Out of all the ranking factors, reading level is one plagued with misconceptions from those within the SEO community (and those outside of it, too).
It’s becoming increasingly important to address these myths.
How important is it that you edit and write to perfection to get into the green?
When it comes to reading levels, how much of this is essential to pay attention to?
Can a better readability score actually help boost your rankings?
In this article, we’ll answer whether readability is a Google ranking factor.
The Claim: Reading Level Is A Ranking Factor
Those new to SEO and writing can quickly become borderline-obsessed with getting their readability score into the green with Yoast.
And they’re often when they don’t notice a change in rankings overnight.
But the truth is, reading level is not about rankings, and eliminating passive voice won’t propel you to the top organic position on Page 1.
Neither will writing your content at a Grade 6 level vs. Grade 11.
Really, what’s important when writing and optimizing your content is that you need to understand the intent behind the words you use and make sure it’s right for your target audience.
Let’s start with the first question: Is reading level a ranking factor?
Reading level is not a ranking factor.
He was asked about the readability and how Google looks at this.
Mueller responded stating:
“From an SEO point of view, it’s probably not something that you need to focus on. In the sense that, as far as I know, we don’t have the kind of these basic algorithms that just count words and try to figure out what the reading level is based on these existing algorithms.
But it is something that you should figure out for your audience.”
You can watch Mueller’s response below in the Google Webmaster Hangout.
Portent ran a study analyzing the reading grade level of 756,297 pieces of content for 30,000 desktop search queries. The study determined there is no correlation between ranking on Google and the reading level of a page.
So, should you care about reading level when it comes to SEO?
Yes! In the same Google Webmaster Hangout, Mueller connected the dots between reading level and search intent:
“So that’s something where I see a lot of issues come up in that a website will be kind of talking past their audience.
So… a common example is a medical site. You want to provide medical information for the general public because you know they’re worried about this. And all of your articles use these medical words that are 20 characters long. Technically, it’s all correct.
You could calculate the reading level score of that content. You come up with a number.
But it’s not a matter of Google using that reading level score and saying, this is good or bad. But rather, does it match what the people are searching for? And, if nobody’s searching for those long words, then nobody’s going to find your content. Or, if they do find your content, they’re going to be like… I don’t know what this means.”
Google has also released a few hints to point toward the idea that reading level is incorporated into the search algorithms.
But, again, there is no evidence to confirm that reading level is a ranking factor.
Reading level is about understanding your audience and writing for them.
It’s not about the “perfect score.”
Keep an easy-to-read flow using short sentences.
For example, I aim to keep my reading level between grades 6-8 as a guide using the Hemingway App.
Reading Level As A Ranking Signal: Our Verdict
Writing content for your audience requires time, a little TLC, and patience.
But forcing your writing to adapt to a specific reading level isn’t necessary to rank better.
There are many theories floating around about whether reading level is a ranking factor.
You heard it directly from Mueller himself – reading level is not part of the algorithms.
Featured Image: Robin Biong/Search Engine Journal
Top 10 Essential Website Optimization Strategies
Google officially launched 24 years ago in 1998.
A lot has changed since then, but one thing remains the same. If you simply focus on the basics, you can still be highly successful online.
Of course, the basics in 2022 are much different from the basics in 1998. It’s easy to get overwhelmed and distracted. It has never been more important to be disciplined in one’s approach to SEO.
So, the obvious question is this: What are the factors to concentrate on? How can one boost rankings? How can anyone build traffic in such a competitive environment?
This post will delve into which factors carry the most weight and how to optimize for each.
1. Search Intent
The end goal for Google is to understand the context of a given search query and to serve results consistent with the user intent. This makes advanced-level keyword research and keyword selection more important than ever.
Before spending time and resources trying to rank for a phrase, you will need to look at the websites that are currently at the top of the SERPs for that phrase.
A keyword’s contextual relevance must align with a search query. There will be some keywords and queries that will be impossible to rank for.
For example, if Google has determined that people searching for “Personal Injury Attorney [insert city]” want a list of lawyers to choose from, then a series of trusted law directories will appear at the top of the SERPs.
An individual or single firm will not supplant those directories. In those cases, you will need to refine your strategy.
2. Technical SEO
The foundation for technical SEO is having a solid website architecture.
One cannot simply publish a random collection of pages and posts. An SEO-friendly site architecture will guide users throughout your site and make it easy for Google to crawl and index your pages.
Once you have the right architecture in place, it’s time to perform a technical or SEO audit.
For starters, you should check the following and fix any issues that are uncovered:
- Check for status code errors and correct them.
- Check the robot.txt for errors. Optimize if needed.
- Check your site indexing via Google Search Console. Examine and fix any issues discovered.
- Fix duplicate title tags and duplicate meta descriptions.
- Audit your website content. Check the traffic stats in Google Analytics. Consider improving or pruning underperforming content.
- Fix broken links. These are an enemy of the user experience – and potentially rankings.
- Submit your XML sitemap to Google via Google Search Console.
3. User Experience
User experience (UX) is centered on gaining insight into users, their needs, their values, their abilities, and their limitations.
UX also takes into consideration business goals and objectives. The best UX practices focus on improving the quality of the user experience.
According to Peter Morville, factors that influence UX include:
- Useful: Your content needs to be unique and satisfy a need.
- Usable: Your website needs to be easy to use and navigate.
- Desirable: Your design elements and brand should evoke emotion and appreciation.
- Findable: Integrate design and navigation elements to make it easy for users to find what they need.
- Accessible: Content needs to be accessible to everyone – including the 12.7% of the population with disabilities.
- Credible: Your site needs to be trustworthy for users to believe you.
- Valuable: Your site needs to provide value to the user in terms of experience and to the company in terms of positive ROI.
Multivariate and A/B testing is the best way to measure and create a better experience for website users. Multivariate testing is best when considering complex changes.
One can incorporate many different elements and test how they all work together. A/B testing, on the other hand, will compare two different elements on your site to determine which performs the best.
According to Google Search Central:
“Neither mobile-friendliness nor a mobile-responsive layout are requirements for mobile-first indexing. Pages without mobile versions still work on mobile and are usable for indexing. That said, it’s about time to move from desktop-only and embrace mobile :)”
Here are some basics for making your site mobile-friendly:
- Make your site adaptive to any device – be it desktop, mobile, or tablet.
- Always scale your images when using a responsive design, especially for mobile users.
- Use short meta titles. They are easier to read on mobile devices.
- Avoid pop-ups that cover your content and prevent visitors from getting a glimpse of what your content is all about.
- Less can be more on mobile. In a mobile-first world, long-form content doesn’t necessarily equate to more traffic and better rankings.
- Don’t use mobile as an excuse for cloaking. Users and search engines need to see the same content.
5. Core Web Vitals
In July of 2021, the Page Experience Update rolled out and is now incorporated into Google’s core algorithm, as a ranking factor.
As the name implies, the core web vitals initiative was designed to quantify the essential metrics for a healthy website. This syncs up with Google’s commitment to delivering the best user experience.
According to Google, “loading experience, interactivity, and visual stability of page content, and combined are the foundation of Core Web Vitals.”
Each one of these metrics:
- Focuses on a unique aspect of the user experience.
- Is measurable and quantifiable for an objective determination of the outcome.
Tools To Measure Core Web Vitals:
- PageSpeed Insights: Measures both mobile and desktop performance and provides recommendations for improvement.
- Lighthouse: An open-source, automated tool developed by Google to help developers improve web page quality. It has several features not available in PageSpeed Insights, including some SEO checks.
- Search Console: A Core Web Vitals report is now included in GSC, showing URL performance as grouped by status, metric type, and URL group.
Schema markup, once added to a webpage, creates a rich snippet – an enhanced description that appears in the search results.
All leading search engines, including Google, Yahoo, Bing, and Yandex, support the use of microdata. The real value of schema is that it can provide context to a webpage and improve the search experience.
There is no evidence that adding schema has any influence on SERPs.
Following, you will find some of the most popular uses for schema
If you find the thought of adding schema to a page intimidating, you shouldn’t. Schema is quite simple to implement. If you have a WordPress site, there are several plugins that will do this for you.
7. Content Marketing
It is projected that 97 zettabytes of data will be created, captured, copied, and consumed worldwide this year.
To put this in perspective, that’s the equivalent of 18.7 trillion songs or 3,168 years of HD video every day.
The challenge of breaking through the clutter will become exponentially more difficult as time passes.
To do so:
- Create a content hub in the form of a resource center.
- Fill your resource hub with a combination of useful, informative, and entertaining content.
- Write “spoke” pieces related to your resource hub and interlink.
- Write news articles related to your resource and interlink.
- Spread the word. Promote your news articles on social channels.
- Hijack trending topics related to your content. Promote on social media.
- Use your smartphone camera. Images and videos typically convert better than text alone.
- Update stale and low-trafficked content.
8. Link Building
Links continue to be one of the most important ranking factors.
The best link-building strategies for 2022 include:
9. Test And Document Changes
You manage what you measure.
One recent study showed that less than 50% of pages “optimized” result in more clicks. Worse yet, 34% of changes led to a decrease in clicks!
Basic steps for SEO testing:
- Determine what you are testing and why.
- Form a hypothesis. What do you expect will happen because of your changes?
- Document your testing. Make sure it can be reliably replicated.
- Publish your changes and then submit the URLs for inspection via Google Search Console.
- Run the test for a long enough period to confirm if your hypothesis is correct or not. Document your findings and any other observations, such as changes made by competitors that may influence the outcome.
- Take appropriate actions based on the results of your tests.
This process can be easily executed and documented by using a spreadsheet.
10. Track And Analyze KPIs
According to Roger Monti, the following are the 9 Most Important SEO KPIs to consider:
- Customer Lifetime Value (CLV).
- Content Efficiency.
- Average Engagement Time.
- Conversion Goals by Percent-Based Metrics.
- Accurate Search Visibility.
- Brand Visibility in Search.
- New And Returning Users.
- Average Time on Site.
- Revenue Per Thousand (RPM) And Average Position.
The thing to remember about these KPIs is they are dependent upon your goals and objectives. Some may apply to your situation whereas others may not.
Think of this as a good starting point for determining how to best measure the success of a campaign.
Because the internet has no expiration date, mounds of information and disinformation are served up daily in various search queries.
If you aren’t careful, implementing bad or outdated advice can lead to disastrous results.
Do yourself a favor and just focus on these 10 essentials. By doing so, you will be setting yourself up for long-term success.
Featured Image: Rawpixel.com/Shutterstock