The-Next-Big-Secret-SEO-Variable: Reading Level

Not only is the search algorithm a secret but it also changes. Who needs that headache?

No one outside of Google (Yahoo, MSN) knows the algorithm for calculating the Google organic SERPS. But we all give advice –and with such certainty!—about how to improve organic rankings. That makes me very uneasy…I don’t like being proved wrong. I don’t need Matt Cutts to issue a statement condemning italics after I tell all my friends and admirers that italics are the secret to high rankings.

For the most part I tell everyone the same thing: concentrate on link-building and good copy if you want to improve your SEO. Your site is not so advanced that you need to think about anything else.
Of course, no exec wants to hear this. I get hateful looks like “how dare he tell me something I could have read on Wikipedia”. They want inside information and conspiracy theories.

My friend who is a salesman always tries to remind me, “No one wants to be ‘leveled with’; make sure you wait until they give you the job to try anything silly like that. In fact, don’t ‘level with’ anyone, ever. In fact, what you need to do is hire me to do your talking for you”.

Since I enjoy work, I am going to let my readers in on The-Next-Big-Secret-SEO-Variable: Reading Level. For a couple months I have noticed that one of the search parameters in Google’s advanced search is called “Reading Level”. The user can select “Basic, Intermediate, or Advanced”. Or you can leave them mixed together.

Why Will Reading Level Matter for SEO
To be clear, right now I doubt reading level affect your SERPS, though it will soon. Answer this question: “Does Google value user-experience?” Yes. Bounce rate and page load time can negatively affect your ranking. The next question would be, “what makes for a better experience, things that are easy to read or things that are hard?” Easy things, of course.

There are many ways that this change could be implemented in the serps. Currently, you are given the choice to choose between basic, intermediate, advanced. I guarantee “advanced” won’t be the highest choice. Thus, if brilliant page ranks #1 but is written in advanced language, it may not be as valuable as something that currently ranks #10 but is written in basic language.

There are other ways the change could be implemented. Google could simply tweak the rankings of sites that are written better. By “Better” I mean “Basic”. Anyone who sat through a horrible class should understand. There is nothing inherently good about advanced language. Even if the subject is a horribly advanced subject like particle physics, basic language is best. The purpose of language is to communicate.

So How Can I Use This Knowledge to My Advantage?
I would still refer you to my first paragraph. Concentrate on links and content. You really shouldn’t be doing anything different. This is a just a way that Google showing us that I am right (I mean, that content is important). :)

If you really want to act on this info here are a couple things you can do:
1) Hire a better copywriter.
2) Write shorter sentences.
3) Writer shorter paragraphs.
4) Use shorter words.

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