If you use our readability analysis in the Yoast SEO plugin, you have probably come across the Flesch reading ease score. This score tells you how easy to read your text is. But how is the Flesch reading ease score calculated? Why is this score important for SEO? And, crucially, how can you use it to improve your writing? In this post, I’ll give you the answer to those questions.
Attention! We made some important changes to our readability analysis in Yoast SEO 19.3. We replaced the Flesch reading ease score with the new word complexity assessment, which is currently in beta. You can still find the Flesch reading ease score in the Insight tab, but we won’t use this assessment in our readability analysis anymore.
What is the Flesch reading ease score?
The Flesch reading ease test measures the readability of a text. It uses two variables to determine the readability score:
- the average length of your sentences (measured by the number of words)
- the average number of syllables per word
Then, it provides you with a score between 0 and 100. A score of 100 means your copy is very easy to read. And, a score of 0 means your text is very difficult to read. You can see the exact interpretation of all the scores on the scale in the table below.
|very easy to read, easily understood by an average 11-year-old student
|easy to read
|fairly easy to read
|easily understood by 13- to 15-year-old students
|fairly difficult to read
|difficult to read, best understood by college graduates
|very difficult to read, best understood by university graduates
So, a text with a very high Flesch reading ease score is made up of short sentences, and it contains not too many two-syllable words. Conversely, a text with a very low Flesch reading ease score consists mostly of very long sentences and a lot of complex words.
The Flesch reading ease score in Yoast SEO
- how the amount of words relates to the amount of sentences
- how the amount of syllables relates to the amount of words
For web copy, a reading ease score of 60-70 is considered acceptable. Translated into simpler terms, that means that a good web text should be easily understood by a 13 to 15-year-old student.
Why is the Flesch reading ease score important for readability and SEO?
It’s essential to take readability into account when writing web copy. Why? Because, if your text is too complicated, your audience might have trouble understanding it. Consequently, they may decide to leave your website and look for information elsewhere. As a result, you might get a high bounce rate that can lead to lower rankings in the long run. That’s why you should aim to write as clearly as possible.
Writing easy-to-read texts is also in line with holistic SEO. With Google’s algorithm becoming more human-like, and with the rise of voice search, readable texts are indirectly contributing to higher rankings.
While it’s important to write readable texts, it can also be quite tricky. This is because readability depends on a lot of factors. To help you write a copy that’s easy to read and understand, the readability section of the Yoast SEO content analysis runs all kinds of checks, among which is the Flesch reading ease score.
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How to use the Flesch reading ease score to improve your writing
We’ve come to the essential question. How can you use the Flesch score to improve your writing? Well, you write for an audience and you know your audience the best. Before you start writing or editing, think about what kind of texts fit your readers. Do you sell clothes or organize photography workshops? Or do you write for a mom blog or make step-by-step DIYs? In all of these cases, your content should be relatively easy to read since you are targeting a broad audience.
However, remember that you do not have to chase a high Flesch reading score at all costs. For example, you may write about complex, specialist topics for a specific, more knowledgeable audience. Or, perhaps you are an academic, blogging about your research? In those cases, it makes sense if the Flesch test produces a lower score.
Still, whatever your situation is, your text always benefits from a concise use of language. So, if you want to benefit from the feedback the Flesch reading ease score gives you, focus on two things:
1. Shorten your sentences
Too many long sentences make your text difficult to read while short sentences keep the subject clear. When the sentences in your text are short, you allow your readers to absorb the information in your text. As a result, they don’t need to use all their attention trying to decipher what you want to say. That is why we advise you to break down long sentences, and your text will be much easier to read.
And please, don’t think that by using short sentences, you will dumb your text down. Let’s compare two short texts to show you what we mean. First, we have this sentence:
My favorite place to visit during weekends is my grandparents’ house near the lake, where we love to fish and swim, and we often take the boat out on the lake.
Did you find this sentence easy to read? Wasn’t it a bit too lengthy, confusing, and difficult to process? Breaking it into two or more sentences can make it much clearer:
My favorite place to visit during weekends is my grandparents’ house. It’s near the lake, where we love to fish and swim. We also often take the boat out on the lake.
These few short sentences are much easier to read. Yet, you give the exact same information as in the long sentence, so there is no dumbing down. Using short sentences keeps the subject clear and allows your readers to absorb the information you’re presenting.
2. Limit your use of difficult words
Words with four or more syllables are considered difficult to read, so try to avoid them where possible. Or try to not to use them too much. For example, try words like small instead of minuscule, about instead of approximately, and use instead of utilize.
If you want to reach a broad audience, you should also try to avoid using jargon. If you’re a medical expert, you’re probably familiar with terms like analgesic, intravenous, and oophorectomy. However, keep in mind that most people aren’t. When you can’t find a better alternative, make sure to explain it for users who might not know the word.
Want to learn how to write great content that’s readable and SEO-proof at the same time? Our SEO Copywriting course and other SEO courses can help you with that. You can get access to these courses with Yoast SEO Premium, which also gives you access to extra features in the Yoast SEO plugin.
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There are a few notes we have to make regarding the Flesch reading ease score. First of all, language isn’t math. You cannot strip down the readability of a text to a simple formula. Keep in mind that readability depends on a lot of factors, not just on the length of your sentences and words.
Also, this test doesn’t take your writing style or audience into account. We know there are industries where the language used is different from what most people would use. That’s perfectly fine. Try to use the score as a guideline and always use common sense when interpreting the Flesch readability ease score.
Read more: SEO copywriting: the Ultimate guide »
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