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Google Search Feature: Reading Level

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Google recently moved the powerful search feature Reading Level from the Advanced Search section to the Sidebar, making it more accessible to users.

So what is it, exactly? Reading Level allows you to break down the search results for a particular search query into three categories: Basic, Intermediate and Advanced. It also shows you the percentage of results that are allocated to each category. 

From here, you’re able to drill down further by clicking on any of three tiers and noting what websites fall into each category. It’s great way to see the quality of content Google has available on your chosen search subject.

You can also perform a ‘site:’ search by searching site:yourdomain.com.au, thereby getting an understanding of how your content fares in Google’s eyes – and also how your competitors are doing.

As we can see in the below example, 71% of content on the E-Web Marketing website is judged as Intermediate.

Now you might be wondering … how does all of this work? From Daniel M. Russell, a Search Guru over at Google:

“So… what’s “Basic” versus “Intermediate” versus “Advanced”?

The reading-level is 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 model of the intrinsic complexity of the text. With this model, we can [view] any webpage with the model to classify reading levels. We also used data from Google Scholar, since most of the articles in Scholar are considered advanced.

So the breakdown isn’t grade- or age-specific, but reflects the judgments of teachers as to overall level of difficulty.  Roughly speaking, “Basic” is elementary level texts, while “Intermediate” is anything above that level  up to technical and scholarly articles, a la the articles you’d find in Scholar.

That’s not exact, but it’s a fairly robust model that works across a wide variety of different text styles and web pages.”

Cool! So where can you find this nifty feature? It’s easy – you can get to Reading Level by performing a search, scrolling down and clicking on ‘More search tools’ in the Sidebar. Have fun!

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2 Comments

  1. Josh Taylor Reply

    Does this mean that writing articles for an audience (for example web developers) who are technical it would be better to write for an advanced audience? It’ll be interesting to see what reading skill level Google gives to different websites.

  2. Stefan Chan Reply

    Hey Josh,

    Definitely, if you key in any query related to web development and use the feature and look at each individual websites based on their reading level you’ll get a better gauge of the type of audience (as well as technicality) you should writing for.

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