Flesch, Formulas and Highfaluting Fluff

by Gary on March 20, 2008 · 1 comment

in Article Writing,Copywriting,General,SEO

I was reading Randfish’s list of common features of spam domains. I was thinking about ticking each feature off and seeing how well we do but this one caught my eye:

“Rarely contains high grade level text content (as measured by metrics like Fleisch-Kincaid Reading Level)”

The geeky part of me fondly remembered my college days when I computed the Flesch Kincaid reading ease of the e-learning Physics modules I was writing. Just for the heck of it I decided to get the Flesch-Kincaid reading ease and grade level of my last 10 posts here on Phoenixrealm. Note that there is a huge difference between the two. The Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score (FRES) tells you how easily understandable the test is. The higher the score the easier it is to read and understand. A score of 0-30 is understandable to college students while a score of 60-70 is understandable to 13-15 year old students. The Flesh-Kincaid grade level on the other hand tells you the lowest (US) grade level of the students that will understand your text.

The results I got were as follows (starting from the most recent post not including this one)

Flesch reading ease score: 69.7, 57.3, 71.5, 56.8, 56.7, 68.4, 71, 68.2, 77.2, 63.6

Flesch-Kincaid grade level: 7.6, 11.2, 9.5, 11.6, 12, 10.6, 8.3, 9.2, 7.1, 8.8

After seeing the scores I got very mixed emotions. I am proud that I have been able to keep the content very readable and easy to understand but at the same time, after reading Rand’s post feel uncomfortable that I no real high-grade level content (highest grade level is 12). However, after analysing all this I actually feel content about the scores for several reasons:

  • Just because rarely having posts with high grade level content is an indicator of spam doesn’t mean that this is spam, especially since there are lots of other factors (as I said I am just obsessing about the Flesch-Kincaid scores).
  • The target audience of Phoenixrealm are beginner to intermediate level SEOs, which means it is a wiser choice to leave out all the high-faluting words and complex formulas.
  • Readability is always emphasised and we did well with that.
  • It makes more sense (and a lot less effort) to simply link to posts with complicated content and simplify the content for averge readers. Those interested in figures can always click on the link!

I do see Rand’s point though since the SEO gurus definitely post more entries that show a deeper understanding of just how SEO works. It is also very true that spammers usually come up with content that are obviously plain rewrites (and not good ones at that) and do not apply themselves to even understand what they’re ripping off least of all coming up with fresh ideas/insights. Even worse the writing is often amateurish (due to the hiring of mass copywriters) and riddled with ridiculous errors. I guess in that case it will render the post less readable but certainly it will also never mean a high Flesch-Kincaid grade level.

Lesson learned?

For spammers out there just stop polluting the internet please. Obviously though they won’t stop but at least hopefully they learn that horrible and simplistic content is a red flag to readers.

For those who write real content. You might want to find out your Flesch-Kincaid reading ease score to ensure your readers will have an easy time reading your posts. If you want to impress insert formulas and use highly technical words but if it doesn’t suit your target audience then don’t do it. The important thing is that you provide real quality content and that you stand by what you write.

By the way this post’s score are 71.2 (Flesch reading ease score) and 8.9 (Flesch-Kincaid grade level). So despite the length no one has an excuse for not understanding this!

Happy SEO blogging!

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Matan Media March 28, 2008 at 3:46 am

Interesting post… but lets not forget the core of SEO here, which is to optimise sites for the search engines, not write blog posts.

Many of the top SEO’s who are known by name over the internet are good bloggers which gets them recognised in the industry, it does not mean they are the best at what they do. Don’t get me wrong, Rand is a genius SEO and I respect him a lot, but I have also met many great SEO’s who achieve top results who just aren’t writers/bloggers. Not mentioning any names here, but there are also some very well known SEO’s who make numerous spelling and gramatical errors in their posts, but they are still worth reading for SEO news and information.

In terms of SEO, I don’t think the Fleisch-Kincaid Reading Level really matters… in terms of blogging, I suppose it could. One thing I know for sure is, I never visit any of the SEO blogs to learn English… SPAM should not be based on the level of written English, it should be based on whether it provides something useful to the reader or not.