The Website Copy Test

When drafting website copy, I often tell clients to “write for a ten year old.”  Yes, the ten year old.  This is not to insult anyone’s intelligence.  In the world of internet content generation, it actually takes more intelligence and skill to write with simple intent than it does to wax philosophical.  If you imagine that ten year old staring at the page it also reminds you of simplicity.  Again, keep it simple, direct, refined, and clean.  Remove all verbal furniture.  If it doesn’t need to be on the page, don’t write it.

And, if you’re wonder what your site reading level is, the Flesch reading scale will tell you.  In 1948, a guy named Rudolph Flesch developed an objective reading scale to measure your writing level.  Flesch developed what he called the RE equation (readability ease).  The equation measures your average sentence length, average number of syllables, and the average number of syllables per word.  He then developed a numerical scale to measure all of this.  If your content scored between 90 to 100, your writing was easily understood by an average 5th grader.  Scores between 60 to 70 were easily understood by the average 8th and 9th grader, and scores between 0 and 30 were easily understood by the average college graduate.

The scale is not perfect.  There are some subjective elements and ambiguities that make this scale open to interpretation by both writer and reader.  However, it at least gives you a fair indication of which target age and audience will understand your writing.  In fact, some of the best SEO plugins available today for WordPress use the Flesch scale to assist with content SEO and SEM analysis.  If you target the ten year old level, you will often find your content resting in the 60 to 70 range.  As said earlier, it’s not to make your web copy “childish.”  Instead, it actually does the reader a favor.  They can quickly understand your message.  No confusion.  Site visitors like simple because it eliminates confusion.  It’s hard on your end but easy on the readers end.  You really have to write simple but the end result creates an improved visitor reading experience.  Make the page visit an enjoyable experience and not an exercise in philosophical contemplation.

Make sure your site visitor does not have to work to translate your site message.  If your message is not clear in five to ten seconds, at most, that visitor will leave and become a statistical bounce to your website.  A bounce is simply this: the visitor lands, looks, stays if it makes sense and leaves if it does not.

By Stuart Atkins



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