Our 3 Point Check for Website Copy Readability

Website copy helps people:

  • Navigate your website.

  • Understand your product or service.

  • Find you on Search.

  • Decide whether they want to buy your product, invest in your business, or work for you.

The words you publish on your website can do all these things. But to work, words need careful consideration. 

Having a website that only lists technical features or is bolted together with boilerplate copy is not sustainable. As we covered in a previous blog post, your site's users might not read all of the copy on a web page. However, the bits they do see need to be sharp, concise, and help them get to where they want to go. 

There is a LOT that goes into writing great website copy. To help you understand if your website copy is working for you, here are three things to check first (and here are nine tips if you need help with your overall B2B SEO strategy).

1. Is Your Copy Readable?

Readability is a measure of how easy content is to read. Readability score trackers like the Flesch Reading Ease formula or the Linear Write Formula provide numerical scores based on text readability. In the case of the Flesch Reading Ease formula, the scoring goes from 0 to 100. The higher the score, the easier the text is to read.

All readability trackers work by looking at text mathematically, i.e., factors like sentence length and word familiarity. They then calculate roughly how much work an average human brain needs to do to understand the text. 

The less work it takes to understand a text, the easier it is to read, and the more people can understand it. For reference, The New York Time articles tend to score over 60 on the Flesch scale—around the level an average 16-year-old should be able to read. This article scores 70. 

The jury is out on the finer points of readability scores. Where you draw the line between readability and content will depend on several factors like your content's purpose, the reader's education level, and familiarity with your world. Sometimes, great content can have a relatively low readability score. 

But generally, text that scores high for readability makes better website copy than hard-to-read text. 

To figure out if your site's copy is easy to read, do two things:

  • Run it through a readability checker.

  • Read it out loud or have someone read it out loud to you.

Before you even consider copywriting frameworks or conversion, you must have highly readable copy everywhere on your website. 

2. Does It Look Approachable on the Page?

What does your web copy look like to readers? To find out, stop reading it and look at it. Observe how words are clumped together and pulled apart with paragraphs, headings, and spacing. 

Think about the design of your copy.

Imagine you just landed on one of your website's pages from an ad or a google search query. How long does it take for you to figure out what the page is about?

To make web copy accessible and approachable, it’s important to keep blocks of text as short as possible. Research shows that walls of text are scary. They can put people off reading altogether. 

The reason why people won't read poorly formatted text can be described with something called Cognitive load theory (CLT). The idea behind CLT is this: humans have relatively limited working memory (not enough RAM). So to sink in, information needs to be presented in a way that doesn't strain our working memory. 

For website copy to do its job, it has to be bite-sized and digestible. We covered this topic in a previous blog post about lists (read it here). But the fundamental rule to remember is that:

  • Walls of text = bad.

  • Short paragraphs or lists = good.

Other times, you might want to remove or replace some of your copy altogether. A lot of the copy on your site can probably be represented as a graph or image. 

3. Does Your Copy Sound Real?

How do your users speak? Not when they are in the boardroom or on a business call, but when they are inside their heads, reading the words that you publish on your website and translating your words into feelings, images, and, hopefully, actions.

Chances are they don't use jargon. They also don't think in the third person or consider themselves in the abstract. If they are involved in your industry, they will know a lot about what you do and appreciate copy that respects their knowledge and the fact they might already have firm ideas. 

You need to sound professional. But it's easy to sound too professional. 

Instead of a corporate sales pitch, realistic copy should sound like a keynote at a conference. Or, better yet, the kind of conversations that happen in break out rooms. 

To find out if your copy "feels" right, find someone you trust in your industry who isn't a colleague. Ask them, "does my website copy sound real to you?

No one reads in a straight line, so don't write in one.

Need help with website copy? Contact us.

Written by Robert Galvin