Nothing kills your content marketing campaign quite like unreadable content.
By unreadable content, we don’t just mean text that is not legible. In fact, it’s much more than that.
If you build content pieces that don’t offer any value to your target audience, chances your content sucks or it’s not optimized for their readability.
Either way, you need to figure out ways to fix and improve your content to succeed in your marketing efforts.
In this post, we’ll share some tips on how to determine the readability benchmark for your niche audience, and hit the perfect score for your marketing content.
Before we get started, here’s a brief introduction to two of the most popular readability tools out there.
What is the Flesch Reading Ease Test?
Developed by Rudolf Flesch, the Flesch Reading Ease Test is essentially a formula which when followed gives a readability score.
If the score is high, the content is readable; if it’s low then it’s hard to read.
According to an estimate by Wikipedia, a score between 90-100 means the content is very easy to read and can be easily understood by an average 11-year old student.
Likewise, a score between 0-30 suggests the content is very difficult to read and it’s best understood by university graduates.
To put this in perspective, the score of Harvard Law Review is in the 30’s while the score of Reader’s Digest is 65.
Essentially, long sentences and long words (four syllables or higher) fetch a low score, making your content rather difficult to understand.
What is Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test?
Just like the Flesch Reading Ease Test, the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test also determines the readability level of content, except that it follows a slightly different method to calculate the difficulty level.
The Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level Test assigns an arbitrary number to content and then puts the number into perspective by assigning a grade level.
This test mostly applies to the US-based education system.
For example, if the grade number is six, then it implies that content is readable by an average student in the sixth grade of a standard US school.
How to Hit the Perfect Readability Score for Your Niche Audience
Shane Snow, the founder of Contently, ran a test on works of some best selling authors to stumble upon some interesting readability stats. Here’s what he found:
As the stats show, none of the best selling authors wrote above a ninth-grade level.
In B2B content marketing, you shouldn’t write to impress your audience.
As Shane Snow says, the key to build an audience is to activate that reward center.
In fact, in order to strike a chord with your audience, you need to use these three important ingredients — fluency, identity, and novelty.
While fluency allows your audience to get through the content fluently without having to think hard, identity lets them relate to a subject or character. Likewise, novelty encourages your audience to read about an idea that’s new, surprising or even eccentric.
The above rules hold true for B2B content marketing as well.
So, how do you make sure you hit the perfect readability score for your niche audience?
Here are some steps get you started.
Step #1: Define Your Target Audience // Build Your Personas
The first step to improving readability of your content is to define your target audience or building personas.
This should include the specific industry you’re in, the region you operate within, and the socio-economic profiles of your niche audience.
Similarly, from the B2B content marketing perspective, you should consider the profiles of not only companies you want to target but the key decision-makers and influencers as well.
The more information you capture about your niche audience, the closer you're to creating content that will resonate with them.
Step #2: Find Out What Publications They Read
Once you have built out the personas, it’s time to establish their reading patterns.
Create a list of publications your target audience (personas) typically read, which might include both popular media (such as Forbes) and niche media (such as HBR).
You can dig into their reading habits in order to understand their niche interest areas.
For example, a B2B sales & marketing professional is likely to read publications like Ad Age, Direct, DM News, Exhibitor Magazine, Selling Power, Target Marketing and so on.
Likewise, digital marketers are likely to read popular blogs such as Marketing Profs, Business Insiders, The Knowledge Bank, HubSpot Blog, Vero, Moz, Kissmetrics and so on.
Step #3: Evaluate Publications’ Readability Score
The objective of identifying the publications and reading habits is to establish the grade-level or readability-ease score of your niche audience.
You want to focus on that grade level or ease score so your content is perfectly aligned to their readability level.
If you create content that is way above or below your target grade level, you’re likely to turn off your audience.
In order to determine the benchmark score for your audience, you should take the average of all scores of the leading publications your niche audience reads.
Step #4: Write Your Content
Finally, create, optimize and measure your content against the benchmark readability score for your niche audience.
Depending on the readability of your niche audience, you want to articulate your sentences, phrases, pitch, tone, voice and vocabulary.
Refer to the style guide of the niche publications and develop a sense of average word count per sentence, paragraph, and the number of polysyllabic words.
You want to use the right number of syllables and sentence length to hit the benchmark score.
While optimizing your content for readability score, be sure to incorporate tips given in the following guides.
- Why You Need To Optimize Your Content For Success
- How To Really Optimize Your Content for RankBrain
- 5 Tips to Optimize the Language of Your Copy for AdWords Campaign
Step #5: Compare Your Readability Score
Alternatively, you can try Atomic AI, our content marketing optimization platform which is designed to help you craft your message for your niche audience.
No matter how information-rich your content is, your audience won’t engage with your content unless it’s designed to meet their readability level. The language you use, length of your sentences and even the grammar play a crucial role in triggering a positive emotion in your readers. Therefore, you should streamline your content to improve its readability and boost engagement.
How do you measure your content readability?
Susanta Sahoo is founder and chief content marketing strategist at Top League Technologies, a digital marketing start-up in Bhubaneswar, India. By offering SEO consulting services, he helps SMB’s build their online presence and boost ROI. Follow him on Twitter: @ugosus.