What Reading Level Is Right for Your Audience?
Not all online audiences have the same reading level, nor should you expect them to. This is why it’s so important to understand not just the goals you have for your content, but for whom that content is being written. You can then cater your approach to those who are going to be on your page most often, and it will have the biggest impact. Writing at a level that is above your audience may make your content seem confusing and unhelpful, while writing at a level that is too low can make your company appear unprofessional or unpolished. Neither of these things are intentional, and may not even be true, but you have to think about the perception you create when deciding what route you want to take.
If you’re unsure where to aim, the general consensus is that an eighth-grade reading level is often best. It gives you access to complex sentence structures and ideas, but it’s still a low enough level that even those without a high level of education can understand it with ease. The general range that people use is from a sixth-grade level to a 12th-grade level, though there are exceptions.
As you can imagine, the key is to consider your audience. For example, perhaps you run a company that manufactures medical supplies. Everyone reading your site will likely have a very high level of education, with at least a college degree and likely a post-graduate degree. You want to appear as professional and technologically-advanced as possible, and that will actually be a draw for your audience. They understand high-level concepts, they have a massive vocabulary, and they will trust your company most if your content fits into this world-view. They are used to scientific terms, long sentences, massive blocks of text and complex explanations. If they don’t find those elements in your content, they may think you’re not really part of the medical community or up to the task.
On the other hand, perhaps you are a doctor running your own practice. This type of high-level content is fine when talking to co-workers and peers, but your audience for your site is much wider. You have to appeal to the average American. Some patients may never have finished high school. If they can’t comprehend your content, they’re not going to call the office — which is the end goal of that content, after all. You need to break down complex ideas and scientific/medical principles into things that anyone can understand. Writing for other doctors and professionals just isn’t going to work. This may feel strange to you, as you think your site should reflect your own education level and vocabulary, but the truth is that it needs to reflect your audience, not yourself.
You may also want to consider the goals of specific pages. If you have a page detailing a specific procedure, the person reading that page is likely doing their research and already knows a bit about it. That page can use more complex language and terms because the reader expects it. General pages describing services or contact information, however, should be at a bit lower of a level. Many people who visit your site won’t even get beyond those main pages, but will merely gather enough information to call and talk in person.
The Right Content
What this means is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach. An eighth-grade reading level may be a good baseline, but you have to consider exactly what is going to work for your company, your goals and your audience. We can help you do that here at Content Customs, where we will work closely with you to craft the perfect content for your site. Call us today to learn more about all of the services we provide.