Hummingbird might be all the SEO buzz, but a new report sheds light on the older algorithm and the factors it considers for ranking content.

When Penguin 2.0 was unleashed in 2013, the search marketing community understood it was targeting sites with spammy links in their profiles. There may be more to the algorithm; a report from MathSight claims the technology is actually looking at online content’s readability when determining which pages to promote or demote in SERPs. If this hypothesis is proven, it verifies there are almost always more factors at play in search rankings. To get ahead, SEOs need to proactively create great web content rather than optimize against specific changes.

MathSight came to conclusion that Google’s spam-fighting algorithm was looking at more than backlinks after analyzing which pages were benefitting or being penalized by Penguin 2.1. A press release asserts the technology uses the Flesch Kincaid and Dale Chall readability tests, which means it’s assessing content writers’ word choice and sentence length when crawling pages.

“With Penguin 2.1, Google is favoring web pages with well written, well researched and sophisticated content.”

Although this method of evaluating content might at first seem unrelated to whether or not pages have purchased or solicited links from another site, the report states it’s actually one of the most effective ways to spot inorganic articles that haven’t been written by subject matter experts.

“With Penguin 2.1, Google is favoring web pages with well written, well researched and sophisticated content. So, for example, the lower the ratio of rare words to the total on offsite linking pages, the more detrimental those backlinks are to your SEO,” the study reported.

This idea speaks to Google’s latest guidance regarding guest blogging best practices. Brafton covered Search Engineer Matt Cutts’ Webmaster Help Channel video, in which he explains marketers will see benefits from guest blogging when they share original ideas from subject matter authorities on blogs publishing relevant content. Brands that create thoughtful link strategies and distribute information worth sharing will receive links from other sites based on their content’s merit.

Lauren Kaye is a Marketing Editor at Brafton Inc. She studied creative and technical writing at Virginia Tech before pursuing the digital frontier and finding content marketing was the best place to put her passions to work. Lauren also writes creative short fiction, hikes in New England and appreciates a good book recommendation.