Italic font makes it less legible

Readability

The readability parameter (Readability) refers on the Internet to how understandable a text is written. The legibility must be clearly separated from the legibility, which conversely, however, contributes to good legibility. The following applies to text content on the Internet: The simpler a text is written, the better. To determine readability, many SEO tools and CMS use an automated readability test, the Flesch Reading Index. Good readability can have a positive effect on the ranking of a website.

Readability and SEO [edit]

Readability is an important factor for search engine optimization. It plays a role both for the length of stay and for the keyword analysis of the algorithms.

If users stay on a website for a long time, this can mean two things first of all: Either they have read a piece of content intensively or the legibility is so bad that it takes them a long time to read a text through to the end. But because a user scans a text in advance, i.e. reads it sideways, he can assess the severity of the readability very quickly, very well.

If the content already seems too complex to him during the first scan, it will jump off. That is why search engine algorithms rate a long dwell time in such a way that a text provided important information in terms of content, i.e. was relevant for the user, and that the content was written in an understandable manner. The longer the dwell time, the better the legibility and vice versa.

Another important aspect of SEO is the use of keywords. A website operator can also significantly influence the readability of an article with this. If the keyword density is too high, the content loses its readability. A high degree of readability therefore also ensures user-friendliness. If a reader is confronted with an excessive use of keywords, he will very likely classify the content as irrelevant and unnaturally phrased. The result is his jump.

In addition, such keyword stuffing can be a reason for search engines to downgrade websites in the ranking. The algorithm then assumes that the content has been over-optimized and written solely with the aim of being better placed in the SERPs. The result can be an Over Optimization Penalty, in which, in the worst case, websites are even removed from the index.

Determination of legibility [edit]

Readability is largely determined by two factors, which can be roughly divided into formal aspects and linguistic aspects.

A mathematical formula is used to calculate legibility, but only takes linguistic factors into account. Legibility is excluded. The formal design, called typesetting, of a text determines the reading speed to a not inconsiderable degree. Google and other search engines also rate readability based on design factors. In the course of a search engine optimization, the typeface should therefore always be taken into account.

Formal factors [edit]

The formal factors of legibility primarily include typographical parameters. These settings have a significant influence on legibility:

  • paragraphs: Short paragraphs have a positive effect on the legibility of texts on the Internet. They are quicker to grasp and facilitate the reader's scanning process. As a rule of thumb, paragraphs with 3 to 5 sentences have become established. The Enter key should not be pressed indiscriminately, but only in places where it makes sense in terms of content. The flow of reading should always be maintained. If you have too many paragraphs, texts can quickly appear torn apart.
  • formatting: Formatting such as italics and underlining should be used cautiously on the Internet and depending on the font selected. With curved serif fonts, italics can make it difficult to read. In addition, the Google algorithm could classify words and phrases that are highlighted by formatting as particularly important. Therefore, if at all, it is better to emphasize keywords and keyphrases in bold. Underlined passages also disrupt the flow of reading and individual words with underline could be interpreted as links by the user.
  • font: When choosing a font for a blog or website, the main focus should be that it is legible. Playful fonts, flourishes, tight spaces between characters and cursive fonts disrupt the readability - and do not look serious either. Sans serif fonts are ideal for web reading. But even with sans-serif fonts, letter spacing and character thickness can affect legibility.
  • Font color: For a while, white text on a white background was considered a way of placing more keywords in the content without being intrusive to the user.[1] But Google has long been punishing this procedure, known as hidden text, and generally prefers texts in which the font is clearly visible against the background color. The stronger the contrast between the page background and the font color, the better. Not only for Google, but also for readability and thus for the reader.
  • font size: The font size is an important adjustment screw, especially for mobile and responsive websites. It is advisable to work with relative units of measurement for the sake of legibility. They adjust the font size dynamically to the settings and browser types or access devices. Otherwise, a comfortable font size should be selected for good legibility. The optimal size depends on the font, as the letter height and width vary depending on the font type.
  • Text alignment: In contrast to printed matter, justified justification on the Internet is not suitable for improving readability. The distances between the words are changed with this alignment and do not remain uniformly wide, which could irritate the reader. It should therefore only be used sparingly, for example for quotations. A left-aligned flutter substitute is better. This allows more white space, which improves clarity.
  • Character spacing: Close punctuation worsens readability. Most fonts have a preset spacing between letters. However, some also allow customization in the CSS stylesheet. This factor should be considered when choosing the font.
  • Line spacing: In addition to paragraphs, the line spacing also rectifies texts and thus makes them more legible. Depending on the font and size, a line spacing of 1 may be too little. A minimum spacing of 1.5 between the lines gives better results. If necessary, this setting can also be stored in the CSS.

Linguistic aspects [edit]

The language and language usage factor forms the basis for measuring readability using the readability index, for which sentence length and number of syllables play a role. But especially for search engine algorithms, which attach increasing importance to user-friendliness, as well as SEO, other aspects are also important:

  • grammar: To what extent correct syntax (grammar) is a ranking factor is unclear. Grammatical errors make a difference at Bing.[2] Google says, if at all, the grammar influences the ranking indirectly because the readability can suffer and users classify the website as untrustworthy.[3] Grammar rules are therefore neglected, especially with declensions and inflections of keywords. But the algorithms of search engines are now very well able to recognize and correctly assign bent keyword variants.[4] So there is no longer any need to formulate grammatically incorrect sentences in order to meet SEO guidelines.
  • spelling, orthography: Too many misspellings are the same as bad grammar. If the correct spelling, including keywords, is dispensed with in favor of the supposedly better findability by the crawler, this can have a detrimental effect on legibility and thus user-friendliness. The result is disappointed readers and high bounce rates, which can lead to a poorer ranking. Correct spelling (spelling) is a quality feature - for legibility and the search engine.
  • Sentence structure: The sentence structure is one of the parameters for calculating the readability index. Nesting sentences, long sentences that span several lines, and complicated sentence structures are difficult for users to read. Accordingly, they devalue the legibility of a content piece.
  • vocabulary: An upscale vocabulary appeals to a very specific target group. For average blogs or websites, technical jargon or a text peppered with foreign words is a factor that can reduce readability. The more accessible a text is through the choice of words, the more legible it is.

The readability index [edit]

The readability of text content on the Internet can be calculated using different indices. Over 100 formulas have been developed to measure legibility. The Flesch Reading Index has established itself as the standard in most SEO plugins and CMS.

This determines the legibility of German web texts using this mathematical formula:

FRE = 180 - ASL - (58.5 x ASW)

The FRE, short for: Flesch Reading Ease, is output as a numerical result between 0 and 100 and states how easily legible a text is. The lower the value, the worse the legibility. The higher the result, the better.

The Flesch grade, named after the developer of the procedure, author Rudolf Flesch, is calculated based on the average sentence length (Average Sentence Length, short: ASL) and the average number of syllables per word (Average Number of Syllables per Word, short: ASW).

The ASL is determined by dividing the total number of words in a text by the number of sentences. The ASW, by dividing the number of syllables in the entire article by the amount of words.

The result, the Flesch Reading Score, is divided into different readability levels, which range from very difficult to very easy:

  • FRE 0 - 30 is considered very difficult to read and roughly corresponds to the understanding of the text by academics.
  • FRE 30-50 shows a text that is still difficult to read.
  • FRE 50 - 60 grades a content piece with moderate readability.
  • FRE 60 - 70 is exactly in the middle and can also be understood by 13 to 15 year old students.
  • FRE 70 - 80 distinguishes content with moderate readability.
  • FRE 80 - 90 means that a text is easy to understand.
  • FRE 90 - 100 stands for very easy-to-read articles, as 11-year-olds should understand.


Easily understandable web texts should achieve a value of 60 - 70 in the Flesch Reading Test.

The original Flesch Reading Index was developed for the English language. Because the word length and number of syllables per word in this formula are the key factors for calculating readability, the parameters had to be adjusted. German words are on average longer than English ones. Compound words would also falsify the result of the English formula. The German Flesch Reading Index was adapted in 1978 by Toni Amstad.

Further readability indices [edit]

In addition to the well-known Flesch Reading Index, there are other options for measuring the readability of texts. However, indices such as the Flesch-Kincaid-Grade-Level and the Gunning-Fog-Index can only be used to a limited extent for calculating the readability of German content. Both are designed for Anglophone usage and do not take German language phenomena into account. The long words typical in German would always make German texts difficult to read when calculated with these indices.

In addition, both the Gunning Fog Index and the Flesch Kincaid Grade Level show their results in school years. So they measure how long a reader must have attended school at least to understand a text. Both formulas are based on the US school system, which differs greatly from the German one.

The Automated Readability Index (ARI), the Dale-Chall Readability Formula, the SMOG Index, the Fry Readability Formula and the Coleman-Liau Index work in a similar way. They are all based on the school and language system of the USA and therefore do not constitute a benchmark for the readability of German texts.

Another way of calculating the legibility of German texts is the Viennese factual text formula. This, too, is based on the school years or school classes that a reader must have completed in order to understand a text. The scale starts with a value of 4, which corresponds to the fourth grade of elementary school. Since it ends as particularly difficult at a value of 15, values ​​from 12 should be interpreted as degrees of difficulty or as years of study. It should be noted that the Viennese formula expressly refers to factual texts. This fact does not make them equally applicable to all texts on the Internet.

Criticism of the measurement of readability

In particular, the automated calculation of the degree of difficulty of a text is often criticized. For example, because many Flesch reading tools do not take linguistic and stylistic means into account. If several consecutive sentences are started with the same word, the Flesch Reading Index will reduce the legibility of the entire text. Regardless of whether it is a list or a deliberately chosen stylistic device.

The tokenization of texts is also an often mentioned weak point of Flesch reading tools. This means correct recognition and separation into individual words. Proper names, currency abbreviations and lexemes, for example, which consist of several words and form a unit of meaning independent of grammatical and morphological form, are often insufficiently taken into account in the automated calculation of legibility.

It is also criticized that computer-aided readability calculations can sometimes only approximately determine the number of syllables of individual words. This can be further distorted by typing or spelling errors.

Plugins and similar tools can help improve the legibility of texts on the Internet. However, their in some places immaturity should not be disregarded.

References Edit]

  1. ↑ Forbidden SEO techniques that Google punishes jacor.de. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  2. ↑ Quality: Do You Have It, or Just Think You Have It? blogs.bing.com. Retrieved May 9, 2017.
  3. ↑ German Google Webmaster Central office-hours hangout youtube.com. Retrieved May 9, 2019.
  4. ↑ Keyword options support.google.com. Retrieved May 9, 2019.

Web links [edit]