Sunday, February 12th, 2006...12:38 pm

Weekend Lite: How Readable Is Your Site?

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I’ve been playing with some social bookmarking stuff over the weekend and came across something interesting. I believe I have seen somebody mention it before but can’t remember now where I first saw it mentioned. It’s a tool included in Kinja’s Language tools called Readability test. the way it works is pretty straightforward: you enter a URL for the page you want analyzed, and it performs the calculations for that page. One of the main values the tool returns is Gunning Fog Index. The main idea of this index is, the lower it is the easier the text is to read.Other indicators are Flesch Reading Ease and Flesch-Kincaid Grade. The first one

rates the text on a 100-point scale. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand the document. Authors are encouraged to aim for a score of approximately 60 to 70.

The second, Flesch-Kincaid Grade level, is “a rough measure of how many years of schooling it would take someone to understand the content”.

Very well I thought, and ran this tool against this blog. This is what it gave me as a result:

Summary Value Total sentences 161 Total words 1412
Average words per Sentence 8.77
Words with 1 Syllable 956
Words with 2 Syllables 277
Words with 3 Syllables 127
Words with 4 or more Syllables 52
Percentage of word with three or more syllables 12.68%
Average Syllables per Word 1.49
Gunning Fog Index 8.58
Flesch Reading Ease 72.17
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.37

OK this is all very interesting, and the figures they give on their site as an example are Fog Index of 8 for Reader’s Digest and 8 to 10 for most popular novels, so looks like my blog must be pretty readable, but what does it have to do with our particular industry? Of course, we in SEO / SEM should look not only at keywords and rankings but also at how it all can convert. And for something to convert, it should be comprehensible for your target audience. So I thought I’d run this sample analysis against a few other SEO blogs. This is what I got:

Aaron Wall’s SEOBook.com:

Gunning Fog Index 8.06
Flesch Reading Ease 73.38
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.14

Rand Fishkin’s SEOMoz:

Gunning Fog Index 9.44
Flesch Reading Ease 68.20
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 6.51

Matt Cutts’ blog:

Gunning Fog Index 9.36
Flesch Reading Ease 67.87
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 5.99

Jim Boykin’s blog:

Gunning Fog Index 6.05
Flesch Reading Ease 79.34
Flesch-Kincaid Grade 3.75

Pretty interesting to compare these things, isn’t it? I could go on for ages, but the purspose was just to show what it’s all about. The tool doesn’t give you plain answers of course, this is just factual data so you still need ot use your head to figure out how it can be applied best and what conclusions should be drawn out of this kind of analysis. However, I can see how this can be used when comparing your site to competitors’ in any industry, and maybe this is just the factor that might help a site convert better…

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