Google launches new reading level feature

by Peter Young on December 12, 2010 · 3 comments

Google has launched a new feature that scores websites for reading level – categorised on Basic/Intermediate and Advanced levels. These aren’t turned on by default however should you wish to view the reading level of a particularly result these can be activated as follows:

  1. On the search results page, click Advanced Search below the search box.
  2. Next to “Reading level” within the “Need more tools” section, select your desired reading level (basic, intermediate, or advanced) or choose to show all results annotated with reading levels.
  3. Click Advanced search at the bottom of the page.
  4. At any time, you can click the X in the right corner of the blue bar beneath the search box to go back to seeing all results.

Its interesting however seeing this put to the test, particularly given this does not appear to be down to user feedback (at least at present).

How it is worked out I would like to work out – given the example below for Holistic Search’s most influential SEO in the UK Shaun Anderson. Its certainly page-level centric  rather than domain level, looking at the results below.

Result for search - 'hobo web'

Hoboweb result for search - 'hoboweb'

Further to this, it would appear this isn’t just confined to news related sites.  Results for other sites such as the search engines can also be broken down in terms of their reader level:

Google reader level

Bing reader level

However strangely enough, the Yahoo result was slightly different

Yahoo reader level

I have to say, its an improvement to the results pages something that hasn’t always been the case with many of the recent updates to the results pages. Further to this the ability to refine these by the nature of the content is a nice addition,something which should it be rolled out to a wider audience could really take off.

Google+ Comments

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

BarryAdams December 13, 2010 at 8:38 am

I’m not sure what to make of it. First, it seems a bit snobbish. (“My search query is more advanced than yours. Phah. You lowly little Basic Reading Level query, I am too cool and advanced to rub shoulders with you!” And all that in a Stephen Fry voice.)

Second, how the hell do they determine reading level? Is it other queries generally submitted by users who submit that query? I mean if you look at the reading level for ‘x factor’ it shows it’s apparently a rather advanced reading level query. Really? Are you fucking kidding me?

I call bullshit.

Andy Redfern December 15, 2010 at 11:36 am

Surely basic and advanced are subjective to the reader?

Would be interesting to see if there is a link between the sites that have a advanced rating and time spent on site / demographic data.

Interestingly if your compare “Toy Story 3″ and “The Godfather” there is more of an advanced bias to the later. Whatever that means!

Advanced also looks like it includes more references from Education sites.

Interesting plug-in – lets see how it develops

Charlotte Walker December 23, 2010 at 2:47 pm

Interesting stuff Pete.

It would be useful to see how this affects click-through – would people be put off something with an advanced reading level or would they see themselves as advanced and so be more inclined to click on those results?

Do you have any idea of how they’re calculating readability? I’m assuming it would be looking at sentence and word length…

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