It’s Official – Bad Spelling and Grammar Actually Affect Your Search Engine Rankings

Laura Ginn

Whether you are the kind of person who is enraged when you read the word ‘there’ when you know it should be ‘their’, and become genuinely apoplectic if you see someone say that they ‘should of’ done something, or you don’t actually know or care why these would be wrong, if you plan to use the web for any kind of business promotion, you need to get your grammar right. It was recently revealed by Bing that their algorithms do in fact penalise content that contains bad English – both in terms of common grammar errors and typos. While Bing might not be the search engine you are focussing your SEO efforts on, it is gaining ground and shouldn’t be ignored. Also, you can bet that if this is something Bing factor into their ranking system, ‘quality content’ obsessed Google are likely to be doing the same (though Google are not as forthcoming when it comes to revealing to us any information about their own algorithms).

Photo by Zimpenfish
Photo by Zimpenfish

Why Would the Search Engines be Pedantic About Grammar?

Considering that in the Web 2.0 age a lot of the content people read is no longer written by professionals but by ordinary users, you may wonder why the search engines would penalise someone for having sub-professional spelling and grammar capabilities. After all, as the web becomes more and more democratic and user generated content is the norm, it stands to reason that there are a lot of people who may have useful things to say but didn’t pay attention to the lesson in school about correct apostrophe usage. However, the main goal of search engines is to offer users the best content they can in response to their searches (thus retaining their user base – the biggest commodity a search engine has), and it has been proven in countless surveys that nothing puts off a reader more than bad English. A recent study of over 1000 UK social media users showed that bad grammar was their biggest complaint about business’ social media communications, with almost half of respondents citing it as their biggest web bugbear. This marked bad grammar out as more annoying to the users than overly ‘salesy’ messages, tweeting too often, not tweeting often enough, and the various other things that businesses routinely try and avoid in their online comms.

So What Should You Do With This Information?

Writing for the web means striking the right balance between having accessible content that sets the right tone, and being generally ‘correct’ with your grammar. Sticking very rigidly to textbook grammar will make your writing seem too formal and academic for the average blog audience (for example if you follow the ‘proper’ rules about the words ‘who’ versus ‘whom’ and ‘one’ versus ‘you’), so things that simply make your writing seem more casual and conversational are not really regarded as ‘mistakes’. Using words that are completely wrong because they sound the same however, such as ‘its’ instead of ‘it’s’ or ‘stationary’ instead of ‘stationery’, is the kind of thing that will cost you both in the rankings and with your readers. Check everything, brush up on the things you aren’t sure about, and, if in doubt, have a professional writer create your content for you. Get in touch with us today for high quality content that will help, rather than hinder, your SEO!