I think the world can be divided into two kinds of people: those who read because they enjoy it, and those who read because they have to. I am a member of the first group, while my teenage daughter is a member of the second. It can make for tense times at our house. But regardless which group you belong to, spelling and grammar can affect your reading experience.
The fact is, I’ll read anything I can get my hands on – it doesn’t matter if it’s a book, a blog post, or the phone directory (do they even make those anymore?). And it bothers me when I happen upon misspellings and poor grammar. It might even be safe to say it bothers me a lot.
Before you dismiss this as a peculiar quirk of mine, you might be interested to know that Google feels the same way.
The Importance of Language
While we may never truly know all the particulars of Google’s algorithm, Google’s own Matt Cutts has even gone so far as to mention grammar and spelling as something that needs attention. While it’s not one of the signals that Google uses in their PageRank algorithm, language mechanics affect user experience and Google is VERY interested in promoting a good user experience. Will it become a PageRank signal at some point? I can only hope.
The written world is rife with errors of a grammatical or spelling sort. I suppose that’s a natural consequence of the immediate-publish culture we now inhabit, but it hasn’t always been this way. Back when the world moved at a slightly slower pace, editors and proofreaders double- and triple-checked every word and sentence before the public ever saw it. Now, it’s easy to hit “publish” and just move on, regardless of errors. But if you’ve got something you want to communicate to your customers, you’ll want to make that communication as easy as possible, and part of that is making sure you’re understood and error-free.
Think grammar isn’t important? Try telling that to one of the many grammar checker apps that have sprung up online over the years. Try telling that to your high school English teacher. Try telling that to your reader. You’d be surprised how much they care.
No one’s perfect, of course. But making an effort to use good grammar and correct spelling can go a long way toward providing quality content – and quality content is something of a gold standard for search engines. Ignore it at your own peril.
Basics of good grammar
- Subject-verb agreement (i.e., he is, we are)
- Verb tense (past tense or present tense – keep it the same throughout)
- Word choice (no jargon, no five-dollar words)
- Punctuation (I’m a fan of the Oxford Comma)
- Sentence fragments (sentences should express a complete thought)
- Concrete vs. abstract language (concrete language communicates ideas clearly)
- Use active voice (passive voice results in weak, awkward sentences)
Basics of spelling
- Homophones (to/too/two, your/you’re, accept/except, etc.)
- Similar words (the thesaurus is your friend)
- Big words (is there a simpler word you can use?)
- Typos (always run a spell-checker to catch your typing fumbles)
I don’t pretend to know all there is to know about SEO and PageRank and all those things that are very important if you want your website to rank higher in a search results page. There are others here at Lieberman Technologies who are better able to answer those kinds of questions. But as a writer, and as a reader, I have a well-defined interest in making sure the grammar and spelling in what we post is top-notch. I just simply want to tell the story as best I can, and let Google’s algorithm do the rest.