5 Reasons you should care about reading age

What does the short children’s book Mr. Greedy have in common with the website of HSBC bank? Both of them have a reading age score too high for their target audience.

B2B Marketing suffers from an overload of jargon and buzzwords. Reading age and the tools to measure it are powerful weapons to push back against this deluge of verbiage. Now there’s an easier way to make content more effective and easier to write well. And here are our top 5 reasons why you should care!

1. It’s simple to calculate

There are multiple tools available to you to judge your reading age. Two of our favourites are the Cloze Test, and Flesch-Kincaid Age Grading.

A Cloze Test is where you remove 1 in every 5 words from a section of content. You then see if a reader can accurately fill in the blanks. If they can accurately fill in more than 60% of the words, your text is spot on for their reading age. If they score less than 40%, it’s back to the drawing board, as your writing is too complex.

Flesch-Kincaid Age Grading is a little more complicated. It uses a formula to judge your content based on the grade system used in public schools in the United States. This tells you what level of education is required to read your content.

2. Attention spans are falling

While it seems that this sort of doom-mongering headline pops up regularly in the digital age, there are actually studies to back it up. The most recent findings are that the average attention span is just 8 seconds, down from 12 seconds in 2000.

This means that if the first content your lead reads is too dense, they won’t stick around to get to your really good content. So you need to apply good readability to everything you create. This applies to social media posts and blogs, white papers and product pages.

3. Getting it right will make you money

If you don’t enjoy the creative process, marketing probably isn’t for you. However, remember that this artistry is ultimately directed at generating revenue. LinkedIn’s most recent Demand Gen Report heard that 71% of B2B buyers engage with blogs as part of their buying process.

Combine this with the downward trend in attention spans, and a dense and jargon-packed blog is going to chase away leads. Even worse, this happens before you’re even aware of their potential. Remember that 67% of the buying journey happens before a prospect speaks to a salesperson.

4. Poor readability has a heavy price tag

Ever heard of PPI (Payment Protection Insurance)? If not, you’re a very lucky person. Quite apart from the costs to every high street bank of paying compensation, it’s not done wonders for their reputations either.

The context is that most people who had PPI were misinformed or unaware of what they were agreeing to. Visible Thread studied 69 financial services companies’ websites for clarity. They found only one which received a good score! The recommended score was 60, but the average score was just 36. Studies recommend that long sentences (25 words or more) make up no more than 5% of the content. Among study participants 25% of their sentences were this length.

While PPI may be an extreme example, it’s a clear case of poor readability doing damage. The impact included current customers, not only potential ones.

5 Big players are taking reading age seriously

If you’ve never used Microsoft Word, you’re probably writing on stone tablets. Word now includes measures of readability in its tools for reviewing documents. In addition to spelling and grammar, you can now see advice on improving “Clarity and Conciseness”. Awareness of the importance of reading age is only going to grow from here. So, get the jump on your competitors by improving your content right now.

So, what age are you writing for?

Luckily the rising importance of reading age is being noticed. There is a range of tools available to help you assess and improve your content. The AI tool in GatorMail can assess the readability of your emails and suggest improvements.

If you need a little more help, check out our copywriting services. Whether it’s writing compelling blogs or emails, or drafting your personas, our team has got you covered.


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