One would think great primates would not have opinions about the readability of the Internet. One would not have met Clyde.
What has Clyde thoroughly up in arms is the readability of the Internet.
Who reads this tripe?
Many an SEO expert has risen and fallen over what is necessary to reach into the first page of SERP. The fads have come and been dowsed with gasoline and lit ablaze by Google, sometimes a dozen at the time. (See Panda and Penguin.)
We have all suffered the slings and arrows of the layover effects from those webmasters who did not pay for the supplemental updates on their SEO packages. Oh, yes we have. How many web pages have you visited which have inline gradu?
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Google ignores that malarkey. Frankly, so should you.
What Google does not ignore is readability. They applied for (and got) a patent for their search engine which clearly states they rank pages not only for content weighed against a user’s search terms but also against that user’s reading level.
*Pause for effect*
You can see the results on your very own, handy-dandy search pages. Simply type in the site you want to see with site:mywebsite.com in the search box.
On the first bar of buttons, click “Search Tools”. From the second pull-down menu, choose “Reading Level”. Voilà! The reading level of the pages on your website. When you click on “basic”, “intermediate” or “advanced”, you will get all of the pages which make up that statistic.
For all the muckraking over the years about Red being a condescending… author who uses too many words no one has ever heard before, The M3 Blog fairs rather well.
On the other hand…
Without knowing what you are up against, you may still fall far short of, or in this case over, the target. Why? “Basic” is 60-70 on the Flesch Reading Ease meter. (It is called a FRES.) Was that Greek? Let’s make it more readable (since the page with the explanation is advanced).
“Basic” is the reading level of 13- to 15-year-olds.
Yes, folks. Your blog or website is marginalized if it does not cater to reading level of the currency (allowance) wielding, credit (not) having, early teenager. Or does it?
In the grand scheme of making the Internet a place where most everyone can fare equally, readability should be a good thing. Knowing a standardized test for all websites will result in unexpected results should be a given. Let’s look closely.
The readability scan covers all the words on the page, not just the ones you put into the text field. Your menus, widgets and navigation headings all count. Oh, and so do how your readers talk back. Comments are text on the page and, therefore, affect your FRES. Merely having a discussion where the core concept is a word of more than three syllables will hurt your readability (which is five, mind you) far more than having one about a monosyllabic (sticks out tongue) subject.
Ever been told punctuation counted? For readability, it does. The number of words between end punctuation marks is part of the equation. Keep them sentences short, you.
If your demographics support higher-educated readers, you are in the clear with some advanced pages. The M3 Blog is over-represented by the demographic of women over 55 with post-graduate education. It is not dinged for the few advanced pages but can for some of the basic pages.
If your primary audience is teenagers, you may need a FRES as high as 95 (11-year-old).
What does that say?
Orangutans have a higher than average reading level. What does a 60-70 FRES say about Internet users? Does it mean the average Internet user never learned to read above an US 8th grade level or that high school was not an option? Does it mean high school reading has sunken so low graduates are reading-level stagnated?
Has the Internet eroded the language to the point monosyllabic terms are the preferred medium? Are search engines (Google does not have the only incarnation of this patent. Bing and Yahoo! have similar ones and use different algorithms.) dictating to Internet users what is relevant to them based on what they have already read or reported publicly as their education levels?
Do so many people use the Internet to disengage they truly do not have the brain power left to process even intermediate language? Have we really been reduced to the Dale-Chall list for what we understand and want to read (especially given it has no words beginning with x or z)?
Where does this all lead?
It is enough to make an ape wonder.
Until next time the ape takes the reins,
How do we raise the bar? What are your answers to Clyde’s questions?
Hashtags: #readability #SEO #SERP
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