How to Increase Your Blog’s Readability Score

Have you heard of the term ‘readability score’? Perhaps back in school, you were asked to write an essay or a report with a certain readability score.

Well, what you learn in school doesn’t stay in school.

As a blogger, you must ensure that your content is on par with your audience’s level of experience and literacy. Your content should NOT be too easy for your readers to understand because they will then undervalue your expertise. At the same time, it should NOT be too challenging because it will turn off your readers and add no value to their lives.

If you have never heard about the term ‘readability,’ it is a measurement system for your content. Based on several parameters, the system assigns a score. 

The Flesch–Kincaid readability measuring system is one of the most popular readability measurement systems. It assigns a different range of scores for various age groups and literacy level. Assuming your blog content is targetted at young moms who have a college degree, your readability score should be between 60.0 and 70.0. 

If you have the Yoast plugin installed on your WordPress (as you should), you will find the “Readability” tab built right into the system (screenshot below).

Here’s how my Readability summary of this post looks on Yoast. As you can see my writing is not perfect and does not meet all the criteria of the measuring system. The conditions my post doesn’t fulfill, it’s my writing choice to let those be. For example, I am okay with having one section in the entire post that’s more than 300 words. These are subjective decisions you will have to make before publishing your content. But be honest with yourself about things you can let go of.

Make it easy for your readers to understand your content. Click to read the post for some tips to improve your blog's readability score.

 

Why should you care about your content’s readability score?

Well, first of all, there’s no point slaving to create content that nobody can understand. Make it easy for your readers to understand your content.

It may not be obvious but most results that rank high on search engine result pages are easy to read and carry a high readability score. This means that your content’s readability score affects your ranking on search engines too.

Once you have visitors to your blog via the search engines, you want them to stay on your website for as long as possible and ideally, convert them into subscribers. However, if your blog’s content is not up to the standard they expect, they will neither subscribe nor return.

 

10 Tips to Improve Your Blog’s Readability
Make it easy for your readers to understand your content. Click to read the post for some tips to improve your blog's readability score.

 

Alright, let’s get to the tips.

Restrict your posts to one idea

In an earlier post, I have already written about the importance of focusing on only one key idea in your blog posts and courses. It deserves repetition because this one thing can make or break your blog post/course.

Navigating more than one key idea confuses the readers (and search engines!) and they do not understand what to focus on. That is a surefire way to dunk your readability score into deep water.

You may choose to deep-dive into a topic or create a list of actions, but ensure that the content still funnels up to the one central idea.

To help you keep the focus, begin by identifying the ONE primary goal of your blog post (or course)–what is it that you want your readers to accomplish?

Then, create a content outline before you start writing the content. Ensure that each subheading in the outline (or lessons in a course) align with the primary goal of the post (or course).

After you finish writing the post (or lesson), review the content to ensure that you are meeting the end goal.

Organize your thoughts

As a content creator, your mind is full of ideas. But as an educator, you need to present your ideas in a sequence that is most beneficial to your audience.

Your audience comprises of people who are at different levels of experience and knowledge. To ensure your content is meaningful to all levels of audience, your content has to flow from general to specific. Sometimes, it may even become necessary to create different posts or courses for different levels.

Within a post or a lesson, cover the big concept first and then filter down to smaller concepts. Or, present a generic example that is relatable to a larger audience before using specific examples.

Additionally, use subheadings, bullets, and numbered lists to help your readers follow the intended structure.

Again, creating a content outline before writing the content will help you see the structure and flow of the post from the beginning.

Write in the active voice

One tip that is common to all books on writing practices is to write in the active voice.

Active voice helps trim unnecessary words, thus making it easier to read. More importantly, sentences written in the active voice are more impactful and appealing.

Conversely, most sentences written in passive voice are difficult to understand (especially for non-native English speakers—they too may be your audience!). The difficulty arises because passive sentences contain more words and shift the focus from the subject.

This is not to say that you can never use the passive voice—the truth is some sentences sound better in the passive voice. But as far as possible, try to write the majority of your content in the active voice.

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Avoid wordiness

Fun fact: my first job was in a call center. One of the first things we learned and were constantly monitored for was the use of filler words and dead air. You see, in spoken language, it is very common for filler words to seep in. They should not, but they do.

But in written content, there is no excuse for using filler words.

When I say filler words, you may think of words such as “umm…,” “you know…,” “like…,” and you are right. These words indeed must be avoided in written content as much as possible (trust me, there are plenty of these in this post!). Sure, they help your writing sound more conversational but be very intentional about using these words. It’s OKAY to use fillers at times…it can add some interest when used intentionally. Just don’t go overboard.

But there is a second class of words that you must identify and eliminate from your work. Let’s call these ‘inconsequential words.’

When creative juices flow, we tend to embellish our sentences with words that are inconsequential to the sentence. These words do nothing but fill pages…but hey, blogging is no writing competition…unless you write about writing or storytelling  

I am not a writing coach but I can tell you this: avoid words that are redundant and add no value to your content.

Here’s a fun exercise. Listed below are six examples of sentences, which are wordier than they need to be. Can you edit these and come up with appropriate replacements? The first one is solved.

Original: In order to write a new email, you need to click the Compose button.
Revised: In order to write a new email, you need to click the Compose button.

Your turn.
Make use of Google doc to save your first drafts.
I am wanting to start a blog.
I can definitely see where you are heading with your blog.
Given the fact we are living in the digital age, it is very important to be on social media platforms.
I am planning to launch a new course in the month of March.

Note: Editing is subjective. There is no right or wrong answer. But there is always something you can do to make your sentences concise.

Write short and simple sentences

If you write in active voice, your sentences will naturally be short and simple. However, be intentional about making your content easy-to-understand for your audience.

Restrict your paragraphs to 3-5 sentences.

Within each paragraph, construct sentences that are no more than 18-20 words.

In a paragraph, if you write a long sentence, make the other sentences short.

More importantly, know where to end your paragraph. This is where your editing skills will come into play. If you find more than one concept or idea in a paragraph, stop and start a new paragraph.

Use transition words and phrases

Transition words—such as, firstly, but, additionally, meanwhile, etc.—are used to link ideas between sentences and paragraphs. These words help steer your readers in the right direction and their absence makes your content sound disjointed.

Think of transition words and phrases as a bridge to help your reader move from one thought to another. They create the flow needed for easy comprehension and retention of information, which is one of the goals of every instructional content you write.

Vary the length

Reading large chunks of text not only leads to fatigue but also introduces monotony. This is dangerous because your readers may leave your website without spending enough time getting to know you.

Make it easier for your readers to stay on your website longer.

One of the easiest ways to do this is to vary the length of your sentences and paragraphs. This creates an interesting rhythm and then breaks the rhythm before it gets monotonous. You may think, “Mala, isn’t that bad? Breaking their rhythm?”

The answer is a resounding “NO.”

Think about it: a rhythm is made up of different notes, not the same note over and over again (that’s called hypnosis!!)

Let’s take another example: think of a poor movie or a play you watched. Or, even a music piece. What made it poor for you? Often, the answer is a flat script or note. The different pitches, tones, emphasis, length of a scene, etc. make the movie or the music piece interesting.

Similarly, for written content, mix it up. Write one long paragraph followed by a couple of short ones. Within a paragraph, write no more than one long sentence.

Use these tips not only for your future posts, but revisit your old post and determine if you need to update their readability.

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Make it easy for your readers to understand your content. Click to read the post for some tips to improve your blog's readability score.

How to Make Your Blog Images Rank Higher on Search Engine Result Pages

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Let’s begin with a fun fact about me: *I LOVE PLANNERS! I am somewhat obsessed with them. My latest obsession is the *bullet journal system. I mentioned in an earlier post that I am a new entrant in the bujo world. So, every other night, after I am done with all my chores, I sit and browse bullet journal inspirations. I type in “What’s in my bullet journal?” or something similar in the Google search bar.

But I don’t search for text posts. I search for images (click the “Images” tab on Google for this). And then for the next 15 minutes or so, I scan the image results page for the prettiest bullet journals (if you think, “Mala, that’s just sad,” or “get a life, girl!”… well, maybe …but this is what brings me joy).

Anyway, coming back to the point. The searches are becoming increasingly visual nowadays (hello, Pinterest!). It is, therefore, pertinent to optimize not only the text on your website but also the images. Maybe your posts don’t rank on the text tab but you can certainly do your bit to help your images rank. Not most people do this, so you can be an early adopter and get a head start.

In today’s post, let’s discuss how to optimize your images for the web (i.e. the big bad world of search engines).

Anatomy of an Awesome Web-optimized Image

How to Make Your Blog Images Rank Higher on Search Engine Result Pages

Use relevant images

This is really about common sense but you will be surprised how often bloggers mess this up. I have mentioned this example before but I will mention this again because there is just no excuse for this: an image about an online course in today’s time cannot show a typewriter as its featured image.

Please be sure the image you choose is relevant to your content. The purpose of using images is not to decorate your post—use images to complement the content.

Select only copyright-free images or use your own

The blogging world is full of horror stories about unsuspecting and ignorant bloggers being sued for using copyrighted images. Please be careful when you search for free stock images. I am listing five popular websites that offer royalty-free, copyright-free stock images.

Please be advised the websites are free to change their terms and conditions. Therefore, always exercise caution.

When possible, consider purchasing stock images. This will ensure the image on your post is not as widely circulated as a free stock image.

While there is no denying the ease of using stock photos, the fact remains that copyright claims aside, most stock photos look super staged and fake. For this reason, you may want to shoot your own photos to make your images personal. But be aware that shooting personal photos requires significant investment of time (if you shoot your own) and/or money (if you hire a professional).

Use the correct file format

Images are stored in various formats depending on how it will be used. The three most common formats that bloggers use are JPEG, GIF, and PNG.

GIF images are usually used to include an animation or a meme. A regular image loses quality when saved in a GIF format. So, avoid it as much as you can. If you must use GIF, consider using GIFs created by professionals.

JPEG and PNG are the standards when it comes to blog images. Both give excellent quality but PNG files are heavier than JPEG files. It’s okay to choose JPEG images unless you want a transparent background. For that, always go with the PNG format.

Use high-quality images, not pixelated poor quality ones

This one is related to the previous point. Sometimes in your search for free stock photos, you may select a photo that is not up to the web standard. It may look perfect when seen in smaller dimensions, but as soon as you enlarge the image or try to zoom in for cropping purposes, individual pixels begin to show.

Another example could be if you choose to take your own photos using your phone or camera. Often, in the absence of enough lighting or poor camera quality, photos are of poor quality.

So, ensure the photos you are using as of the best quality.

Compress images to reduce the file size

The loading time and speed of your website is a very important factor in ranking high on search engine results page.

Among other factors, file sizes affect the loading time significantly. So, remember to compress your images so they load faster. But often, compressing images can also result in the loss of image quality.

Luckily, there are websites that enable you to compress without compromising on the quality. The websites that I personally use are Short Pixel and Tinyjpg.

Another option is to install the WP Smush on your website and the plugin will automatically compress all images on the website. The reason I don’t use the plugin is that I like to keep the number of plugins to the minimum—again, the number of assets on your website affects the website’s load time.

Make your file names descriptive and use keywords

Search engines depend on you to tell them what your image is about. The way you can tell them about it is via the various text fields available in the image properties.

Even before you get to the properties, the first thing you can do to save your image file with a specific name that describes what the image is about. For example, instead of using the default file names, such as DSC006 or IMG05, use a description such as “laptop on a table.”

Also, when writing the file name, try to include the keyword for which you are trying to rank.

Update “Alt Text” using keywords

After you have decided on a file name, it’s time to add even more information about the image. Your next stop is the Alt text (or Alt Tag) field.

Alt text is the rollover text that one sees when they point to an image. This is also essential for cases where an image fails to load, or when a visually impaired person is consuming your content.

The Alt text is nothing but the exact description of the image. Think of Alt text as a label for each image. It tells the user what image they would have seen had it loaded or if they were able to see it. Similarly, it tells the search engines what the content of the image is.

The Alt text may or may not be the same as the file name. For example, “laptop on a table” could be both the file name and the Alt text. However, to take full advantage of the available opportunities, experts recommend writing “similar” text but not the “same.”

Keep the Alt text short—say, 5-7 words—and using a sentence format is appreciated but is not mandatory.

Update “Description” using keywords and use sentence format

The Description box is yet another opportunity to tell the search engines about your images. The “description” that you write in this field is what is typically picked by the social media platforms when you publish your posts. That said, some platforms may have a preference of displaying the Alt text over the Description text. To err on the side of caution, populate both fields with as much descriptive text as allowed.

A word of caution regarding File Name, Alt Text, and Description

While it is important to use keywords in the aforementioned sections, please don’t overdo it. I mean, forget doing so, don’t even think about it! Using too many keywords without any context is considered as “keyword stuffing” by search engines. Keyword stuffing is not an experience for your readers. It’s a strict no-no and such websites are penalized by the search engines by pushing the website way down in the search results, or not showing them at all. This is where using the sentence format helps. Draft the sentence is a manner that offers useful information to your readers while still incorporating the keywords appropriately and in context.

Don’t embed important text inside images

Do not use images as supplementary material for your content; use them as complementary material.

As explained before, search engines do not yet have the ability to “read” your images. Therefore, if you add any key (or new) information as part of the image (that is, text on image), the search engine will not be able to scan and pick it. This will result in loss of data for you.

Create custom images for each social media platform

Your blog posts and image not only show up on search engines but also on social media platforms, which have their own search ecosystem. Therefore, it is important to cater to these platforms.

Each social media platform requires specific dimensions of images on their website. These guidelines are based on how they want their website to appear.

These platforms are your hosts; you are a guest. Respect the hosts’ guidelines.

In most cases, the platforms will reject images that do not match their guidelines. Frustratingly, the platforms also keep updating their guidelines often. Be on the lookout for any changes and update your images accordingly.

Bonus Tip

Pay attention to the placement of your image within your blog post.

Make sure that you place the relevant images near the relevant and corresponding chunk of text. The search engines may not be able to read your images, but with the help of the text fields (Alt, Description, File Name, Caption, etc.) as well as the body text around the image, the search engines tend to “guess” the context of the image and types of results they should appear for.

Help the search engines help you.

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Want to make your blog images rank higher on Search Engine Result Pages? Read the post to learn about 10 tips that will help you understand the anatomy of an awesome blog image that ranks high.