Reading Level: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

Of all the ranking factors, readability suffers from misconceptions from within the SEO community (and those outside it, too).

Many tools incorporate readability into their grading system, such as Yoast’s SEO WordPress plugin:

Screenshot from Yoast SEO, February 2022

It is becoming increasingly important to address these myths.

How important is it that you edit and write to perfection to get to the green?

When it comes to reading levels, how much should you pay attention to?

Could a better readability score help boost your rankings?

In this article, we will answer whether readability is a ranking factor in Google.

Claim: Reading level is a ranking factor

Those new to SEO and writing can quickly become obsessed with getting green readability scores with Yoast.

They are often when they don’t notice a change in rankings overnight.

But the truth is, reading level isn’t about ranking, and canceling the passive voice won’t propel you to the highest organic position on page 1.

You also wouldn’t be writing your content at a 6th grade versus 11th grade level.

Really, what is important when writing and optimizing your content is that you need to understand the purpose of the words you are using and make sure that they are appropriate for your target audience.


Let’s start with the first question: Is reading level a ranking factor?


Reading level is not a ranking factor.

On January 23, 2018, in Google Webmaster Office Hours, Google Webmaster Trends Senior Analyst John Mueller confirmed that readability is not a ranking factor.

Asked about readability and how Google views that.

Mueller replied:

“From an SEO point of view, this is probably not something you need to focus on. Meaning, as far as I know, we don’t have this kind of underlying algorithm that counts words and tries to figure out the level of readability based on these algorithms that are there.

But it’s something you have to discover for your audience.”

You can see Mueller’s response below at the Google Webmaster Hangout.

Portent ran a Reading level analysis study From 756,297 pieces of content for 30,000 desktop search queries. The study found no correlation between ranking on Google and page readability.

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:

“This is something where I see a lot of the issues that come up in that a website is going to kind of talk to its audience.

So…a common example is a medical site. You want to provide medical information to the general public because you know they are concerned about it. All of your articles use these 20-character medical words. Technically, this is all true.

You can calculate the reading level score for this content. You come up with a number.

But it’s not about Google using that reading level score and saying, This is good or bad. But does it match what people are looking for? And if no one searches for those long words, no one will find your content. Or, if they find your content, they’ll be like… I don’t know what that means. “

Google has also released some hints pointing to the idea that the reading level is built into the search algorithms.

In December 2010, Google released “Reading level” advanced search filter But later Read level filter removed in May 2015.

Recently, Google has developed machine learning models such as BERT and MUM that aim to understand language and content quality.

But, again, there is no evidence that reading level is a ranking factor.

Reading Level is about understanding your audience and writing for them.

It is not about the “perfect result”.

Maintain an easy-to-read flow with 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 classification signal: our judgment

Reading Level: Is it a Google Ranking Factor?

Writing content for your audience takes time, a little TLC, and patience.

But forcing your writing to adapt to a certain reading level isn’t necessary to rank better.

There are several theories as to whether reading level is a ranking factor.

You heard it directly from Mueller himself – the reading level is not part of the algorithms.

Featured image: Robin Biong / Search Engine Journal

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