Did you know that Google will actually penalize you if the content on your website is hard to read? Google gives preferential treatment to pages that they feel have useful information. And, they will rank pages higher if they feel the page provides the reader with the answers they are searching for. Additionally, poor readability can have a pretty negative impact on your bounce rate. This means readers will likely bounce off your page in favor of one that is easier to read. This, in turn, affects your SEO.
What factors influence readability?
Currently, Yoast, which is an SEO tool available to WordPress users that we love, considers seven factors in their readability score. These are transition words, consecutive sentence beginnings, paragraph length, subheading distribution, sentence length, the use of a passive voice, and Flesch reading ease. I want to dive into these seven factors. So, I will provide a little more explanation of what we consider when we examine the readability on a page we work on.
Transition words are important to readability because they help your text flow. They also create a more positive experience for your reader. They tell your reader what they can expect and what is coming next. Some examples of transition words include: therefore, so, ultimately, but, in other words, also, and, because. You can find a list of transition words here.
Repetition can be annoying. Therefore, starting your sentences with the same word can cause the reader to find your writing style irritating. This might make them bounce off your page which hurts your SEO. If you find that this is an issue for you, try working in a transition word at the beginning of one sentence!
Paragraph Length and Sentence Length:
I think this is one thing many people struggle with, especially therapists who talk for a living. I know I do! But long sentences and long paragraphs are hard to read. So, they need to be broken up. If your sentences are long, this provides another opportunity to break them up with a transition word. If your paragraphs are too long, use this as an opportunity to create another subheading and get in another keyword. On average, we want paragraphs to have no more than 120 words, and a sentence to have 20 words or less.
Subheadings are important for several reasons. Subheadings provide a great opportunity to target keywords you are trying to rank for. Also, they matter from an accessibility standpoint. And finally, they help your reader scan the page to find the information they are searching for.
Using a passive voice makes your text seem less clear. It can make it appear that you have less knowledge of the topic you are writing about. Therefore, using an active voice is important to help your text be more approachable and easier to understand.
Flesch Reading Ease
I saved this one for last. Because, in my opinion, it is the most difficult and more important factor impacting readability. The key factors impacting your Flesch Reading Ease score are sentence length and words that are hard to understand or have too many syllables. One important thing to keep in mind when considering reading ease is the situation that brings your ideal client to your page. How they are feeling? What kind of content do they want to see? Would every client want to read technical language and psychological jargon? Probably not, they just want help and answers to what they are searching for.
Good Readability Does Not Make You Seem Unprofessional. Actually, It Makes You Approachable
One concern many of our SEO clients share regarding reading ease is “I see well-educated/professional clients, so I don’t want to come off as unprofessional or simple.” We get that. But, you have to stop for a second and think about the situation that is bringing your client to your page. Most likely if they are looking for psychological services they are experiencing challenges in their life or they may even be in crisis. At this moment, they may not be in the right frame of mind to read something that is overly technical and has big words. They just want to find the help or answers they are looking for. For example, a professional businesswoman who is having a panic attack at 3 am doesn’t want to read a page with language that seems like it came out of a published research study.
So when you write, try to keep your language on the simple side and your sentences short. Avoid using big technical terms. Here’s a tip that Jessica always gives our clients when she talks about readability: think about explaining your point to your middle school nephew at a barbeque. If they could not understand it, then it may be too hard to read.
Readability is important in making you seem approachable and knowledgeable on the subject you are writing about. Remember, a search engine does its best to think as a human would think, so they will rank pages that they think will be most helpful to the people searching. Therefore, we encourage you to keep these seven things in mind as you write your next service page or blog post!
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Other SEO Services offered by Simplified SEO Consulting
Simplified SEO Consulting is pleased to offer you a variety of SEO services designed to meet your needs as an owner of a private mental health practice. We know you’re busy, so you may not want to optimize your website. Therefore, we offer a popular Done for You SEO Services. With this package, our team of SEO specialists will optimize your page for you. Additionally, we offer alumni packages and al la carte SEO services. If you are the do-it-yourself type, we can help you rank well too. We have SEO training packages designed to teach you the skills you need to get your website ranking well including our “Top of Google” online course and 12 weeks of online video training. Also, we have begun hosting SEO workshops to tech you valuable SEO skills in person. These include: Moving the SEO Needle 1 Day Training Workshop, and Top of Search Engines 2.5 Day Comprehensive SEO Workshop.