Clyde on the Dumbreader’s Internet

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.

Paying Attention

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 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.

The M3 Blog Readability

The M3 Blog Readability

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?

Enter Ape

Right turn, Clyde.

Right turn, Clyde.

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.

Who reads?

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,

Red Signature

How do we raise the bar? What are your answers to Clyde’s questions?

Hashtags: #readability #SEO #SERP

Thank you for sharing The M3 Blog with hashtags.

© Red Dwyer 2013
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  1. I don’t even remember the questions. I think the move to everything being posted on the Internet shortened the attention spans. It can hurt to look at the screen too long, and even colors surrounding text can make the eyes cry out in pain.

    Finding a happy medium of text that makes you want to stay on the page forever and one that actually tells you something substantial is difficult.
    Laurie recently posted..All Things Being UnequalMy Profile

    • Which is why I am so happy everyone likes the paint job around here. xxx When I go to those all white sites, I do not last very long, even with my Internet glasses on. The blue light makes me bats.

      • How about my new look?
        All black for a change 🙂 😉

        A great posting Red, I would imagine that most of us would score similarly to yours, but don’t take my word for it, I could be wrong 🙁 lol

        Did someone mention chocolate? 😉

        Andro xxxx

        • I just caught a glimpse of it when I was by for FTP links today. I like the chalkboard front and the clean lines on the pages. More on that when I can drop by for a proper visit. 😉

  2. Very interesting Red. It leaves me with a bit of a puzzle though. My linked website (what you get if you click on my name here I guess) has a 92% Intermediate level. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? It focuses a lot on science and on language and it’s certainly desirable for it to sound like it was written with someone who has more than a grade-school education; but am I less likely to appear on someone’s search just because I haven’t “dumbed it down”?

    Yes, if someone actually uses “Readability” as part of their search options, but I doubt many people do that: until I read your column here today I’d never even NOTICED it… and I’ve done literally tens of thousands of Google searches for things over the years in my research.

    – MJM

    • MJ, it is not about users using readability. It is about search engines serving your site based on its readability. One would expect your site (which you should link in the Green Room on the top menu) to have more technical language. Your question then becomes: What reader base are you looking for to consume your materials? If your average demographic is on the higher end of the readability scale, say mid-40s to low-30s, you may have already dumbed it down.

      My toughest post around here is one of the most popular we have ever done and ranks very highly in search results which still sends it traffic more than a year later. Same with my #2 toughest, which was a foray into Rorshach. Having high end content does not mean you will not ever be found. It just means you will not be served to as many of the “average Internet browser”. Up to you… Is the “average Internet browser” (reading level of 15 years… not grade 15, as book readers are) to be learning at your place?

  3. It is truly unfortunate we can’t keep those away who do not meet our criteria by simply writing above the grade level.

    Ah well, it is a dream.
    Valentine Logar recently posted..Fall Flash 13My Profile

    • Bwahaha! Like the over 18 warning! I can see it know. An owl in glasses with a pointer and a ruler. “You must be this smart to read this blog!” ROFLMAO!

  4. I’m a Dumb Reader cuz I read that title as Dumb Breader! haha
    Bearman recently posted..I Was For the WarMy Profile

  5. Thank goodness for Wordless Wednesday!!!

    BuddhaKat recently posted..From Friday to Fractals…My Profile

  6. I didn’t know about the readability rating. My main site scores 89%, 6%, 5%. Curiously most of my wombat information pages are advanced (even some of the picture pages). I’ve had quite a few youngins tell me they used those pages for school reports. I guess they were extra smart youngins!
    Binky recently posted..Philosophy of Ice CreamMy Profile

  7. Izzat so??? 🙂

    Amazing what I learn from your blog Red! 🙂

    Love and hugs!

    Prenin recently posted..Thursday – Quiet day.My Profile

  8. Google its seems just Gooooogled my thinking! as I am now a-gog! and what goggldy-gook they come up with next…
    I will just keep on doing what I keep on doing, and should a stranger pass by and say Hi, then I will leave it up to them to see if I merit a second visit.. 🙂

    As always Red, you and Clyde always give us some thing to think about..

    Sending you some Hugs…. ~Sue xox
    Sue Dreamwalker recently posted..How Can I help bring World Peace?My Profile

    • You know, Sue, that is what makes the Internet just keep spinning. There are enough of us who just say, “PFT!” and keep giving our audiences what they want. I cannot imagine someone not returning to your sanctuary. xxx Hugs on this beautiful Friday. <3

  9. There’s actually something wrong with the ranking, I just discovered. I clicked the Basic/Intermediate/Advanced links from teh rating, and it returned results to posts I had linked to, which apparently affect my ranking.
    So while there is a bit of useful information there, without a better breakdown, I’ll look at it as i do many of google’s tools – cute, but pretentious and probably there for google to go on about how important they are.

    (I’ve been dealing a lot with google corporate gmail lately, and at the moment I have very very little to say about them that’s nice.)
    (Because they suck.)
    El Guapo recently posted..Friday Foolishness – Immaculate EditionMy Profile

  10. I like what I like to read and hope others read what they like. Don’t most bloggers operate on a similar premise?

    If someone is bored, overwhelmed or cross-eyed over what they click to read, they will soon make tracks or make naughty remarks. Yes / no?

    This discussion is about attracting more traffic (I think).
    Tess Kann recently posted..I Wrote a Guest PostMy Profile

    • To a small degree it is about getting more traffic. For me, it is about getting better traffic. I truly do not want this place overrun with twenty-somethings who still believe the teenage myth they know everything. 😛


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