Readability: Dumbing down or opening up?

Readability: Dumbing down or opening up? • Yoast

Marieke van de Rakt

Marieke van de Rakt is the founder of Yoast SEO Academy and CEO of Yoast. Her favorite SEO topics are SEO copywriting and site structure.

Writing a readable text can be daunting. Especially if the topic of your blog is difficult or extremely technical. Is it really necessary to focus on readability if your audience is used to your jargon? Well, although your audience might be up to the task of reading your lingo, the entire purpose of SEO is to attract traffic beyond the audience you already reach. If you aim for the top positions in the search engines, you should have texts that are readable and understandable for a large audience. This doesn’t mean you’re dumbing down your copy. Here, I explain why, and how you should make sure your text is readable.

Writing a readable text is hard

We do feel your pain. We understand you chase those green readability bullets and that can be hard if you’re writing for an advanced audience. Sometimes, people ventilate their frustrations on twitter. One of our users tweeted: ‘My blog posts are written for grownups and I write at the college level. Sorry, but I don’t know how to dumb myself down.’

We get that it might feel like you need to dumb yourself down in order to get the readability bullets green. However, you could also try to think of it as opening your content up to an audience you’ve not yet reached. And that’s the goal of any SEO-strategy: getting that traffic to your website!

Why should I care about readability?

Readability is important for your user. Reading from a screen is hard and people get distracted quickly. But, most importantly, you want people to understand what you’re writing. You want to get your message across. Nobody likes to read something that’s incomprehensible, boring or stuffed with keywords. If you write a text that people don’t understand, you won’t help people find what they need. 

Moreover, readability is also important for Google. Of course, if your text is better for the user, it will rank better, as Google optimizes for that same user. And, it is very important to realize here that Google’s algorithm is trying to mimic humans. It tries to read texts the way humans read texts. As Google becomes more capable of understanding and scanning texts in a human-like way, the demands on the readability of text also rise. Google will have a hard time reading sentences that are very long or that have complicated grammatical structures. For these texts, it will be harder for Google to figure out what they’re about. And this will result in lower rankings as well.

Read more about the importance of readability in our blog post ‘Does readability rank?’

Is ‘dumbing down’ really necessary?

Some niches require lingo. For technical blogs, you’ll probably use difficult, technical terms. You cannot avoid that. Nevertheless, that does not mean that such a text can’t comply with our readability analysis. In a previous life, I

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This article was written by Marieke van de Rakt and originally published on Yoast • SEO for everyone.

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