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An SEO Guide to URL Parameter Handling

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An SEO Guide to URL Parameter Handling


While parameters are loved by developers and analytics aficionados, they are often an SEO nightmare. Endless combinations of parameters can create thousands of URL variations out of the same content.

The problem is we can’t simply wish parameters away. They play an important role in a website’s user experience. So we need to understand how to handle them in an SEO-friendly way.

To do so we explore:

What Are URL Parameters?

url parameter elements

Also known by the aliases of query strings or URL variables, parameters are the portion of a URL that follows a question mark. They are comprised of a key and a value pair, separated by an equal sign. Multiple parameters can be added to a single page by using an ampersand.

The most common use cases for parameters are:

  • Tracking – For example ?utm_medium=social, ?sessionid=123 or ?affiliateid=abc
  • Reordering – For example ?sort=lowest-price, ?order=highest-rated or ?so=newest
  • Filtering – For example ?type=widget, colour=blue or ?price-range=20-50
  • Identifying – For example ?product=small-blue-widget, categoryid=124 or itemid=24AU
  • Paginating – For example, ?page=2, ?p=2 or viewItems=10-30
  • Searching – For example, ?query=users-query, ?q=users-query or ?search=drop-down-option
  • Translating – For example, ?lang=fr, ?language=de or

SEO Issues with URL Parameters

1. Parameters Create Duplicate Content

Often, URL parameters make no significant change to the content of a page. A re-ordered version of the page is often not so different from the original. A page URL with tracking tags or a session ID is identical to the original.

For example, the following URLs would all return collection of widgets.

  • Static URL: https://www.example.com/widgets
  • Tracking parameter: https://www.example.com/widgets?sessionID=32764
  • Reordering parameter: https://www.example.com/widgets?sort=newest
  • Identifying parameter: https://www.example.com?category=widgets
  • Searching parameter: https://www.example.com/products?search=widget

That’s quite a few URLs for what is effectively the same content – now imagine this over every category on your site. It can really add up.

The challenge is that search engines treat every parameter based URL is a new page. So they see multiple variations of the same page. All serving duplicate content and all targeting the same keyword phrase or semantic topic.

While such duplication is unlikely to cause you to be completely filtered out of the search results, it does lead to keyword cannibalization and could downgrade Google’s view of your overall site quality as these additional URLs add no real value.

2. Parameters Waste Crawl Budget

Crawling redundant parameter pages drains crawl budget, reducing your site’s ability to index SEO relevant pages and increasing server load.

Google sums up this point perfectly.

“Overly complex URLs, especially those containing multiple parameters, can cause a problems for crawlers by creating unnecessarily high numbers of URLs that point to identical or similar content on your site. As a result, Googlebot may consume much more bandwidth than necessary, or may be unable to completely index all the content on your site.”

3. Parameters Split Page Ranking Signals

If you have multiple permutations of the same page content, links and social shares may be coming in on various versions.

This dilutes your ranking signals. When you confuse a crawler, it becomes unsure which of the competing pages to index for the search query.

4. Parameters Make URLs Less Clickable

parameter based url clickability

Let’s face it. Parameter URLs are unsightly. They’re hard to read. They don’t seem as trustworthy. As such, they are less likely to be clicked.

This will impact page performance. Not only because CTR can influence rankings, but also because it’s less clickable on social media, in emails, when copy pasted into forums or anywhere else the full URL may be displayed.

While this may only have a fractional impact on a single page’s amplification, every tweet, like, share, email, link, and mention matters for the domain.

Poor URL readability could contribute to a decrease in brand engagement.

Assess the Extent of Your Parameter Problem

It’s important to know every parameter used on your website. But chances are your developers don’t keep an up to date list.

So how do you find all the parameter that need handling? Or understand how search engines crawl and index such pages? Know the value they bring to users?

Follow these five steps:

  • Run a crawler: With a tool like Screaming Frog you can search for “?” in the URL.
  • Look in Google Search Console URL Parameters Tool: Google auto-adds the query strings it finds.
  • Review your log files: See if Googlebot is crawling parameter based URLs.
  • Search with site: inurl: advanced operators: Know how Google is indexing the parameters you found by putting the key in a site:example.com inurl:key combination query.
  • Look in Google Analytics All Pages report: Search for “?” to see how each of the parameters you found are used by users. Be sure to check that URL query parameters have not been excluded in the view setting.

Armed with this data, you can now decide how to best handle each of your website’s parameters.

SEO Solutions to Tame URL Parameters

You have six tools in your SEO arsenal to deal with URL parameters on a strategic level.

Limit Parameter-Based URLs

A simple review of how and why parameters are generated can provide an SEO quick win. You will often find ways to reduce the number of parameter URLs and so minimize the negative SEO impact. There are four common issues to begin your review.

1. Eliminate Unnecessary Parameters

remove unnecessary parameters

Ask you developer for a list of every website parameters and its function. Chances are, you will discover parameters that no longer perform a valuable function.

For example, users can be better identified by cookies than sessionIDs. Yet the sessionID parameter may still exist on your website as it was used historically.

Or you may discover that a filter in your faceted navigation is rarely applied by your users.

Any parameters caused by technical debt should be immediately eliminated.

2. Prevent Empty Values

no empty parameter values

URL parameters should be added to a URL only when they have a function. Don’t permit parameter keys to be added if the value is blank.

In the above example, key2 and key3 add no value both literally and figuratively.

3. Use Keys Only Once

single key usage

Avoid applying multiple parameters with the same parameter name and a different value.

For multi-select option, it is better to combine the values together after a single key.

4. Order URL Parameters

order url parameters

If the same URL parameter are rearranged, the pages are interpreted by search engines as equal. As such, parameter order doesn’t matter from a duplicate content perspective. But each of those combinations burn crawl budget and split ranking signals.

Avoid these issues by asking your developer to write a script to always place parameters in a consistent order, regardless of how the user selected them.

In my opinion, you should start with any translating parameters, followed by identifying, then pagination, then layering on filtering and reordering or search parameters and finally tracking.

Pros:

  • Allows more efficient use of crawl budget.
  • Reduces duplicate content issues.
  • Consolidates ranking signals to fewer pages.
  • Suitable for all parameter types.

Cons:

  • Moderate technical implementation time

Rel=”Canonical” Link Attribute

rel=canonical for parameter handling

The rel=”canonical” link attribute calls out that a page has identical or similar content to another. This encourages search engines to consolidate the ranking signals to the URL specified as canonical.

You can rel=canonical your parameter based URLs to your SEO-friendly URL for tracking, identifying or reordering parameters. But this tactic is not suitable when the parameter page content is not close enough to the canonical, such as pagination, searching, translating or some filtering parameters.

Pros:

  • Relatively easy technical implementation.
  • Very likely to safeguard against duplicate content issues.
  • Consolidates ranking signals to the canonical URL.

Cons:

  • Wastes crawl budget on parameter pages.
  • Not suitable for all parameter types.
  • Interpreted by search engines as a strong hint, not a directive.

Meta Robots Noindex Tag

meta robots noidex tag for parameter handling

Set a noindex directive for any parameter based page that doesn’t add SEO value. This tag will prevent search engines from indexing the page.

URLs with a “noindex” tag are also likely to be crawled less frequently and if it’s present for a long time will eventually lead Google to nofollow the page’s links.

Pros:

  • Relatively easy technical implementation.
  • Very likely to safeguard against duplicate content issues.
  • Suitable for all parameter types you do not wish to be indexed.
  • Removes existing parameter-based URLs from the index.

Cons:

  • Won’t prevent search engines from crawling URLs, but will encourage them to do so less frequently.
  • Doesn’t consolidate ranking signals.
  • Interpreted by search engines as a strong hint, not a directive.

Robots.txt Disallow

robots txt disallow for parameter handling

The robots.txt file is what search engines look at first before crawling your site. If they see something is disallowed, they won’t even go there.

You can use this file to block crawler access to every parameter based URL (with Disallow: /*?*) or only to specific query strings you don’t want to be indexed.

Pros:

  • Simple technical implementation.
  • Allows more efficient use of crawl budget.
  • Avoids duplicate content issues.
  • Suitable for all parameter types you do not wish to be crawled.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t consolidate ranking signals.
  • Doesn’t remove existing URLs from the index.

URL Parameter Tool in Google Search Console

GSC URL parameter handling

Configure the Google’s URL parameter tool to tell crawlers the purpose of your parameters and how you would like them to be handled.

Google Search Console has a warning message that using the tool “could result in many pages disappearing from a search.”

This may sound ominous. But what’s more menacing is thousands of duplicate pages hurting your website’s ability to rank.

So it’s best to learn how to configure URL parameters in Google Search Console, rather than letting Googlebot decide.

The key is to ask yourself how the parameter impacts the page content.

  • Tracking parameters don’t change page content. Configure them as “representative URLs”.
  • Configure parameters that reorder page content as “sorts”. If this is optionally added by the user, set crawl to “No URLs”. If a sort parameter it is applied by default, use “Only URLs with value”, entering the default value.
  • Configure parameters that filter page down to a subset of content as “narrows”. If these filters are not SEO relevant, set crawl to “No URLs”. If they are SEO relevant set to “Every URL”.
  • Configure parameters that shows a certain piece or group of content as “specifies”. Ideally, this should be static URL. If not possible, you will likely want to set this to “Every URL”.
  • Configure parameters that display a translated version of the content as “translates”. Ideally, translation should be achieved via subfolders. If not possible, you will likely want to set this to “Every URL”.
  • Configuration parameters that display a component page of a longer sequence as “paginates”. If you have achieved efficient indexation with XML sitemaps, you can save crawl budget and set crawl to “No URL”. If not, set to “Every URL” to help crawlers to reach all of the items.

Google will automatically add parameters to the list under the default “Let Googlebot decide”. The challenge is, these can never be removed, even if the parameter no longer exists. So whenever possible, it’s best to proactively add parameters yourself. So that if at any point that parameter no longer exists, you may delete it from GSC.

For any parameter you set in Google Search Console to “No URL”, you should also consider adding it in Bing’s ignore URL parameters tool.

Pros:

  • No developer time needed.
  • Allows more efficient use of crawl budget.
  • Likely to safeguard against duplicate content issues.
  • Suitable for all parameter types.

Cons:

  • Doesn’t consolidate ranking signals.
  • Interpreted by Google as a helpful hint, not a directive.
  • Only works for Google and with lesser control for Bing.

Move From Dynamic to Static URLs

Many people think the optimal way to handle URL parameters is simply avoid them in the first place. After all, subfolders surpass parameters to help Google understand site structure and static, keyword based URLs have always been a cornerstone of on-page SEO.

To achieve this, you can use server-side URL rewrites to convert parameters into subfolder URLs.

For example, the URL:

www.example.com/view-product?id=482794

Would become:

www.example.com/widgets/blue

This approach works well for descriptive keyword based parameters, such as those which identify categories, products, or filter for search engine relevant attributes. It is also effective for translated content.

But it becomes problematic for non-keyword relevant elements of faceted navigation, such as price. Having such a filter as a static, indexable URL offers no SEO value.

It’s also an issue for searching parameters, as every user generated query would create a static page that vies for ranking against the canonical – or worse presents to crawlers low quality content pages whenever a user has searched for a item you don’t offer.

It’s somewhat odd when applied to pagination (although not uncommon due to WordPress), which would give a URL such as

www.example.com/widgets/blue/page2

Very odd for reordering, which would give a URL such as

www.example.com/widgets/blue/lowest-price

And is often not a viable option for tracking. Google Analytics will not acknowledge a static version of UTM parameter.

More to the point, by replacing dynamic parameters with static URLs for things like pagination, onsite search box results or sorting does not address duplicate content, crawl budget or internal link equity dilution.

And having all the combinations of filters from your faceted navigation as indexable URLs often results in thin content issues. Especially if you offer multi-select filters.

Many SEO pros argue it’s possible to provide the same user experience without impacting the URL. For example, by using POST rather than GET requests to modify the page content. Thus, preserving the user experience and avoiding the SEO problems.

But stripping out parameters in this manner would remove the possibility for your audience to bookmark or share a link to that specific page. And if obviously not feasible for tracking parameters and not optimal for pagination.

The crux of the matter is that for many websites, completing avoiding parameters is simply not possible if you want to provide the ideal user experience. Nor would it be best practice SEO.

So we are left with this. For parameters that you don’t want to be indexed in search results (paginating, reordering, tracking, etc) implement as query strings. For parameters that you do want to be indexed, use static URL paths.

Pros:

  • Shifts crawler focus from parameter based to static URLs which have a higher likelihood to rank.

Cons:

  • Significant investment of development time for URL rewrites and 301 redirects.
  • Doesn’t prevent duplicate content issues.
  • Doesn’t consolidate ranking signals.
  • Not suitable for all parameter types.
  • May lead to thin content issues.
  • Doesn’t always provide a linkable or bookmarkable URL.

Best Practice URL Parameter Handling for SEO

So which of these six SEO tactics should you implement?

The answer can’t be all of them.

Not only would that create unnecessary complexity. But often the SEO solutions actively conflict with one another.

For example, if you implement robots.txt disallow, Google would not be able to see any meta noindex tag. You also shouldn’t combine a meta noindex tag with a rel=canonical link attribute.

What becomes clear is there is no one perfect solution.

Even Google’s John Mueller can’t decide on an approach. In a Google Webmaster hangout, he initially recommended against disallowing parameters, but when questioned on this from a faceted navigation perspective, answered “it depends.”

There are occasions when crawling efficiency is more important than consolidating authority signals.

Ultimately, what’s right for your website will depend on your priorities.

url parameter handling option pros and cons

Personally, I don’t use noindex or block access to parameter pages. If Google can’t crawl and understand all the URL variables, it can’t consolidate the ranking signals to the canonical page.

I take the following plan of attack for SEO-friendly parameter handling:

  • Do keyword research to understand what parameters should be search engine friendly, static URLs.
  • Implement correct pagination handling with rel=”next & rel=”prev”.
  • For all remaining parameter based URLs, implement consistent ordering rules, which use keys only once and prevent empty values to limit the number of URLs.
  • Add a rel=canonical link attribute to suitable parameter pages to combine ranking ability.
  • Configure URL parameter handling in both Google and Bing as a failsafe to help search engines understand each parameter’s function.
  • Double check no parameter based URLs are being submitted in the XML sitemap.

No matter what parameter handling strategy you choose to implement, be sure to document the impact of your efforts on KPIs.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Featured Image: Created by author, January 2019
In-Post Images/Screenshots: Created/Taken by author, January 2019

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WordPress’ Parent Company Acquires Tumblr for Shockingly Low Sum

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WordPress’ Parent Company Acquires Tumblr for Shockingly Low Sum


Automattic Inc., owner of WordPress.com, has acquired Tumblr for what is reported to be very low sum.

The Wall Street Journal reported that Tumblr was acquired for an “undisclosed sum,” however, it was soon revealed the sum was “well below” $10 million.

Dan Primack, business editor at Axios, broke the news about the acquisition price. He tweeted an update after publishing the story, saying the sum is actually below $3 million.

To put this in perspective, Yahoo acquired Tumblr for $1.1 billion in 2013. Yahoo later wrote down Tumblr’s value by $230 million in 2016 after it failed to generate significant revenue.

In 2017, Verizon gained ownership of Tumblr through its acquisition of Yahoo. Now, Verizon is reportedly selling Tumblr for a fraction of what it was valued at 5 years ago.

Despite what is considered to be a low sum, the acquisition of Tumblr is largest ever for Automattic in terms of price and head count.

As part of the acquisition, Automattic will take on Tumblr’s 200 staffers, so no one will be losing their job.

Another thing that will stay in place is Tumblr’s controversial porn ban. Matt Mullenweg, chief executive of Automattic, tells WSJ: “We’re not going to change any of that.”

Going forward, Mullenweg says that executives will look for ways to share services and functionality between WordPress.com and Tumblr.

In the meantime it sounds as though there will be no immediate changes to either service.



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101 Easy (& Cheap) Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website

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101 Easy (& Cheap) Ways to Drive Traffic to Your Website


In the modern-day landscape of saturated online content, it’s no longer enough to just build your site and wait for people to visit it.

You must be proactive at promoting your site and your brand online.

Admittedly, this is much easier said than done, especially because not everyone has the financial capability to throw into paid ad campaigns and corporate sponsorships.

The good news?

There are several things you can do to promote and drive traffic to your website, all without having to spend hundreds of dollars.

To help you do just that, here’s a list of 101 tactics you can try, grouped by strategy.

Search Engine Optimization (SEO) & Link Building

1. Find the core keywords that match your website’s goals, your industry, and offering.

2. Optimize your website and all of your on-page content for search engines.

3. Focus on Google, but add peripheral search engines like Bing, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGo, to your list.

4. Claim your Google My Business listing.

Google My Business

5. Submit your site to online directories like Yelp, Annie’s List, and TripAdvisor, among others

6. Scour Q&A sites like Quora and look for relevant questions you can create content about.

7. Optimize content with relevant keywords, particularly long-tail keywords signaling intent

8. Get news websites to cover your business and link to your site.

9. Invest time in blogger outreach to see which influencers and industry thought leaders you can reach out and link to your site.

10. Join relevant online discussions on sites like Quora and Reddit.

11. Monitor Google Trends for keyword ideas and trending topics you can write about.

12. Write killer headlines that grab people’s attention and encourage them to click on your article links.

13. Link internally so other pages in your site get attention and a bump in traffic.

14. Make sure your website is optimized for mobile to increase your mobile search rankings.

15. Optimize your site for local search, that means including your city or state in your target keywords.

16. Consider using remarketing on Google Ads for brief periods to drive traffic and sales on your site.

17. Use HARO to look for opportunities to appear on roundups, similar to the one below.

Roundup Link Building

18. Optimize images on your website with alt tags to improve their discoverability on Google Images.

19. Optimize your meta descriptions and title tags so they’re easy to read and aren’t truncated in the search engine results pages.

20. Add your local address to the footer of every page on your site to make sure local searchers find you.

21. Improve your website’s page speeds by following Google’s guidelines and recommendations.

22. Use rich snippets to make your entry on the search engine results pages more clickable.

Content Marketing

23. Start a blog if you haven’t already.

24. Create content that’s useful, valuable, and shareable.

25. Create free and paid resources such as case studies, reports, survey findings, etc.

26. Look for guest posting opportunities to get high-authority blogs to link to your site.

27. Create infographics that feature a roundup of industry statistics to increase their likelihood of going viral.

28. Start a regular content series, such as “Did You Know?” or a “Tip of the Day” that your audience can look forward to.

29. Update your blog regularly to get a boost in rankings and traffic.

30. Interview industry leaders and feature the conversation on your blog or YouTube channel.

31. Host a webinar or podcast about topics you’re passionate about and align with your business.

32. Create e-brochures that your audience can share, with links to your site and blog.

33. Invest in video content and upload your videos to YouTube.

The State of Video Marketing in 2019 [New Data]

34. Write an online/offline column for your local paper, magazine, or community website.

35. Create a press kit you can share with influencers, bloggers, and even other businesses.

36. Comment on other blogs relevant to your industry.

37. Launch a free ebook to generate interest in your brand. Offer it as a free download for users who sign up for your newsletter.

38. Start a blog on Tumblr. This is a great content platform, especially if you have a young audience.

39. Have a healthy mix of evergreen content and trending content to increase your website’s discoverability, particularly on search engines.

Social Media

40. Promote your content on social media channels.

41. Obviously, you want to go big on Facebook. Create a page there if you haven’t already.

42. Join discussions on Facebook Groups to generate visibility.

43. Leverage social media contests on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to drive traffic to your website.

44. If it’s relevant to your audience, create an online presence on Snapchat and Pinterest.

45. Use Pinterest to upload high-quality images of your products.

46. Use relevant trending hashtags on Twitter to drive users to your site.

47. Try promoted tweets to fast-track traffic to your site.

48. Start an Instagram account and make sure your bio is filled features your website URL.

49. Use Facebook and Instagram Stories to engage your audience and raise brand awareness.

50. Let your employees control your Stories for a day. This will encourage them to share your social media account (and website) with their personal network.

51. Start an official YouTube channel. Use it to share videos of your brand, your products, and services.

52. Use Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram ads at short bursts to boost traffic to your site.

53. Leave comments on other social media pages.

54. Link your official social media channels with one another. Make sure all pages/profiles have a URL to your website.

55. Take advantage of Facebook and Instagram’s live streaming platforms. This will give you a chance to show your brand’s personality and encourage website visits.

56. If you serve a B2B market, double down on LinkedIn. According to a report, 63% of marketers rated LinkedIn as the most effective B2B social media platform.

Top B2B Social Media Platforms

57. Use SlideShare to create your own high-quality slideshows. Optimize your slideshow for keywords and add your website URL to the final or beginning slide.

Offline Marketing

58. Participate in events and talk about the event experience in your blog.

59. Collaborate with local academic institutions to get your brand’s name out in the world of academia.

60. Look for public speaking engagements in your industry.

61. Add QR codes to your print collateral (e.g., posters, post cards, flyers) to drive people to your site.

62. Design beautiful business cards and add a QR code directing people to your site, lead form, or social platforms.

63. Support local organizations to ensure your community knows your brand and site.

64. Place stickers and/or decals on your personal or company cars to promote your website.

65. If you have the budget, pay for local ad placements in your newspaper, benches, sporting events.

66. Organize events such as concerts, poetry nights, garage sales, flea markets, and workshops.

67. Make sure your website URL is visible on company merchandise.

68. Send direct mail and place your URL on letters.

69. Include your website URL on company uniforms

70. Look for free press release opportunities on magazines and newspapers

71. Add your website URL to office signs.

72. Join networking events in your city or out of state.

73. Take advantage of classified ads in your local paper.

74. Support a local charity by sponsoring a fun run or donating part of your proceeds to a cause.

75. Contact your local news station to submit yourself as an expert in your field or industry resource.

76. Join your local Chamber of Commerce or other business groups.

77. Appear on a local radio program as a resource guest, which will let you promote your site as well.

Sales Promotions

78. Entice customers with an exclusive deal that can be redeemed on your store. According to one study, 57% of shoppers are motivated by coupons to make first-time purchases.

79. Offer free gifts to in-store customers and add material to promote your site.

80. Start a loyalty program requiring users to fill out a form on your website.

81. Offer freebies that can be redeemed on your site after shoppers make in-store purchases.

82. Start a referral network and encourage users to refer your website to their friends in exchange for discounts/deals.

83. Send thank you cards or emails to your in-store customers, placing a URL to your site.

84. Take advantage of seasonal offers (e.g., Christmas, Thanksgiving, Halloween) to increase your likelihood of being found during these occasions.

General Marketing

85. Remember to market your website across all online channels you own — social media, newsletter, blog.

86. Create an official email signature with your website in it (and most recent blog post if applicable).

87. Don’t neglect email marketing. Start a newsletter and incentivize signups with offers and discounts.

88. Encourage customers to leave reviews on your social media pages and website.

89. Take advantage of user-generated content through contests or competitions. Have users submit entries to your website.

90. If your website has been around for a while, consider a redesign to drum up interest when relaunching it.

91. Add social buttons to your blog content and landing pages to make sharing easy.

92. When looking for influencers, look for those who are relevant to your brand and have an engaged audience. The number of followers isn’t a reliable metric for an influencer’s influence.

93. Educate your audience instead of selling to them.

94. Talk and listen to your customers about what they want from your brand. Use this information to improve products and/or create content.

95. Sell yourself and your site wherever you go. You are your greatest ambassador.

96. Use strong calls-to-action in your social media posts and blog content to drive audiences to your website.

97. Look for opportunities to appear on other people’s podcasts or webinars.

98. Make sure your website looks great on all devices to maximize its discoverability.

99. Make sure your internal stakeholders are encouraged to spread the word about your brand and website.

100. Pay attention to what your competitors are doing on their website and do something they aren’t so you stand out.

101. Want visits? Ask for them online and offline from the people you meet every day.

Over to You

This list of tactics only scratches the surface of what you can do to promote your website.

Nevertheless, these tricks should get you off to a good start.

More Resources:


Image Credits

Screenshots taken by author, August 2019
In-post Image #1: HubSpot
In-post Image #2: Content Marketing Institute



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10 Best Readability Tools to Check Your SEO Content

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10 Best Readability Tools to Check Your SEO Content


Content strategy is a science and every detail matters.

Those details include:

  • The reading level of the content.
  • Word count (especially in relation to top-ranking content).
  • Format and correct use of subheaders.
  • Keyword distribution.
  • Use of phrases related to the keyword.
  • Grammar.
  • Sentence structure.

In fact, details like these can mean the difference between a No. 1 ranking (or answer box!) vs. content that doesn’t even make it on Page 1 of the search results.

Competitive content writers will use every tool at their disposal as they create content.

That’s why we’ve rounded up the 10 best content writing tools for SEO that specifically help you improve readability.

Add your keyword phrase (and related keywords if you like), and the SEO Writing Assistant will give you an aggregate score based on factors including:

  • Readability
  • Number of hard-to-read sentences
  • Long words
  • Word count and reading time (compared to top-ranking content)
  • Tone of voice

Notably, with the SEO Writing Assistant is the one tool on this list where you can set the preferred readability level you’d like your content to have.

You can customize the tone of voice you’d like your content to have, ranging from casual to formal, and check whether any content in the document is plagiarized.

It will also show related questions you should consider posing/answering within the content.

Personally, my favorite aspect of the SEO Writing Assistant is the recommended keywords – the tool will automatically show about 20 phrases that are present in the top-ranking comment.

Yoast is a free WordPress plugin that many digital marketers use to check the basic SEO of their content, but it can also give you a content readability score.

Within the content readability score, you’ll find a report that breaks down:

  • Flesch reading ease
  • Use of passive voice vs. active voice
  • Subheading distribution
  • Variety of sentence structure
  • Paragraph length
  • Sentence length
  • Use of transition words

Like most of the tools on this list, the Content Experience provides scores pertaining to your content’s word count, sentence structure, keyword coverage, phrase repetition, etc. based on your keyword target.

This is one of the more robust content marketing tools on this list, and provides insights into user intent, keyword selection, and even the best time of year to publish a piece of content.

As the name suggests, the Readability Tool focuses primarily on the readability of your content.

You can input content you’re working on directly into the tool, or you can use a URL for content that already exits (yours or your competitors).

The report will give not one but six readability scores, including:

  • Flesch reading ease.
  • Flesch-Kincaid grade level.
  • Gunning Fog Score.
  • SMOG Index.
  • Coleman-Liau Index score.
  • The Automated Readability Index score.

It will also show you:

  • The number of sentences
  • Number of words
  • Number of complex words
  • Percent of complex words
  • Average words per sentence
  • Average syllables per word

With the Text Optimizer, you can pop in a webpage and this content readability tool will check the health of your content.

If you’re new to SEO or content strategy, this is a good tool to start with, given that no technical knowledge is required to wield this tool and create great content.

In addition to assessing your content’s word count, sentence length and verb use, this tool will give you suggestions of words to add to your content and words to remove from your content to increase your potential to rank.

According to Text Optimizer, 70% of their users achieve better SEO rankings within five weeks after using the tool.

This content readability tool focuses solely on reading level and gives your content a readability score based on

Not only will it give your entire content a score, but it will also score your content’s individual content.

If writing is not your strong suit, Grammarly is a game-changer.

This tool focuses on the mechanics of writing rather than the science of SEO content – nonetheless, it’s incredibly valuable and belongs on this list.

Poorly written content equates to poor user experience (and high-quality content should be written with the search engines and the user in mind).

Grammarly will address issues in grammar and spelling, but also in tone and structure.

It will flag overly complex sentences and keep an eye out for clarity and conciseness.

You can also set a goal for the content your writing so Grammarly can tailor its recommendations to your project.

Goals are aligned by the type of your content.

You can choose from academic, business, technical, creative, and casual. For most web content, you’ll probably want to choose business.

When working on a piece of business content, Grammarly will flag any use of the passive voice and misuse of pronouns, but allow for some use of informality.

Not only can you use Grammarly for blog posts, site content, and articles, but you can also use it for emails, messages, and social media posts.

Similarly, the free Hemingway app helps you improve the mechanics of your writing.

Copy your content into Hemingway’s desktop app and it will show:

  • The readability of your content by grade level
  • Opportunities to use more concise language
  • Overuse of adverbs
  • Use of passive voice
  • Sentences that are hard to read
  • Places where a simpler phrase could be used
  • Word count and character count
  • The average length of time to read the content

Sometimes content readability isn’t an issue of keyword distribution or poor grammar.

Sometimes, you just may have wild, out-of-hand formatting that needs to be dealt with.

As the name suggests, Bulk SEO Tools will help you take care of formatting issues (that impact readability) in bulk.

Let’s say, for example, your entire text or large portions of your text are in all uppercase.

You can input that text into Bulk SEO Tool’s case converter and switch the case to sentence case, capitalized case, lower case, title case, etc.

Bulk SEO Tools also has text tools to quickly remove any duplicate lines, add or remove line breaks, and even add prefixes or suffixes if you’re working with a list.

You know what else can hurt readability (at least from a user perspective)?

Clichés.

No one likes a cliché – they’ll make your writing seem contrived and contrite.

This free tool will highlight any clichés in your text in red so you can swap that out for a sentence that’s more meaningful.

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