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When you come across a web page that’s riddled with spelling & grammar errors, what’s your initial gut reaction?
Most likely, you’re going to hit the back button in an instant to exit the page and search for a better one elsewhere. There’s just no way you can trust any publisher who can’t be bothered to proofread their content.
The truth is, poorly written content detracts from the user’s experience and it diminishes trust on the publisher. It strongly suggests an amateurish, sleazy, and sloppy author behind the page.
Dissatisfied users are the very reason why spelling, grammar, and other readability errors matter when it comes to ranking your pages in Google and other search engines.
In this article, we’re going to discuss the exact policies that are relevant to the issues of spelling & grammar mistakes on a page. We will also recommend some tested tools that you can use to efficiently proofread and prevent errors from diminishing the value of your content.
In February 2011, Google announced another update to their search ranking algorithm that quickly upended the ranking order of websites at the time. The Panda update was aimed squarely at low-quality sites (content farms) full of poorly written content that Google deemed detrimental to their search users’ experience.
Its effect was felt almost overnight with pages from content farms tumbling from their high perches on the first pages of Google’s search results to be quickly replaced by more authoritative and high-quality pages. Seven years later, none of those content farm websites ever recovered from that update.
So, if a page is full of spelling and grammar mistakes, will it always rank poorly in Google’s search results?
There’s some degree of ambiguity when it comes to Google’s policy on this, and some webmasters even maintain that these factors do not affect ranking at all.
However, as far as Google is concerned, there’s a clear connection between a page’s quality and how high it ranks in the search results. Matt Cutts, former head of the webspam team at Google, had this to say:
“We noticed a while ago that, if you look at the PageRank of a page — how reputable we think a particular page or site is — the ability to spell correlates relatively well with that. So, the reputable sites tend to spell better and the sites that are lower PageRank, or very low PageRank, tend not to spell as well.”
During the Panda rollout, Google had even prepared a self-review questionnaire for webmasters to help guide them to remain compliant with the recent changes. These included questions about spelling, punctuation, factual, and stylistic errors, editing, quality control, etc.
The reason why some webmasters doubt the effect of spelling and grammar errors when it comes to ranking has its roots in the technical limitation of creating an algorithm that can actually check for spelling and grammar errors across the internet. It’s not really a far-fetched idea when you consider the billions of pages written in languages other than English and the nuances and altered the meaning of words that creep into accepted everyday usage gradually.
Nevertheless, the issue of poorly written content (including spelling and grammar slips) will always have its effect on SEO and search ranking when you consider its direct impact on users and other publishers. Now, consider these two audiences in light of your SEO goals.
Let’s have a quick review of search engine optimization goals that webmasters work for to gain search ranking. We have factors such as quality content, inbound links, minimum bounce rate, fully working links, ease of navigation, anchor text usage, etc. to consider each time we optimize a page.
Spelling, grammar, and readability will always come into play when Google ranks a web page because these directly relate to quality that impacts user experience. A page’s bounce rate is an excellent indicator of how it is perceived by website visitors, and if that gets too high, Google sees that as an indicator of poor quality. The simple fact is that people dislike poorly written pages full of errors and will more than likely exit your page in a second sending your bounce rate through the roof, as a result.
Sloppily edited content also diminishes your own authority as a publisher or blogger. It might seem disheartening, but it’s the truth. Your target audience and other publishers (website or blog owners) judge you by the content you put out there.
When it comes to building your backlink authority, you’ll want to get inbound links from high authority websites because those are the type of relationships that pass the most SEO juice and can help improve your own ranking.
Now, building trust and earning high-quality inbound links is hard work enough even when you only have high-quality content. It’s almost impossible to get links from high ranked and authoritative websites when all you publish is poorly written content full of spelling and grammar mistakes.
Think about it for the other webmasters. Given the option to link to two pages with the same content or topic, they will always go for the one with polished, high-quality content.
While Google only hints at possible effects of spelling & grammar errors on a page’s search ranking, Bing is more explicit about this issue.
Duane Forrester, former Senior Product Manager responsible for the Webmaster Program at Bing had this to say about the matter:
“Just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours. If you struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error free content exist to serve the searcher? Like it or not, we’re judged by the quality of the results we show. So we are constantly watching the quality of the content we see.”
The statement is quite unequivocal about their search engine’s preference for quality content when it comes to ranking pages in their search results.
It makes perfect sense, actually, when you consider the millions of web pages competing for a reader’s attention for any given keyword. Why would a poorly-written page rank higher than a page that’s polished, professional, and free of errors?
The bottom line is that if you want higher search rankings for your pages in the major search engines, you will need to go for world-class quality content each and every time. There’s no shortcut or workaround to this issue, you’ll just need to proofread your content before hitting the publish button.
Garbage content rife with spelling and grammar errors will inevitably tank your ranking with the search engines. Ensuring that every single piece of content you publish passes muster need not be an arduous or stressful task.
With online tools designed to help publisher maintain quality output, you can now proofread your own content quickly like any content marketing pro out there. Here are a few of the best proofreading tools available right now:
This is the go-to content editing and proofreading tool for millions of bloggers. It’s also a personal favorite because of its intuitive interface and accurate output. You can use Grammarly by visiting their website or by integrating the tool into your web browser.
Ginger is an all-in-one grammar and spellchecker software that you can actually download and install on your desktop. It’s handy if you’re concentrating on writing and want to proofread your material without connecting to the internet.
After the Deadline is another staple proofreading tool that has been around for years now. It’s also downloadable and compatible for integration with most browsers. It can be useful when used as a plugin in WordPress to do a final check on your content right before publishing.
Grammark is an open source proofreading tool that has robust features useful to both students and professional writers. It’s an essential tool if you want to polish out your article before publishing to identify awkward sentence construction, passive voice, transitions, wordiness, and other readability issues.
Available in both paid and free versions, Paper Rater is an excellent tool to review and proofread your articles for grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors. Paper Rater is also quite handy as a plagiarism checking tool if you’re concerned about preventing duplicate content from being published on your site.
As it turned out, spelling & grammar do affect ranking in the search engines like Google and Bing. If you don’t proofread your content to ensure quality, your website pages will likely languish in the back pages of search results never to be seen by anyone from your target audience.
If you have suggestions or tips on how to quickly proofread your content to avoid unnecessary spelling and grammar errors, just leave a comment below. Thanks!