Monday, August 2, 2010

Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula and SEO: Why Grade Level Readability Matters

More than a decade ago I worked as a Staff Writer for the publishing division of a private school system, writing curriculum materials. I had to learn to write to specific grade levels, and target my content and style.  I later took a technical writing course and wrote an entire manual on how to use the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula to determine the grade level of a particular piece of writing.

So what the heck does the Flesch-Kincaid test have to do with SEO? Quite a bit.

I recently wrote a series of articles on the GED exam (high school equivalency, for those not familiar with the term). Get a GED Online and Free GED Test are two examples.  It dawned on me as I wrote the first article that my audience would likely have less than a 10th-grade reading level. So I aimed for 7th grade.

The articles do fairly well in getting page views. So I recently analyzed my top earning articles on all the different sites where I write - I chose the top 5. Guess what? The closer to 5/6/7th grade for readability, the better the article's performance for page views and for revenue (when I know the exact revenue for an article).

The New York Times and USA Today aim for 10th-grade reading level. Most newspapers aim for 9th grade. I've read that romance novels are aimed at a FIFTH grade reading level (though the content is not aimed at 10-11 year olds!). If you're writing SEO/CRO articles, keep your audience in mind.

And to test reading level, check out this free Flesch-Kincaid Readability Formula site, or just use the MS Word feature.

By the way: this post was written at an 11th-grade level.

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