In my search to find out something new on Google today I stumbled upon Reading Level. Reading Level is an interesting feature that Google debuted in late 2010.
Reading Level is a way for a searcher to filter search results to a specific reading level. Google classifies the sites on Google.com “based primarily on statistical models we built with the help of teachers. We paid teachers to classify pages for different reading levels, and then took their classifications to build a statistical model. With this model, we can compare the words on any webpage with the words in the model to classify reading levels. We also use data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are advanced.”
Reading a bit more on the subject it seems that website builders/SEO’s are unable to update Google on what level of content the website is (beginner, intermediate or advanced).
Next I did the following ten searches on Google:
- Fly fishing
- Chemistry (2)
- Oxygen bleach (1)
- dress for success
- automobile maintenance schedule
- Wolong China Panda Preserve
- Cement Producers Association
- best practices for teaching (1)
- quotes about conformity (5)
The number behind the query is the level that I found the first advanced search result in – no number indicates an advanced reading level did not appear on page one of my search query. As you can see, for the most part (90%) the uppermost ranking of SERPS appear to be reserved for beginner or intermediate users.
I wanted to be sure that I gave Google enough Advanced Results to choose from so I next did a search for process identification and mapping:
Although 93% of the results are identified as Advanced – Google chooses to show an intermediate reading level result for the first 3 SERPS.
What do you think? Do you think reading level has anything to do with SERP rankings? Do you think that Google chooses a lower reading level to be more relevant to what Google may believe most searchers are looking for or is it easier to optimize content for pages with beginner or intermediate level results? We will continue to look into this phenomenon and keep you updated.
-Barbara M. Evans