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By Nick Wakeman

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Nick Wakeman

What you should learn from a ranking of the best contractor websites

There are a lot of different ways to rank government contractors – prime dollars, number of employees, market valuation, etc.

But for Visible Thread there is only one way to rank them – let your software crawl their websites and analyze them for readability, passive language, long sentences and word complexity density.

Visible Thread is in the business of analyzing content for the ease with which a reader can navigate it. Its software is used to improve clarity and usefulness of the content. Last year we wrote a piece about problems they found with government RFPs. There was plenty.

Now they’ve turned their attention to the websites of government contractors. They evaluate the websites of 95 of the largest government contracts in a new report.

As I read the report, I realized it would be too simple and miss the point to simply say CDW-G had the No. 1 ranked webpage and General Atomics had the 95th ranked page.

CDW-G scored great in the readability factor and that it had a minimal amount of long sentences (7 percent of its sentences were considered long). It ranked No. 2 in those categories but it ranked 16 in the use of passive voice and 60 in complexity. It was dinged for its usage of jargon.

Visible Thread set levels of success for each of the four factors they evaluated and gave companies a color: Green for doing better than the measure; Amber for being at or near the target and Red for significantly falling short.

Interestingly, CDW-G was on amber for all four measures. The No. 2 ranked company was Dell and they were red for readability.

Interestingly, STG Inc. was ranked No. 25 overall but had the top ranking for both readability and passive voice. Their their website had no passive voice, according to Visible Threads.

But what hurt STG is that they ranked at the bottom for the length of their sentences, so they were red for that one. They were right in the middle for the complexity of their writing.

The value of the Visible Thread report isn’t the rankings themselves but how it points to the need across the board for companies improve the clarity of their content.

A few key takeaways:

  • Too many websites make visitors work too hard to wade through their content with overly complex writing.
  • Clarity can be improved by focusing on a few key areas. For example, if you are weak on passive voice, focus on that.
  • Your website reflects your brand and while you are a technology company and you need to use technical terms you can still write with clarity.

The Visible Thread report goes into greater detail about its methodology and what each factor means. The report is relatively short and worth a read, no matter where your company might fall.

Company websites serve many readers – current employees, prospective employees, current customers and future customers. Often it is the first place people go to learn about you so it makes a first impression.

And as grandma used to say, you only get one chance to make a first impression.

Posted by Nick Wakeman on Mar 13, 2017 at 1:44 PM

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