Become a Content Mastermind: You May Have Good Content, but is it Readable?22 min read
We’ve all heard the term ‘good content’, but what about readability? It’s equally as important, if not more so. Yet there’s hardly any coverage.
I know what you’re thinking, “surely good content is readable”. Well, no, Karen, not necessarily.
More often than not, the readability of the content is overlooked in the aim of appearing well-educated. But little do these experts know; their use of acronyms, abbreviations and specialist terms hinders the readability and success of their work. But we will get into this later.
Thankfully for you, we noted this overlooked content creating necessity and have provided a breakdown of all there is to know. Remember, we’re aiming for content mastermind status, along with increased organic traffic, so be sure to work your way through each section.
So let’s get to it:
- What is good content?
- What is readable content?
- How is readable content so different from good content?
- The importance of having readable content
- How to write readable content
- Quuu’s actionable tips on writing great, readable content
You’re here because you want to become a mastermind of content writing. Well, don’t we all. The truth is, to become a mastermind, you must understand the functionalities of one. It sounds like a ‘you’ problem now, doesn’t it – ‘you must understand the functionalities…’. Well, fear not, young padawan, you’re on your way to your best content yet.
Before we get into what is, why we should and how to write readable content, we first must understand the concepts of a good, great and readable piece of content.
You see, that’s the key to becoming a mastermind, observing, analysing and understanding. Therefore, your first port of call should be to fully understand the concepts, metrics, and subject matter of what you will write. You must also understand how to write well and research various types of content. Not just about the topic, but of the content’s structure and formation. Again, common sense, right? Nah-uh.
Consider this guide whilst writing your next blog, and you’ll have improved your SEO (search engine optimisation), your SERPs rankings, increased your engagement and the time spent on your page – and then you can thank us later.
Let’s break it down.
What is good content?
The term ‘good’ is an adjective typically defined as holding ‘high standard’ and obtaining ‘required qualities’ (thanks Google). Therefore, good content is viewed as high standard content, containing the necessary qualities that you (as the reader) are seeking. To put it simply, it is content that provides you with education, valuable information and actionable takeaway that ultimately answers your question(s). More specifically, good content is content that is concise and well-sourced. It is content that holds value.
So, what makes great content?
Similarly, great content contains the same core values as ‘good’ content. However, it takes a unique and original approach towards a subject-topic, creating unique and original content (Google’s Algorithm loves this – but we will discuss that later). It is also well-formatted, incorporating engaging and visual elements for readers whilst ensuring grammatical precision.
Does clickbait make good content?
When figuring out how to attract your target audience, our minds instantly think of the most dramatic statement to draw attention to our content. Enter clickbait.
We’ve all fallen victim to this trap – so we know that when we don’t find what we’re looking for, we simply [x] out, which is reflected in our bounce rates.
So, although the use of clickbait may increase your page views, viewers will be quick to realise that your page does not answer questions and skrrt out of there.
Research supports this further, demonstrating that the use of this black-hat SEO technique not only leads to a high bounce rate but it can also negatively impact your organic click-through rate (CTR), which will harm your SEO metrics as well as your Google rank.
If we take a look at Backlinko’s research here, we can see that the use of power words (typically used in clickbait) reduces the chances of your audience clicking through to your content by 13.9%.
The findings also suggest that whilst clickbait headlines and titles may work across busy social media platforms (i.e. Facebook and Instagram), on search engines, this may harm your CTR.
Now you’re probably wondering why CTR does matter? It should matter to you because it matters to Google.
How does Google notice clickbait? Google’s algorithm ranks based on visitors’ interaction with an article and, ultimately, its site. If a visitor has clicked on your article, then retracts back to Google to conduct the same search again, your article will be deranked and seen as misleading or non-useful.
Google takes black-hat SEO so seriously that in 2014, Expedia was ‘deindexed’, suffering an ‘unnatural link penalty’ for engaging in such tactics. Now, if that doesn’t teach you a lesson, I don’t know what will.
- Increases bounce rate
- Harms your ranking(s) on Google and Facebook too
- Diminishes trust
And nobody wants that.
Now that that’s covered, let’s crack on with what you came here for.
AHEM. As you were, soldier.
What is readable content?
First things first, whilst podcasts and videos are excellent forms of content – today, we focus on written content. Kapeesh? Now, let’s get into optimising readable content.
Readable content is content that is easy to read, interpret and understand. It is content that is both educational and engaging whilst putting the least amount of pressure on the reader. Typically, comprehensible content is written at an appropriate reading age of an 8-9th grader. It considers readers of all professions, education and abilities. It is well-formatted, skimmable and filled with concise and well-structured sentences.
When you think of readability, think of ‘content clarity’. As Hubspot states, producing sharp and easy to understand content will allow your readers to see the value in the content and carry on reading. And that is our ultimate goal.
To summarise in a more effortless, visually-digestible way, check out the checklist below:
Readable content is content, that is:
☑ Short and comprehensive
- It avoids walls of text.
- It uses videos, images and infographics to break up the content – it also helps get straight to the point.
☑ Concise and to the point
- Long sentences can interfere (and even bore your readers). Make sure they’re short and to the point.
- Think about your content’s layout – the sentences, paragraphs and formatting – is it set out in an order that is easy to browse? Does it flow?
☑ Written at an 8th-grade readability level
- You may sound smart, well-educated and knowledgeable. Still, not everyone will understand (or can even be bothered to comprehend what you’re discussing). Keep it simple.
☑ Grammatically simple
☑ Well-formatted and easily skimmable.
- Not everyone reads the entire content. Make it as accessible as possible.
- People like to skim a page. Add bullet points and tables make that easier.
☑ Focuses on the outcomes:
- What’s in it for the reader?
- Will a reader find this genuinely useful?
- How can your product or service benefit the reader?
- Create the fear of missing out – get them to engage.
In other words, you don’t want your content to hold and discuss too much information. Think long-winded sentences and even longer winded paragraphs. The kind which you take one look at and you think, “nu-uh, no thank you, ma’am”. You know, the content you read, and you have to open up +60 tabs to Google the definitions of words? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Whether you’re creating long-form, high-quality content for your blog, a company blog or even an article you wish you publish on LinkedIn – the same rules apply when creating content. Bring life to your content. Incorporate visuals, make your content going forward fun and engaging, and keep it moving.
How is readable content so different from good content?
As we have covered, good content holds an abundance of information, providing education and shares actionable tips… blah blah blah. But, what good content lacks is the consideration of how accessible and easy to understand the content is.
For example, if you are an entrepreneur seeking information from a specific sector, reading an article that uses many abbreviations and sector-based words and phrases may confuse the reader.
Readability is different from good content, as it solely focuses on ensuring that the reader – of any age, capability or profession – can access and understand the content presented before them. It focuses on the grammar used, the formatting and the layout. Further ensuring that the reader can easily navigate, understand and skim to find the information they seek – without reading the whole thing.
Whilst the writers of good content may too do this (to some extent), they may not consider their content readability – consequently restricting who can and can not access and limiting who can understand their content.
We got that covered, right? Now let’s get into the fundamentals of writing readable content, starting with why your content needs to be readable and why it’s essential to optimise it.
The importance of readable content in content marketing
With thanks (and no thanks) to the evolution of technology and social media developments, the human attention span has reached an all-time low. The humans’ attention span has decreased to just 8 seconds. Yes, it’s official – we have surpassed that attention span of a goldfish.
Now, you might be wondering how this affects you and your digital marketing goal(s). Well, to put it simply, it means:
- Your readers don’t have the patience to read through your content.
- If your content is too wordy, not engaging and not to the point, they will bounce.
- Simplicity, accessibility and readability have never been more critical.
More importantly, research tells us that people and potential customers (yes, I’m referring to your target audience) are far less likely to read online actively, but instead, skim and scan for keywords and quickly seek out what they are seeking. Enter ‘readable content’.
So why is readability important? Well, regardless if you’re a small startup business or a well-established international corporation, if you’re a content creator, content marketer, influencer, blogger or editor of any kind – readable content is of utmost importance. It’s crucial as it holds the ability to impact your business – either positively or negatively. Ultimately, the result is down to you.
Explicitly speaking, poor readability can affect your:
- Customers experience (UX)
- Google ranking
- Conversion rate
- Bounce rate
- Churn rate
- Social shares
- Content marketing strategy
Surely, you don’t want that. Do you?
UX (Customers experience)
Ultimately, it all begins and ends with the UX.
It is hardly new news that content should be created with your target audience in mind. Answering your audiences pain points and understanding and meeting their needs should be prioritised. Taking a look at some publications, it doesn’t appear so.
To put it bluntly: incomprehensible content = bad UX = increased bounce rate = decreased Google rank = less organic traffic to your site.
And if your company functions primarily off of ROI’s, then boy, you iz in trouble.
Even if you have relevant content that has caught the eye of your target audience, if your content doesn’t allure them to come back or prompt a CTA (call to action) and tempt them into a content-reading-rabbit-hole – you got some work to do.
A bad UX can be caused by:
- Slow loading sites
- Poorly formatted content
- Focuses only on selling a product or service
- Not supplying:
- Valuable information, or
- Actionable takeaway
- Content stuffed with repeated keywords.
- Plain and boring writing
- Unnecessarily complex
- Too much information in one place
You get the picture. It’s anything and everything you wouldn’t settle for.
The simpler, the better.
Now, we’ve seen how clickbait can impact your business negatively. Sadly, on-going bad UX’s can have the same (if not worse) effect. This, again, serves to prove why readability is so important.
It’s safe to say that the optimum goal is to increase traffic via organic search engine searches. Yet, how could you possibly achieve that if your content is ‘great’ on paper, but your SERP score, bounce rate and Google rank says otherwise?
If your primary source of traffic is coming directly from search engines like Google, SEO (search engine optimisation) must become your best friend, as SEO and Google’s algorithm go hand in hand.
To firstly put this simply: Readable, educational and engaging content that answers user’s search query = SEO approved = improved ranking.
Let’s break this down.
- SEO plays a massive part in how and where your content will rank on Google (or other search engine platforms).
- The various updates that Google has made to its algorithm impacts how SEO works and how they rank content.
- Content that is not ‘original’, deemed a ‘duplicate content’ of some sort, seen as clickbait and lacks education will be deranked and penalised.
- Content that is clear, original, useful, and high-quality will gain more exposure.
It’s that simple.
As long as your content:
- Serves its target audience
- It is readable, actionable or educational and answers their search query.
- It is well-formatted and accessible, and
- Keeps your readers fully engaged
You will boost your rankings and increase your search engine visibility and traffic to your website.
But stress not. We understand SEO can seem confusing and somewhat ‘time-consuming’. You can find out more information on how to boost your SEO online. If you would prefer to use an online tool, opt for a toolkit like Moz’s. Presently, they provide either a ‘Pro‘ toolkit or a ‘Local‘ toolkit.
Either way, you’ve got this!
Google ranking and its algorithm
Google loves readable content.
With on-going developments, changes and updates to Google’s algorithm, Google has got smarter, and the times of stuffing repeated vital phrases to rank high have long passed.
The history of Google’s algorithm updates has seen us become more articulate with our keyphrases, reduce spamming keywords, and try our hardest to understand and use SEO for complete content optimisation.
At this point, content creators have to be mindful that Google has become more-so capable of understanding how humans search, speak and scan content and what they are looking for. Google now observes and tracks how users interact and navigate through your website.
These combined increases the importance of updating and creating new, educational, SEO-friendly content that is audience-focused and, most importantly, readable.
Therefore, content that would rank well would meet the following:
- The content meets the needs of the reader(s)
- Answers questions
- Shares actionable tips
- Provides information
- Your audience will share the content.
- Your audience will delve deeper into your site.
- Reading other related articles (establishing trust in your content)
- Check out your products and services.
- They also
- Click on call to actions.
- Add products to their shopping carts.
- Spend money with you
- They return to your site.
In simple terms: you will rank better when you meet the criteria (need and requirements) and provide a better experience for your audience.
How to write readable content
Do you feel like a Mastermind yet, young Padawan?
Well, we’ve covered all there is to know. Including the concepts of ‘good’, ‘great’ and ‘readable’ content. The similarities and differences between good and readable content. Why readable content is essential and how the UX, SEO and Google’s algorithm affects our content’s optimisation and everything in between.
I think it’s time we get down to writing readable content now. Don’t you?
We’ve created a fun infographic that you can use as guidance and remembrance of the ‘Do’s and Don’ts of Writing Readable Content’. And, if you want more in-depth detail, carry on reading.
First things first (I’m the realest)… The ultimate goal is to create great, readable and engaging content.
Content has clear, understandable headings.
Whilst putting a unique twist on your content’s headings can be intriguing, we aim to help readers and improve their UX. So your best bet is making the contents title, headings and subheadings as clear and straightforward as possible.
Clear headings = improved UX.
It’s also worth noting how this immensely impacts the UX as it allows the content to be easily skimmed to find the solution. Rather than creating elaborate headings (which would make your reader have to work harder), keep the titles and subheadings simple to make the content easily navigational.
Make your content informative and actionable.
If a user has made their way to a search engine, they search for an answer. Make your content hold as much valuable information as possible. You want your content to answer your readers’ search query and pain point – or better yet, search queries and pain points.
However, information isn’t always only what we’re looking for.
Be sure to also provide actionable tips throughout. This will add value to the content, answer more than one question (which could improve your SEO and Google rank), improve the users time-on-page, reduce your bounce rate, improve your SERPs metric and ultimately improve the UX.
I.e. A user wants to find out the benefits of eating raw broccoli. Besides meeting the user’s bare minimum requirement, exceed their expectation and prevent them from returning to Google to open a new search and provide some inspiration via recipes.
Top tip: with the use of developing VI (virtual assistant) technologies, more and more questions are being asked in a more personal way: ‘Alexa, how long should I boil my potatoes for?’. The key is to incorporate more personal responses and answers into your content. It creates the illusion of conversation and is easier for everyone to comprehend.
We’ve seen the adverse effects clickbait can have on content – if you want a quick recap, click here. So it goes without saying to try and avoid clickbait that can be misleading. Even the use of power words can be viewed as clickbait.
Your goal is to create your subscribers – you want users to know that they can come to you for reliable answers, and you want users to keep returning.
So, avoid clickbait at all costs. Remember, you want to improve UX’s and exceed their needs and requirements. Answer their questions, provide education and actionable solutions and just be honest. Did yo’ mama not teach you that honesty is the best policy?
Write at an appropriate reading age and use simple grammar.
Regardless of the topic, creating content keeps all reading ages in mind. As you just never know who is going to view your content. With that in mind, aim for a readability age of an 8-9th grader.
Avoid abbreviations, acronyms, specialist-terms and jargon.
Readable has broken down the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level for greater clarification. You can see that the grade content creators should aim towards is a ‘Harry Potter’ level of around an 8th grade.
By creating content that is readable for all people of all professions, education, capabilities (or lack of) and ages, you create content accessible by all. This will allow more users to understand your content without putting in some extra work.
Is the format, design and layout UX friendly?
When creating new content, think about whether the content is accessible and how clear it is. Readers decide within just 15 seconds if they’re going to stick around. And that decision is ultimately made based on the content’s accessibility.
Think: ‘clickbait?’, formatting, typography, layout, word choices and more.
- Consider the design of your website. Sometimes, the vibe can throw the UX off considerably, leading them to opt for a simpler alternative.
- Think about whether there is too much information being stored on the page.
- You may also want to reconsider your colour palette choices.
- Reconsider the layout of your content. Using web heat maps can help guide and inspire how best to format your content. Ask yourself whether the structure and format are confusing and poorly formatted. Could this interfere with and impact the UX?
- Use an appropriate and UX friendly font, i.e. Arial, Times New Roman.
We’ve discussed the importance of the UX and how it all begins and ends with them. So now it’s truly down to you and the formation of your content to decide whether you value your customers or not.
Keep your sentences and paragraphs short.
Using long sentences and long paragraphs will lose your readers.
The way our world has evolved – with technology, social media and our ever-declining attention span – users know what they want, and they want it now. No interferences, no complications. Just plain and simple.
To make sure the reader gets what they want, and view your content as useful, keep your sentences and paragraphs short and to the point. Think of each new sentence and paragraph as a new focus, statement or answer.
We live in a world of skimmers. Make your content as skimmable and easily digestible as possible.
Break up your content
Like keeping your sentences and paragraphs short and to the point, in areas where information is more ‘condense’, consider using bullet points and tables and breaking your content down into different sections. These small changes will improve your UX significantly.
Nobody has got time to read walls on walls of content.
For one, it is not at all visually appealing, and secondly, orp… yep, you’ve lost your readers’ focus, and they’ve bounced.
Breaking your content down into more easily digestible sections will allow your reader to navigate your content with ease. Allowing them to find all the information they need promptly and with as little effort as possible.
And that’s what users want: to gain knowledge with barely any effort.
Create and use engaging content alternatives
Finally, but most importantly: engaging content.
Think images, videos, infographics and anything remotely engaging and colourful.
Using images and graphics to break up your content will make your content far more digestible for your audience. I mean, did you know that 90% of the information the brain takes-in is visual? Or that 40% of people respond to visual content over text. Well, I guarantee you do now without even reading this, as it is stated within the infographic itself.
This is because they get to take a little “break” in between your content. It will make your content more appealing as a whole to have some visuals placed into your post, page or design.
Quuu’s actionable tips on writing great, readable content
When it comes to content creation, we all have our method of doing things. Ultimately, finding that method can sometimes take time and even a little bit of inspiration, but we’re almost there, my padawan, Mastermind.
Let us sprinkle some inspiration when you get to create your new content.
- After reading this article, take a look back through and note the layout.
- Make sure you thoroughly research and understand what it is you are going to be discussing.
- Find reliable sources of information.
- When you find the information, make a note of what you will use this for and the argument you will make with it.
- Find reliable sources of information.
- Discuss the content with your co-workers, peers or anyone you feel comfortable doing so with. This will help you clarify:
- The approach you want to take
- The arguments you wish to make
- Plan, plan, plan!
So there we have it.
All there is to know about ‘readable content’. Now it’s over to you.