This guest post is by Rhys Wynne of the Winwar Media Blog.
Last month, Google launched its new Google Reading Level feature. What this does is algorithmically work out the reading level of the search results, to help users more easily decide which search results to click on.
How is it worked out?
Like everything with Google, I’m not entirely sure how Reading Level is calculated. I do know that teachers were paid to grade web pages, and an algorithm was worked out using that data.
There’s been a bit of debate in cases where examples of queries (such as the trashy UK talent show “X Factor” having an “Advanced” readership) don’t necessarily mix with the content, but I think that the following factors determine whether a piece of copy is basic:
- short sentences and paragraphs
- common, non techincal words, acronyms, and phrases (using the phrase “http” rather than “Hypertext Transfer Protocol”, for example)
- possibly even page structure—the use of headers, bullet points, and so on.
Using more technical phrases, longer sentence structure, and creative writing techniques such as hyperbole may cause your writing to be ranked as more “Advanced.”
How can you access Google’s Reading Level for your blog?
To view your blog’s reading level, go to Google’s Advanced Search (the hyperlink is located next to the search box on Google’s home page). Type your search query in the first form box—the one annotated with “all these words”—and make sure that the Reading Level drop-down box shows “annotate results with reading levels”. You should see the results for my old blog’s home page below:
Reading Level is calculated on a page-by-page basis, so if I take the page for my WP Email Capture plugin (which caters to a more technical audience), its results show as follows:
Using Reading Level to improve your blog
The ways in which you can use Reading Level to improve your blog will depends on your blog itself. Generally speaking, you want to keep it as simple as possible to make it accessible as possible—be it creative writing, a how-to post, or a sales page. Having a high basic rating is generally a good thing, but obviously you don’t want to patronize your audience by speaking to them like they’re three