Google search results now make it possible to understand the reading level of your content and how it scales from basic to advanced levels....
In what looks to be a fresh update to Google Advanced Search has enabled a new feature and is available both on Google.com.au and Google.com search engines, there is little information out so far as to how it classifies the results and what might be the potential impact on user behaviour. Offering the feature as an advanced search feature will likely mean that it’s not commonly used by everyone but it also gives an insight into how Google is starting to using linguistics to understand and possibly re-rank material algorithmically.
How to access Advanced Search Settings?
You can find the new feature under “need more tools?” where you are offered a nice drop down menu, the downside is there is no explanations or help guides on how this might be calculated. The new Google advanced search settings now make it possible to change the search result to match one of 4 different reading levels: all,basic, intermediate, advanced. Obviously it is fairly explanatory but would be great to have some more clarification that is basic grade 1 or grade 5 level of reading before deciding you need to re-write your page content. While Google has supplied some details about it’s new reading feature here, it is still not quite as detailed as it should be.
If you select the option to annotate results with reading levels, the Google search results now show both a filter at the top of the page along with a graph showing the different percentages of results and how Google rates their reading level. This feature is potentially useful for filter search results for research projects and gives a guide on how basic or readable particular topics might be and you can see below the small grey text showing below the page title shows the first Google Analytics result is “Intermediate reading level”. It also appears to have some issues with languages other than English at this point as not all the results for a Malaysian website showed a reading level.
So how does the readability of the search results change for Google trademark terms?
It does seem that a majority of Google’s product language is focused towards intermediate and basic but it’s reassuring to see that 69% of the Google News results are intermediate level. The big surprise is the Google Discussion product that has a massive skew towards intermediate reading level but not much for those seeking information written at a basic level.
So how does the readability of the search results change for Google’s competitors?
It is interesting to see that a large portion of both Groupon and FourSquare material is actually classed as intermediate level, which does question how the analysis is made as these sites are not trying to be complicated.
So how does the readability of the search results change for The Lost Agency?
It seems that my Twitter account is classed as the top basic result using the reading level filter, which could be accurate considering the short 140 character messages don’t leave much room for complexities, but none of my content shows up when you select the advanced filter so it might be potentially missing out on some advanced users.
How Does the Google Results Change for a sample search query like Google Analytics?
You can see Google might actually have a problem in the language it uses for it’s Google Analytics platform as the basic filter knocks out most of the top 10 results leaving it’s testing centre, a support forum post, a post on Knol’s, a help document from Tumblr and one of their old blog posts. Not really anything of value for someone looking for basic information on Google Analytics as almost all the search results are for intermediate level of reading level. The slight benefit you can see using the filter is that you get presented with advanced support topics on benchmarking, how DoubleClick Ad Planner anonymizes data and a Google code article on sampling subsets of data from your website.
It is all very interesting to see, but my guess is that the product is not yet fully tested and needs a bit more analysis and refinement before it’s ready to use, but it is a great potential content research tool if you are trying to understand more about the readability level of your content. I suggest give it a try and see how this might impact your search rankings should this feature be expanded into standard search results or started to use across other Google products such as mobile devices only showing basic results….