By now it should be clear that Google values original, informative content when evaluating the strength of a website. While great content will help improve the value of your website in the eyes of Google, it won’t do much on its own to attract new visitors to your website.
With an estimated 3 million new blog posts hitting the web every day, there’s plenty of competition for your target audience’s attention. However, the blogs with the highest number of visitors all have on thing in common: readability.
But what does it mean for a blog to be consider “readable”? Well start by thinking of your readers’ time as a valuable commodity and anything you produce should never waste your reader’s time. Once you have this concept as a starting point, begin considering these tips.
The first step to becoming readable is capturing your readers’ attention, a process that starts with the headline. Studies have found that while 8 out of 10 people will read a headline, only 2 out of 10 will actually read the article. Your initial goal is to get your audience to start reading that first paragraph, so if they never get pass the headline, all of your effort writing the post will have been wasted.
Think of a headline like your own appearance – it’s the first impression people use to judge what lies beneath. Because of this, your headline should include some, if not all, of the following components.
- Descriptive: Your audience should gain a general idea about the topic your content covers.
- Curiosity: While you want to provide your readers a good understanding of what your content is about, you don’t want to give away too much information. Provide just enough information to keep your reader engaged and wanting to know more.
- Value: Why should readers invest their time in your content? In most cases the answer comes from the value your content provides by either making your readers happier (content read for entertainment) or wealthier (content read for business).
- Uniqueness: Unusual or catchy headlines, like lady in white in a sea of black suits, stands out. Look for ways to create headlines that are both interesting and unique.
- Urgency: Readers are more likely to read your content if by tomorrow it will no longer be as relevant.
Learning how to write fantastic headlines takes some practice. The effort is worth it, however, as a well written headline can increase the number of views your content receives by up to 500 percent.
Your writing style or voice plays a big role on the readability of your content. Blogs written about business are usually written in a very neutral voice. But if you want to provide more entertainment, higher interest and better engagement with your audience, consider getting a little more creative and don’t be shy about inserting yourself into the conversation.
Another important thing to consider is the intelligence of your audience. If you want a wider appeal, remember that most people enjoy reading recreationally two levels below their actual reading level, and that the average newspaper is written at an 11 grade level. In other words, think more Dan Brown than Dostoyevsky when writing your content.
Finding your voice also takes practice and some time, and it generally helps to find and follow other writers whose work you enjoy and respect.
There are two viewpoints when relating to the appropriate length of an article.
There are those who enjoy quick burst of information delivered in hyperlinks and bullet points. Because of the shear amount of content people receive daily, it’s easier to digest and share shorter content that is timely, relevant, useful and easy to read. It’s why most articles on websites fall between 500 to 1,000 words.
Others say that to differentiate your content and prove its worth to Google, you need longer articles that range between 1,500 and 3,000 words. A recent study by Buzzsumo found that content of this length typically receives twice the number of shares than shorter pieces while generating an increased conversion rate and more backlinks.
So what should you do? Find a good balance. Creating long and comprehensive content on a regular basis is challenging, and many members of your target audience may not even want this type of content every day. Write shorter pieces that will both add value and entertain, but also add longer and more thoughtful content, such as research, ebooks and white papers, that will help establish you and your company as leaders and experts in your field.
One of the best and most effective ways to make your content readable is by converting it into a visual format, such as slide deck, infographics or even a video. Doing this will require you to break your content down to the absolute minimum, which will make it easier for the majority of your audience to consume.
Additionally, while adding photos to your content may not necessarily make it more readable, high impact visuals will help you stand out and make your content more noticeable. The Buzzsumo study also discovered that content with a strong visual component was shared twice as much as content without.
Of course, search engine optimization is also an important consideration for your content and your headlines. But while you can create content that pushes SEO, it’s probably better to focus more on content that entertains and offers value to your readers. Focus your SEO effort on other elements of your website to help drive traffic, and let your blog be the place where your creativity shines.