Many SEO practitioners still apply optimisation techniques like in 1999. Back then popular belief was that it was perfectly enough to lure Internet users to a website with whatever means it takes and then everything else would would work fine. Things like readability were far off the SEO agenda.
For a few years now the SEO industry focuses on conversions, that is converting a website visitor to a client through web design for ROI. In order to achieve that the foremost task is to keep the visitor on the page in the first place.
Still you see plenty of people who do not apply the most basic readability measures to increase their conversions. Webmasters still risk a high bounce rate due to large chunks of text which are not easily digestible by people visiting a site. It actually makes them leave instantly in most cases.
It’s known at least since 1999 that people do not read on the web, they scan pages in order to find quick clues about the subject matter they are interested in.
There are at least 10 ways to provide them with such clues. Thus I introduce to to you 10 readability measures to increase conversions. I start with the most basic, important and must use methods of making any text readable. Of course you’re advised to write an abstract, intro or teaser even before the main text starts.
Any text that is longer than a few sentences must be split into paragraphs, otherwise the human eye can’t deal with it without getting tired very quickly, espeically on the Web where screen flickering even aggravated this problem.
2. bold, italic
Bold and italic are the two most basic ways of stressing or emphasizing the most important key terms in a text. Don’t ever use underline on text online unless it’s a link. Italic works best on new terms you introduce, bold on the most important parts of a given message. You should never use bold and italic more than once in a paragraph as this takes the emphasis away and confuses the reader.
3. background colors
Text marker like emphasis by background colors (think yellow!) can be very powerful to capture readers attention. It’s also a little annoying to the eye so use it wisely, like once per page. Also you could use very modest colors to prevent eye strain. Sometimes a grey backgropund color is perfectly enough.
A very intriguing tidbit which also works without reading the whol etext is often great to get attention of the raeder. Thus I most often use at least one citation in my posts. Use blockquote for this purpose.
It is not coincidence that HTML has as many as 6 headline tags, the h1 – h6. Most people do not use more than 2 of them while at least 4 make sense. h1 as headline of the page (SEO blog), h2 as the headline of the article “12 Readability Measures to Increase Conversions”, h3 could be abstract. h4 can be used for long texts as headlines for each paragraph.
6. unordered (bulleted) lists
Unordered lists using the ul-tag are a very simple means to make a text readable. Any list of items that is no longer than 6 is best fitted into a simple bulleted list.
7. ordered (numbered) lists
Nothing makes a post more readable than a numbered list. Be it a top 7, 8, 10 or top 100 list. People reading on the web rely on lists to quickly find the relevant part of a text. You notice in an instant which items you already know or do not interest you and skip them, while perusing a page and jump to those most relevant to you.
More complex data can’t be fitted into a simple list be it bulleted or numbered. Once you have to compare data you need a table with columns. tables provide a quick overview and comparison of numbers or factors. I love the our product vs the competition features tables and always stick to analyze them.
9. charts, pie charts e.g.
Humans can better grasp visual information than information hidden in a text. So whenever there are numbers, especially percentage numbers or date over time a chart is the best way to display them in a meaningful way. Pie charts are great for percentage numbers and bar graphs for data colected and compared over time.
10. images (photos)
Most main stream media employ illustrators for their feature articles. In SEO most people do not use images. Either they can’t afford illustrators or due to lack of SEO images, you just don’t see much of SEO you could photograph. Instead you can use real life stock images to illustrate your points metaphorically. Beware of SEO stock image cliches though. Nobody wants to see an ugly spider on a SEO company page or a magnifying glass like on all others.
Pagination is a method of making test readable we know from books and magazines. On the web pagination is often annoying and requires several clicks on tiny icons to see more images or read a whole text. Sometimes pagination can also result in duplicate content issues that hamper SEO efforts. On the other hand scrolling huge pages and loading them in the first place is annoying as well and makes people run away before the page is full loaded. You can connect both worlds by using CSS pagination.
Ever since CSS was introduced you do not have to stick to bold and italic anymore, you can use background colors and borders as well. A border around a large piece of tect makes it appear like a painting. This very much magnifies the importance of such a text part.
I assume most people already know that you should place a text of approx. 200 words to not be considered an empty page by Google. This number has been contested but it’s common sense that you need content to get found in most cases. Also most of these measures have a direct positive impact on search engine visibility. For instance keyword repetition in lists is regarded as natural and is not perceived as keyword stuffing like elsewhere on a page.