First Look

VisibleThread Clarity Grader: Improving your online content

document edit
Credit: Nic McPhee / Flickr

Good content means better user engagement but without tools to help you, polishing the text on a large site for maximum impact can be a nightmare


One of the problems with producing online content is polishing it to meet the expectations and needs of your audience. I’m not talking about the topics you cover but rather issues such as readability (how complex the text is), consistency of terms (whether your company and product names are used as intended), and how you compare to the competition. This is where a service called Clarity Grader published by VisibleThread could be of great assistance.

VisibleThread’s Clarity Grader is a derivative of the company’s VisibleThread for Docs document checking technology designed for proofing of sales proposals and bids:

Run a compliance scan on the solicitation. We check for all instances of ‘will’, ‘must’, ‘shall’ in any docs including, SOWs and large RFPs. With one-click, you can generate a first pass starter Excel Compliance Matrix. This shreds all content, not just the occurrences of will and shall. / With ‘Concept Tracking’, VisibleThread allows you setup your core competencies in a dictionary. You then scan for these indicators across multiple solicitation PDFs or MS Word docs. You can scan SOWS (Statements of Work), PWS (Performance Work Statements), TOs (Task Orders) right up to large RFPs in minutes.

The software also goes a lot deeper into the content including poor language use analysis, “win theme” checks, supporting team reviews of documents, and readability analysis. The online service uses the latter feature with a Web interface to scan sites and create reports for both your own content and that of your competitors.

I signed up for a demo account which allows you to run a short scan that analyzes ten pages from a target site and reports on the worst five. My test site was and not only are the results displayed online, they’re also emailed in a PDF report. Here’s VisibleThread’s summary of the site:

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I suspect that given the technical nature of Network World’s content the language is bound to be more complex than, say, a food or political news site so, consequently, a generally higher reading level is required. Some tweaking of the rules and terms (such as not flagging “virtualization” as a long word) would be also needed. The next section of the report covers content breakdown by page with the most difficult pages listed first:

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And, finally, there’s a detailed page by page analysis:

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Clarity Grader’s “Marketing Agency” service, which provides clarity scoring, spell checking, and broken link detection for up to 100 pages per scan, one user, and unlimited domains, is priced at $165 per month while “Small/Medium Business”, which adds good and bad language consistency checking for up to 500 pages per scan with three users, and a maximum of five domains, costs $375 per month. The “Corporate / Government” service, which adds MS Word and PDF document analysis, is priced is on application.

This is a fascinating and potentially very valuable tool for improving the quality of your online content but for sites where there’s a rapid content turnover it might be hard to use Clarity Grader to polish articles given the tight time constraints. On the other hand, in an agency working with a number of clients or a site with more “durable” content, Clarity Grader could be invaluable; the trick to getting a real ROI from the system would to develop a workflow and maintain consistent use.

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