clear and your readers will be able to learn a lot more from your blog posts.
Some bloggers try to spruce up their blog by using fancy fonts and numerous fonts across their posts and pages.
This can be difficult to read because it causes your readers’ brains to readjust every time they come to a new font. Script fonts are particularly difficult to read and can be frustrating to many.
Limit your fonts by using Google fonts or by limiting your fonts to one or two fonts. If you’d like to use one font for headers and another for paragraph content, that is still great for readability. Just remember to keep it simple.
Filler words take away from the message you’re trying to send through your content; eliminate them. One appropriate word is better than using a string of less effective words to describe something.
Use vivid, specific adjectives and adverbs to describe topics. And use specific verbs when describing an action. A thesaurus is a great tool if you feel as if you’re becoming redundant.
Your readers want to be in the here and now and you need to be there with them. Try to eliminate passive voice in your posts as much as possible. Using present tense and action verbs are great ways to draw your readers into the story you’re telling. And that’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re telling a story with each blog post.
When you blog in active voice, your readers are also more likely to be excited and your content is much more likely to build momentum on social media. Blogging in active voice also stirs your readers to respond to a call to action because it helps them view your blog as a living, breathing organism, as opposed to a statue.
Last, but certainly not least, write with your audience in mind. While your readability score is important, it is not the end all be all of readability. A great example of this is an education blog written by a school principal for school teachers. There may be jargon or terminology that the average person on the web wouldn’t understand, but that is perfectly acceptable in this case because this blog is being written for its target audience.
If you are writing for your target audience and using the proper keywords, then you should still be reaching and retaining the audience you are seeking.
So, if your blog hasn’t been the most readable publication on the web recently, don’t despair. Instead, utilize the tips provided here. With a little practice, your blog posts will become more and more shareable and readable. As your content becomes more readable, you will improve your chances of attracting and retaining visitors.
Katie is a full-time writer and Mum. She spends her time going on long walks and eating sushi.