I’ve been thinking about grammar and SEO a lot lately. As a reader and a lover of English, I care about the right usage. Incorrect grammar alerts my inner copyeditor and lights up like a firework on the page whenever I see it.
Is this simply a personal pet peeve that I need to get over - or does it actually matter to SEO? Because if it’s a pet peeve, and there’s only a small club of grammarians, librarians, professors, and obsessive online marketing specialists who care, I should just shut up and let the world continue to happily, ignorantly misuse “its” and “it’s.”
But it’s not just me.
It’s Google, too
The question that’s important for digital marketers to consider is this: are spelling and grammar a factor in SEO rankings? Because we all know that it's possible for content to be full of heart and full of spelling errors. So will Google penalize these kinds of pages in the search engines simply for misspelling a handful of words?
Matt Cutts, the head of webspam at Google and the SEO’s link to the minds behind the algorithmic madness, produced a video addressing this question about the relation between grammar and SEO. He says that no, spelling and grammar are not officially included in the list of over 200 factors Google specifically considers when they rank sites. For one thing, he said it would be difficult for Googlebot to first decipher the language of the page, and then be able to differentiate between multiple language on one page (he gives the example of a page in English with a random paragraph of Hungarian. Not necessarily spammy, but it could be tricky for Googlebot to note this).
However, he does admit that “more reputable pages do tend to have better spelling and better grammar,” and he even goes as far as to say “I think it would be fair to think about using it as a signal.”
He strongly advises well-written content and close editing because, as he points out, users appreciate correct, well-written language.
But don’t just take Matt Cutts’ word for it. Check out the Q&A forum at Moz, too, where experts weigh in.
What good spelling does for users
You’d never let a grammar mistake slip by in a resume. Newspapers and magazines quadruple-check every page for perfection. And a misspelled ad? Ads are already short on words, so every word counts - and a spelling error hurts.
Here’s another hard real-life example: my neighbor customized the glass on his personal truck to advertise his business, and he misspelled his own company name. Ouch.
We expect proper grammar and spelling. It’s a baseline and an indication of professionalism. When connecting with businesses, proper spelling and grammar:
- Establishes trust.
- Creates credibility.
- Shares a smart image.
- Shows care and attention to detail.
Make sure your SEO person is proficient in spelling and grammar
Who's doing your SEO? Do they speak your language? Can they correctly use "your" and "you're"? Do they proofread their sentences? These are important questions to consider because this person will be carefully inserting very important verbiage into your website content; specific language that they need to get right because there's an audience searching those terms.
And if you're doing your own optimization for your website, realize that even if you don't care much about grammatical standards, much of the world will notice your careless mistakes and deem you a neanderthal. Historically, Neanderthals haven't survived too well in life. Don't be one!
When it comes to SEO and grammar, the heart of the matter isn't abiding by the rules or being a stickler for apostrophes and commas. Really, the issue is enabling people to engage through specific language. SEO is all about language - connecting the language that people use to search with the language of the businesses who want to be found.
Language involves grammar. So take care of your language. Edit. Ensure accuracy.
Your visitors will see you in a more positive light - and that’s always worth the time spent.