Ask an SEO: The Flesch-Kincaid Score’s potential impact

Q. Does the Flesch-Kincaid score impact SEO?

This is a great question and one that was recently discussed at SES Accelerator San Diego, a new conference for SEO experts.

In short, the Flesch-Kincaid score measures how difficult it is to comprehend a piece of content. When you hear that a newspaper is written at the fourth-grade reading level, for example, that’s based on the Flesch-Kincaid score. By contrast, the Harvard Law Review is written at the university reading-level.

I think that the Flesch-Kincaid score could very well have a major impact on search engine optimization. Why? Mainly because it is easy to process a score on content using the Flesch-Kincaid algorithm. If it was possible to do it on a 435DX2 processor (look that bad boy up, it’s about as powerful as the processor in your wristwatch…if you even wear one today), then it is definitely doable on a large scale by the racks and racks of computers that collectively make up Googlebot.

In fact, I believe the Flesch-Kincaid score may be one of the core components of the early Google algorithms. This would mean that it is as important as the three pillars of SEO: popularity (number of inbound links), authority (strength of the inbound links) and relevancy (how relevant is the content to the search query).

Regardless, Google is now paying more attention than ever before on the quality of content.  Matt Cutts, the head of Google’s Webspam team, blogged on Jan. 21 that his team’s new focus is “’content farms,’ which are sites with shallow or low-quality content.”

Still, high-quality content isn’t everything. Even if your content may “score” better than your competitor’s content on the Flesch-Kincaid scale, that doesn’t mean that’s all you need to do. You will still need to make sure you are getting lots of links, quality links and relevant links from relevant pages. You will also need to do your keyword research to make sure you are using the words on your page that the right people are searching for in Google.

But just as my high school language arts teacher was impressed much more with my book reports after I made some edits to jack up my Flesch-Kincaid score, Google may be impressed as well. It’s an easy metric to monitor and an easy requirement to ask of your content creators or when writing your own blog posts.

You can be sure that I’ll do lots of research on this and will pick the brains of many of the other SEOs in the industry to get their take on it. Stay tuned for more on this topic.

Have a question about SEO? Let us know via @435Digital or in the comments below, and Brent may answer it next week.


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