Reading Levels in Advanced Search

Google has introduced a new filter option for its advanced search function. Under the “Advanced Search” link on Google’s home page is the option to filter search results by reading level. The default option shows no reading levels, and all search results show up just like they always have. Where things change is when people select the other options. The option to “annotate results with reading levels” shows the same results along with a graph showing the reading results by percentage. Choosing to “show only basic results” will show only the results that are of a basic reading level. Showing “only intermediate results” show all results written at an intermediate reading level, while deciding to “show only advanced results” will show the results of the highest reading level. The vast majority of search results show up as having been written at an intermediate level, while the advanced level yields the fewest results.

This feature was launched just yesterday, so there is no telling how much of an impact it will have on how people use Google. It may allow young or less educated readers to find results that they can read easily without having to wade through thousands of difficult-to-read websites. Companies could use this feature to market products or services to specific audiences, which would make this one of the most beneficial features to be introduced to Google in some time. On the other hand, it could also be a limitation for writers and marketers. Those who make use of the reading level filters could end up missing sites that are not at their preferred reading level. Thousands of articles, advertisements, and services could go unseen by millions of people. It could also cause content writers to have to “dumb down” what they write at the request of webmasters so they can reach wider audiences. Of course, this is nothing new; appealing to the “lowest common denominator” can at least ensure that a message, ad, or service is seen and understood by a wider audience. Content writers might just make that a more obvious goal, which is actually more than a little insulting to the intelligence of the average computer user.

This feature is still brand new, so what effect it has remains to be seen. It also needs to be implemented in other languages before we can see its full effect on search engines, as it is so far only available in English.


23/12/2010 – Google published the following article:

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.

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