does readability rank

Our SEO Team Asks-Does Readability Rank?

March 08th, 2017 – 15 Comments

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Marieke van de RaktView her other posts »


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Two weeks ago Google’s Gary Illyes tweeted that you should read your text out loud. If it doesn’t read nicely or sounds strange, it probably won’t rank either. Of course, a discussion followed. Some SEOs are reluctant to believe him, because in some cases keyword stuffing still seems to pay off. For relatively small languages (like Dutch) this appears to be true. At Yoast however, we really believe in the value of readable texts for SEO. In this post, I’ll explain the importance of writing readable content for SEO. Also, I’ll give some tips on how to write copy that is nice and easy to read.

Hummingbird and readability

After the Hummingbird update, Google became a lot better at recognizing synonyms. Keyword stuffing, in order to let Google know what your text is about, became useless. Keyword stuffing leads to text that is terrible to read. Webpages with this kind of content will (sooner or later) disappear from the search results. Sooner, if Google actively punishes sites that clutter their text with keywords. Later, if visitors get tired of reading bad copy and are less prone to come back or buy from those sites.

Learn how to write awesome and SEO friendly articles in our SEO Copywriting training »

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UX and readability

Text that isn’t nice and easy to read will give your audience a bad user experience. Nobody likes to read something that’s boring or stuffed with keywords. All texts should be aimed and focused on your audience, giving them the best experience possible. Otherwise, you’ll end up with unsatisfied visitors, that’ll bounce back to Google instantly, when they hit your site.

Voice search and readability

As voice search is becoming more and more important, readability of copy becomes more important as well. As people are searching for stuff by talking to their devices, these devices will search for information that they can give to their audience. Information that is a terrible read, will not be comprehended by an audience. Texts should be clear while read from paper, from a screen, from a mobile phone, but also if they are read to you by a device.

How to keep your text readable

Writing readable texts is hard. That’s why we worked so hard on our readability analysis. We’re still working on it, getting it translated in as many different languages as possible. It’s available for free in the Yoast SEO plugin. It helps you to write readable texts. It checks, for instance, if your sentences aren’t too long, if you don’t use passive voice too often, and if the length of your paragraphs is OK.

Before you start writing your text, think about the structure. What are you going to tell your audience and in what order? Is that a logic order of topics? Will your audience be able to follow your arguments, your examples, your message?

Read more: ‘Setting up a text structure’ »

Write short rather than lengthy sentences, as lengthy sentences a much harder to process. Try to avoid or to limit the amount of difficult words in a text. Try not to use complicated sentences and try to avoid the use of passive voice.

Keep reading: ‘5 SEO copywriting mistakes you should avoid’ »

Make sure to write in an appealing style. That can be really hard, as not everyone has a talent for creative writing. Make sure to mix it up a little! Try to alternate long sentences with shorter ones. Use synonyms. Avoid starting sentences with the same word.

Read on: ‘5 tips to write a readable blog post’ »

Conclusion: read out loud!

Let’s be clear: your rankings will not immediately rise if you improve the readability of your texts. But, writing readable blog post is an essential part of every SEO strategy. If you want your readers to read your entire blog post, you should make sure your copy is easy to read. Posts that are nice and easy to read will definitely result in more returning visitors and a higher conversion rate. So in the long run: readability ranks.

Contact us to get started with a content marketing strategy that will make sure your business will thrive in the Content Era.

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Even though it’s been addressed by a lot of professional SEO experts, including Google’s Matt Cutts, this is still a  question we get a lot. So let’s review it in detail.

What is duplicate content?

Content is duplicated when similar content exists on 2 or more different URLs.

This can happen on your own site with only original content if your Content Management System (CMS) isn’t configured in the right way and creates artificially new URLs for existing content. For instance if a blog post can be found through 2 different URL paths – something that can be addressed by using canonical URLS as explained by Google.

Another example – this time across domains – is when you syndicate content as Google will see 2 or more exact same posts at different locations. For instance, if you have an industry website syndicate all of your content through its RSS feed or if you republish your own post on Medium or LinkedIn.

Note that in both cases, we’re talking about duplicating a significant part or the entire content to another web page or to another site. It’s like saying: “I don’t care what this content is but it seems to work so let’s copy and paste it to our blog.” That’s not what content curation is as we’ll see below. But first, let’s look at why Google doesn’t like duplicate content and what it does with it.

Is duplicate content bad?

Not necessarily, says Google. As Matt Cutts explains: “It’s important to realize that if you look at content on the web, something like 25 or 30 percent of all of the web’s content is duplicate content. … People will quote a paragraph of a blog and then link to the blog, that sort of thing. So it’s not the case that every single time there’s duplicate content it’s spam.


That’s the important word here: the point Matt Cutts makes is that Google’s objective is NOT to prevent one website from quoting another one – a practice which has been going on since the invention of the World Wide Web and which is at its core through the hyperlink. But, he adds, “It’s certainly the case that if you do nothing but duplicate content, and you are doing in an abusive, deceptive, malicious, or a manipulative way, we do reserve the right to take action on spam.” So if you’re doing nothing but that (if you’ve automated the process without applying any curation) and you’re doing it to deceive Google, you’re in trouble. And should be.

So Google recommends to syndicate carefully. In our own experience republishing to Medium, LinkedIn and other sites, we had great results in Google Search but we used different titles for each destination.

How is Content Curation different?

Though content discovery can be automated (and should be as it’s time consuming), Content Curators apply judgement before selecting what they publish. They also add context by adding value to their audience by telling them what it means for them. It’s like saying “Oh! I’ve read this piece of content and it’s really interesting for my prospects because it answers a question they often have in our commercial discussions.

Let’s make this visual through a slide of our guide of content curation benefits for SEO:

So not only is the intent completely different (spamming vs educating) but the implementation is also very different – an implementation which is built in if you use a professional content curation platform like where all the above elements of a good curated post will be built-in: source attribution and link, short snippet (our system for instance limits it to a few words or the first sentence) and the ability to add an insight, one of our signature features that enables you to add context and value to your audience. But more fundamentally, you can see that in the above curated post, the original content is not duplicated: a sentence or two can be quoted but the original content has not been copied / pasted to create the new post.

Content Curation benefits for SEO

The above differences explain not only why content curation different than duplicate content but also how it helps bloggers, content marketers and great curators rank high in search results. Examples such as John Gruber’s Daring Fireball or Upworthy show that large audiences can be built relying 100% on curation with great, well-deserved results in Google search. To add data to these 铁汇 examples, the Bruce Clay experimentdemonstrated how curated content with annotation ranked #1 for their target sentence. On the platform, we have data that goes beyond anecdotical evidence: traffic – which cumulates in hundreds of millions of visits – originates for about 40% from Google Search on average since we launched (and closer to 45% if we take the last 90 days).

Contact  for more information.





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Google Says You Need Experts for Quality Content Writing



As we all know, Google is tight-lipped about their algorithm and ranking factors. They do this to avoid past SEO abuse, which has ranged anywhere from keyword stuffing to the more recent spamming semantic markup.

But since Google has started announcing updates and additions to their core algorithm, it’s about time they start sharing their criteria for quality content. This is why Google’s Search Quality Guidelines was finally released on November 2015 on their webmaster blog. (These guidelines were initially leaked, and eventually released by Google since most of the SEO community had already seen it.)

Looking at the guidelines, it’s clear what matters to Google. First, Google wants to give priority to content that is written with a certain level of expertise. If the content has to do with health or finances, Google requires its Content Quality Graders to take extra care in making sure they are high quality pages.

Second, Google wants to provide the best user experience possible for the people searching on their search engine — which means, they want to direct their users to the websites that will provide them with the best answers.

Use the E-A-T Standard

E-A-T, an acronym for Expertise, Authority, and Trustworthiness, is what Google looks for in high quality content. This is especially the case for pages that have advice on the following topics:Watch Full Movie Online Streaming Online and Download

  • Medical
  • Financial
  • Well-being/Health
  • Hobbies (Like Sports, the Arts, and Outdoor Activities)

All of these topics require expert writers. If pages with these topics don’t have a certain level of complexity or expertise, Google’s evaluators will deem it low-quality.

An expert writer is not necessarily someone that has studied or worked in a field. It varies based on topic and context. For example, Google considers product/restaurant reviews to be expert content as long as it’s in-depth and helpful. Similarly, they consider certain community forums as high-quality. Quality forums generally have content from users with first hand experience. To make it clear: advice on a specific topic should come from an actual professional, but advice on life experiences can come from someone who has gone through it.

Here are some high-quality content examples Google provides:


Providing the Best User Experience

As we mentioned before, Google wants the best experience for its users. Since we’ve already been given tons of on-page feedback on content size and page speed specifications, we will need to start focusing on other nuances of the user’s experience.

1. Optimize For Device Types

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Google released Mobilegeddon last year, and hit us with a reality check — we had to make sure our websites were up-to-par with different screen sizes, different devices, and connection speeds. Google’s Mobilegeddon removed low-quality mobile results from its search engine. Keep this in mind with new devices that will be released in the future.

2. Avoid Spammy Advertising

Besides the general best practices of making your website load quickly and easy to use, quality raters are also on the hunt for spammy advertising. This includes but is not limited to: popover ads that shift a user’s page down, popup ads that restrict a user’s ability to switch screens, and having more than three ads on any given page.

3. Get Creative with Doorway Pages

If you’re an affiliate marketer, Google will not want to rank your product review unless a user searches for its specific attributes. Instead, they want to rank the product itself — that way, a customer can go straight to checkout or learn more information about the brand.

How Will Google’s Quality Guidelines Change in The Future?

Google’s quality guidelines will evolve with new technology and devices. We’ll just have to wait and see if Google’s Quality Graders will actually be as harsh as they seem in these guidelines.

Make sure to get the nitty-gritty details on Google’s Quality Guidelines in the full 160 page document… which, just so happens to be a PDF document with a terrible mobile experience. We’ll let it slide this time, Google.

Content Marketing Strategy

A few weeks before the start of the New Year I led a workshop on content marketing for about 50 small-business CEOs and operations managers. They came from all different industries. Some were consultants. There was a plumber and a representative from an HVAC company present. Pest management? Check. A few small manufacturing companies, a nonprofit, and a jewelry store rounded it out. In other words, it was a diverse group of companies.

What wasn’t diverse were the ways they were marketing their companies. Most had e-newsletters. All of them had Facebook pages. Every one of these senior leaders was concerned about search engine rankings.

Another consistent characteristic? Not one of them was happy with their marketing. This is not unusual. It’s predictable that senior leaders are often disappointed with their marketing. Why? Mostly because they believe it should be easier than it is. They also feel they are just one secret-sauce answer away from Utopia. I mean, how hard could it really be? (Don’t answer that.)

And that’s what I heard about their content efforts as well. Their blog posts weren’t getting much traffic or converting. Their email newsletters weren’t getting opened. Their customers were ignoring them on social media. Finding themselves on the first page on a search engine listing was equally hard.

Changing course

I’d heard enough. After the last complaint, I stopped my presentation. This is something I don’t normally do. I’ve been doing this particular workshop for a while, and the flow works well with small businesses. The last thing I wanted to do was alter course.

But I did alter it with this one simple question, “Is the content you are creating and distributing for your customers any different than anything else out there?”

I looked around at the business leaders. You could have heard a pin drop.

I repeated the question.

“Is the content you are creating and distributing for your customers any different than anything else out there?”

I then rephrased and asked the question to each one directly. I asked the jewelry store executive with the e-newsletter if what they sent to customers was any different. They sent coupons and articles that you could find literally anywhere.

I asked the plumber. He promoted content from the manufacturer on his YouTube page and his blog. I also found out that about 300 other plumbers used that same content.

I asked the financial consultant. He said he purposely kept his articles general because he didn’t want to give away any intellectual property without compensation. “How’s that working for you?” I asked.

“Not very well” was his response.

At one point in the workshop, I told them that if they aren’t going to take this seriously, they should all just go out and buy advertising (and I meant it).

Why should your customers care?

For the rest of the morning, we focused on answering one simple question: “Why should my customers care?”

That e-newsletter you are sending out. Why should they care?

Your Facebook post? Why should they care?

Your blog post, video or (God help us all) Snapchat?

You get the point.

Our job, as marketers, is not to create more content. It has never been about that. It’s about creating the minimum amount of content with the maximum amount of behavior change in our customers (hat tip to Robert Rose). For that to be possible, what you are creating has to be valuable, useful, compelling and, yes, different.

The content tilt

Somewhere along the line, we marketers became infatuated with the tools and less concerned about what we put inside them. This, my friends, has got to change.

Of the six-step process of the Content Inc. model (from my latest book), the most important step is the second, the content tilt.

The content tilt is that area of little to no competition on the web that actually gives you a fighter’s chance of breaking through and becoming relevant. It’s not only what makes you different, it’s so different that you get noticed by your audience. That audience rewards you with their attention.

The content tilt is what will separate you from everyone else in your market area. Andrew Davis, author of Town Inc., calls this “the hook” – a simple twist on a familiar theme designed to entrap or ensnare your audience. Without “tilting” your content just enough to truly have a different story to tell, your content will fade into the rest of the clutter and be forgotten.

How to find your tilt

The real goal of this little story was to get you to ask the question – Is my content different? The majority, like over 99% of marketers, do not have differentiated content. They are not telling stories that are different.

If you are like most marketers, then, your next question is “How do I make it different?”

One question marketers should ask before creating #content: Is my content different from my competition?CLICK TO TWEET

This is easier said than done, but it is possible to tell a different and compelling story looking at different data points. Here are some things to consider:

  • Audience – Are you really niche enough with your audience? “Pet owners” simply is too broad as a target audience. What about “homeowners who like to travel with a dog in their recreational vehicle and live in southwest Florida”? That may be too niche, but probably not. To be truly relevant with your story, you need to focus on a very specific reader. As Stephen Kings says in On Writing, you should think about this person every time you create content.
  • How you tell the story – Content marketing has been around for years and has been called many different things. But we at the Content Marketing Institute were the first to call it content marketing. That made a difference in how the audience responded.
  • Platform – One of the HVAC contractors in the workshop told me there are a thousand blog posts a day on energy efficiency. We also learned that there were few, if any, podcasts about saving energy. Opportunity? I’m not sure, but it’s worth a look.
  • Subject matter – Using tools like Google Trends, you can uncover breakout terms for which there are few instructional resources. Take this quote from Jay Baer as an example:

It’s like, ‘Hey I like knitting, and I’m going to start a knitting blog.’ Really! There are 27 other knitting blogs. Why would anybody read yours? What is different? What is unique? What is interesting? Why would anyone stop reading the knitting blog that they’ve been reading for the last three years and read yours ever? And if you can’t articulate that, you need to go back to the drawing board. And most people I find who haven’t been doing this for a while just don’t go through that competitive calculus, and it’s dangerous.

From the subject matter standpoint, knitting might be too broad. Are there certain types of knitting that are underserved, where you could be the leading expert in the world?

What if your content was gone?

Let’s end with this thought.

Let’s say someone rounded up all your content and placed it in a box like it never existed. Would anyone miss it? Would you leave a gap in the marketplace?

If the answer to this is no, then you have a problem (and this article is directed at you, bub).

We want customers and prospects needing … no, longing for our content. It becomes part of their lives … their jobs.

Today, it’s harder and harder to buy attention. You have to earn it. Earn it today, tomorrow, and five years from now by delivering the most impactful information your customers could ever ask for. “Good enough” won’t win the battle for customer attention. Be great.


Why you need to create a content marketing strategy

The most popular digital marketing mantra in recent years has been “Content is King”, and while the mantra itself may be a touch overused, it is by no means inaccurate. Now more than ever it’s incredibly important to create a content marketing strategy and make it your your own unique content marketing strategy if you hope to drive traffic and boost brand awareness from online channels.

This article dives into a bit of background on the recent popularity of content marketing, why you need to develop a content marketing strategy that is unique, and shows you where to find some of the newest strategies to set yourself apart from your competitors.

The History of Content Marketing

The early days of digital marketing are reminiscent of the Wild West: there weren’t many rules put in place, and those who took the biggest risks typically came away with the best results. But as the online channels matured, they realized that though many of the marketers were happy providing thin, uninformative content to their users, that content didn’t really provide the best experience for their users.

The networks needed to adapt. They needed to find a way to encourage all of the brands taking to their sites for advertising to spend time creating content that their audience would actually enjoy reading, and content that would eventually drive users back to their sites. They’ve done this by rewarding the marketers who take the time to come up with fantastic content and by penalizing those that think they can get away with churning out articles that don’t provide anything educational.

As this idea grew in popularity, marketers started to embrace the need to create quality content if they wanted to adapt in the online marketing world. Hence the idea of Content Marketing was born, and it has been increasing in popularity e

Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 11.23.06 AM.png

ver since.

Why do you need to create a content marketing strategy and make it your own?

If you want to be favored by the various advertising channels gain visibility online, you’ll need to start creating your own great content. This is typically long-form, educational articles, photos or videos that provide value to your potential customers.

One of the clearest examples of a channel that favors great, long-form content is social media. If you want to get social media shares these days it’s incredibly important to spend a solid amount of time creating great materials. This report–generated by BuzzSumo–shows Adweek’s average social media shares by length of content.


Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 10.57.24 AM.png

You can see that their articles containing between 3000 and 10000 words outperform the rest of their content by a significant margin–providing evidence that the more well thought out articles perform better.

Another example of advertising channels advocating great content is SEO. Many people who know about SEO have heard about the Google Panda update. This was a major update to Google’s algorithm that penalized all sites producing weak, or thin content from appearing high in their search results. Google, in their constant quest to create enough informative content to answer all of the world’s questions, absolutely favors in-depth content.

How Can You Create Your Own Content Marketing Strategy?

Content marketing is no longer a big secret, and there is a good chance that your competition is already taking full advantage of it to scoop up your potential clients. So if you want to get some of the newest, most actionable strategies, check out Virtual Focused Marketing.