Increasing your conversion rate by writing for an 8th grade reading level . . .

To increase your conversion rate write your ad-copy for readers at an 8th grade level reading proficiency.


In 2003 the US Department of Education conducted a large scale assessment of adult reading proficiency – and concluded that the “average” American reads at a 7th or 8th grade level.

Consistently writing your ad-copy to meet this criteria will help with your landing page optimization efforts, as supported by  hundreds of our own tests, and there are simple formulas to help you stay on track.

Our favorite test is the “Gunning Fog” method – the formula is a good primer for keeping your writing simple:

Gunning Fog Method - Saved from WikiPedia

Run that formula against your ad-copy and the resulting number will tell you roughly how many years of education a reader will need to achieve full comprehension of the text.

While Gunning Fog has its fair share of critics, when we average under 9 points we see better conversions, and the equation is useful as a measuring stick and a good rule of thumb as you work on your website optimization.

Many free tools exist to help you check the comprehension level and no doubt your resident LAMP expert could build you something quickly for your internal toolsets with the wikipedia blueprints.

UPDATE – Click here to test your website with our online readability tool!

Incidentally the FOG index for this article rates in at an 11.94 – talk about not eating your own dog food!

PS – An interesting exercise is to compare similar news articles between “intellectual” and “mainstream” publications. Try finding a story at and comparing it to a similar topic at or

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12 thoughts on “Increasing your conversion rate by writing for an 8th grade reading level . . .

  1. I think you should target your contents reading level to your key demographic. Because you wouldn’t want to write at an 8th grade level if
    you’re selling items for high Ed professors.

  2. It’s built into Google Docs. You can paste in the text, then choose Tools > Word Count…

  3. Michael, you’re right, definitely consider your market. If you marketing to 6 year olds, 8th grade would be too high too. 🙂 However, as we ALWAYS say: test, Test, TEST, you might be surprised. Maybe another way of discussing the post is to say “use conversational language in your copy”…

  4. Very nice post, been thinking on this idea quite a bit before. I use it when talking tech to non-techies, treat them like they are a child basically.

    A point worth also mentioning is how many different words are used in newspapers. The tabloids use far less then the broadsheets due to the reading level of their reader ship.

  5. Most of our landing page copy is well below the fold and under all of our products (rarely looked at), but it has to be adult-reader in tone just in case anyone does, as our demographic would probably take exception to aiming it at 8th graders. Plus, using a wider vocabulary and more complex (but still plain speaking) sentence structure gives you wider scope to keep the content varied whilst still being relevant over a greater number of pages.

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