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.

A Quick Guide to Metatag Development-the Essentials of SEO

Metatags ARE a fundamental aspect of search engine optimization. Still! (even in 2009.)

There are three primary metatags that we are concerned with-as far as SEO goes- the keyword metatag, the title metatag, and the description metatag. Notice these are three separate things. They serve different functions. They also have different levels of importance to search engine optimization.
In level of importance:
1) The Title Tag
2) The Description Tag
3) The Keywords Tag

The Keywords metatag is a distant third.

The Title MetaTag
If you look across the top of your browser, you will see the Title Metatags I have filled out for this page. On the homepage of the title tag reads:
Search Engine Optimization, Pay Per Click, Adwords Consultant
These are the primary keywords for the content on this page. This is where you put your best keywords, as this has the most bearing on SEO. It is okay to separate them with a comma, or a |. The goal is to get as many important words in there as possible without overflowing off the screen.
Each page on your site should have unique title tags. Also, you do not need to put your domain or brand name in your title tag. That is wasting valuable real estate.

If you are new to SEO, and you want to fill in your Title tags, how do you choose what words to put into the title metatag field: Look at the page you are editing and look for themes, or categories or products that are unique to this page. Stick those in the title tag.
Or, if there is a special word you’d like to rank for, and you’d like this page to be the landing page, put that special keyword in the title metatag on your page.

The Description MetaTag
The description metatag is used by certain search engines (like google and yahoo) to provide a “blurb” about your site on the search results page. Sometime search engines will show you an excerpt of text from the website, but often it will show the description metatag.
This is an opportunity for the savvy marketer to write some keyword rich copy that encourages searchers to click-through to your website. So, the description metatag will never be a list of keywords separated by commas. It has to actually be a sentence.
Other considerations:
Every page on your site needs to have a unique description metatag.
It should be 2-4 sentences. Too long or too short is not optimal.
The content of the description metatag should relate to the content of the page.
Add as many keywords in the copy as possible- but keep it readable.

The Keyword Metatag
The keywords metatag is a distant third in terms of importance to SEO. Many top SEOs ignore the keyword tag because they feel it is not cost effective, from a time-management perspective, to focus here. Time would be better spent on link building or developing content.
I would not recommend spending much time researching keywords for the metatags, but I do believe they should be populated with words relative to the content on the page.
Another good use for the keyword metatags is to put frequent misspellings of your topic in list form.
If your page is on leveling in Warcraft (the videogame) a good word for the keywords metatag might be “worcraft”(sic). In this way the search engines can know you have that content, but you don’t have to show your customers ugly misspellings.

SEO Tools: Using Web Directories

One “SEO tool” or technique that can help all business owners is the use of directory submissions.

One of the primary factors in most first-tier search engines’ algorithm is external links. You want links from other sites. Preferably one-way links, but reciprocal links have value also.

There are many web-directories on the internet- both broad and specific. In fact, before Yahoo was a search engine, it was (and is) a web directory. A web directory works on a business model similar to the Yellow Pages. You submit information to the directory, the directory hosts ads, advertisers pay money to the webmasters.

Some more “enterprising” webmasters have come up with a different business model to support their web directory. Everyone values incoming links to their site because of the SEO value. What would you pay to get a link to your site from the Google homepage? Obviously Google does not sell links, but you can imagine the value to your company.

A small web directory can provide a similar value on a much smaller scale.

However, there is a problem.

This practice of buying links is against Google’s terms of service and can get your site removed from the SERPS altogether.

Of course, it is not against Google’s policy to buy advertising on a site as long as you state that you are an advertiser. You can also buy “memberships” in organizations and “receive” links.

The practice is not as black and white as it appears. However, if your business is flagged by Google, and removed from the search engines, the results will be very black and white. It is best to err on the side of caution with your business.

Here are some examples of legitimate directories I have worked with. I will try to add to the list as I find more:

Web Directory List:

seo resources
SEO Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory