Is Reading Level A Google Ranking Factor?

Every search engine optimisation skilled is aware of content material is king. And not all content material is created equal.

But does your content material’s readability have an effect on how Google ranks you in search outcomes?

There are quite a lot of misconceptions about this. But what precisely is readability?

If you’ve achieved any content material creation, there’s a great likelihood you’ve come throughout readability instruments like the favored Yoast search engine optimisation WordPress plugin earlier than. These invaluable instruments consider your copy and generate statistics equivalent to passive voice, paragraph size, subheads, and transitions.

And included on this evaluation is Flesch Reading Ease (FRE). FRE is a scale between one and 100, with 100 being the best to learn and one being incomprehensibly dense.

For instance, this piece scored 59 on the FRE scale, which places it at a ninth-grade studying stage. This rating takes two variables under consideration: phrase size and sentence size. Generally, longer phrases and sentences will decrease your FRE rating.

While content material that’s simpler to learn will carry out higher with guests, what about with search engines like google and yahoo? How a lot do you must concentrate on enhancing readability to safe a excessive rating?

Let’s have a look.

And when you have questions on different rating elements, obtain the Google Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction book for the entire story.

The Claim: Reading Level As A Ranking Factor

In 2010, Google added a short-lived “reading level” filter to its superior search perform. But the concept readability impacts search engine rankings has been round quite a bit longer than that.

And the rise of Google’s machine studying fashions BERT and MUM, which goal to know language and content material high quality, appear to trace that it’s nonetheless necessary.

But what’s the reality? Should you be obsessive about turning all these crimson and orange circles in your studying evaluation inexperienced? Will eliminating passive sentences and adjusting your vocabulary to a sixth-grade stage ship your web page rocketing to the highest of search engine outcomes?

The Evidence Against Readability As A Ranking Factor

Despite claims on the contrary, studying stage doesn’t issue into your search rating. Google’s Senior Webmaster Trends Analyst John Mueller confirmed this in a 2018 Google Webmaster Hangout:

“From an search engine optimisation standpoint, it’s in all probability not one thing that you must concentrate on, within the sense that, so far as I do know, we don’t have sort of these fundamental algorithms that simply depend phrases and take a look at to determine what the studying stage is predicated on these current algorithms.

But it’s one thing that you need to work out on your viewers.”

FRE is a fundamental rating with simply two variables, so this is smart.

To confirm this, Portent ran a study analyzing the studying stage of greater than 750,000 items of content material for 30,000 desktop search queries. This research discovered no correlation between Google search rating and a web page’s studying stage.

So, search engine optimisation professionals can simply disregard FRE, proper?


Readability has an affect on consumer experiences, and that performs an ever-increasing function in search engine optimisation. If guests to your web site wrestle to learn and perceive your content material, they’re extra more likely to depart.

Challenging-to-read items are additionally a lot much less more likely to have incoming hyperlinks directed to them, which is an important rating issue.

To quote John Mueller’s hangout once more:

 “A widespread instance is a medical web site. You wish to present medical data for most people as a result of you already know they’re nervous about this. And your entire articles use these medical phrases which might be 20 characters lengthy. Technically, it’s all right.

You might calculate the studying stage rating of that content material. You provide you with a quantity.

But it’s not a matter of Google utilizing that studying stage rating and saying, that is good or unhealthy. But reasonably, does it match what the persons are looking for? And, if no person’s looking for these lengthy phrases, then no person’s going to search out your content material. Or, in the event that they do discover your content material, they’re going to be like… I don’t know what this implies.”

So, it will appear that whereas your content material’s studying stage can have some impact in your rating, it’s not a rating issue.

Our Verdict: Reading Level Is Not A Ranking Factor

Is Reading Level A Google Ranking Factor?

While not a confirmed rating issue, the studying stage is vital to content material technique. Every viewers has completely different preferences concerning the complexity and studying stage of content material.

Write For Your Audience

The key to profitable internet content material is usefulness. To rank extremely, you will need to exhibit that your webpage solutions a search question higher than anybody else.

And the way in which to do that is by understanding your viewers.

For instance, suppose you’re attempting to advertise an organization that sells electron microscopes. In that case, you may in all probability get away with utilizing a extra refined vocabulary than for those who had been promoting mudflaps.

Just watch out to keep away from speaking right down to your viewers, which is able to alienate them as rapidly as utilizing $10,000 phrases.

Writing good content material is a ability that each search engine optimisation skilled would do nicely to domesticate. Adapting your writing to a particular studying stage isn’t a rating issue, however utilizing phrases that don’t resonate along with your viewers will all the time be an issue.

Got different questions on what’s and isn’t a rating issue? Download the Google Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction book.

Featured Image: Paulo Bobita/Search Engine Journal

Ranking Factors: Fact Or Fiction? Let’s Bust Some Myths! [Ebook]