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Spelling & Grammar: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

Spelling and grammar is important for user experience. But is it a ranking factor for Google? We uncover the evidence in this chapter.

Spelling & Grammar: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

For many of us, proper spelling and grammar have become the norm in our work lives.

But no matter how good your score is on Grammarly, do search engines really care?

The truth is, there are tons of articles out there with advice on how grammar and spelling impact your SEO efforts.

Today, we’ll look at the evidence.

The Claim: Spelling & Grammar As A Ranking Factor

It isn’t surprising that this claim has made headlines in many SEO publications and blogs.

In fact, around the time Google released the first Panda Update, several sites with poor spelling and grammar saw significant ranking demotions.

Coincidence? Or conspiracy theory?

Well, it isn’t just SEO professionals who think spelling and grammar matter.

Harvard Business Review’s 2016 study revealed that 81% of businesspeople agree that poorly written material is a giant waste of time.

And anything that’s bad for users is typically bad as well for search engines. Right?

So it’s easy to see how this could connect the dots to improve your readability for SEO.

Spelling & Grammar As A Ranking Factor: The Evidence

Is spelling and grammar a ranking factor?

To answer this question, we need to go back to August 18, 2011.

Matt Cutts (then Head of Google’s Webspam Team) answered this question directly in a Google Webmaster Help video.

Short answer: No and yes, depending on the search engine.

Google’s stance is that spelling and grammar are not a signal Google uses to rank your website.

And, in 2017, John Mueller of Google confirmed that claim again.

More recently, in 2021, John Mueller confirmed that poor spelling and grammar does impact quality.

He states:

“With regard to spelling errors, grammatical errors, I think that’s something that’s a bit more of almost like a gray zone in that on the one hand we have to be able to recognize what a page is about.

And if we can’t recognize that because there’s so many errors on the page in the text, then that makes it harder.

The other aspect is also that we try to find really high quality content on the web and sometimes it can appear that a page is lower quality content because it has a lot of …kind of… grammatical and technical mistakes in the text.”

However, Duane Forrester, then Senior Product Manager at Bing, wrote in a 2014 Bing Webmaster Blog post that poor spelling and grammar would negatively affect your rankings on Bing.

Forrester stated:

“This might all seem a bit ‘down in the weeds’, but 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.”

In reality, spelling and grammar affect the overall user experience. Your best bet is to play it safe and run a spellcheck on your content before publishing.

Should You Care About Spelling & Grammar In SEO?

In the Cutts video from Google Webmaster Help above, he adds that higher-quality pages tend to be more reputable and use better spelling and grammar.

While spelling and grammar are not a direct ranking signal, they do play a part in your SEO.

It’s a trust factor.

If you’re a business and law firm with terrible grammar and spelling, users will lose trust.

Once they lose trust, they will bounce.

If a user visits your site but immediately bounces or spends a shorter than average amount of time on your content, that sends a signal to search engines and could result in lower rankings and less traffic.

Typos on landing pages increased bounce rate by 85% and reduced time on site by 8% compared to the clean version, according to a Website Planet study.

What About Bad Grammar & Spelling In Blog Comments?

When it comes to reviews, UGC, and comments, Cutts said that it does not hurt your rankings.

However, if these are spammy-style comments, those can negatively impact your rankings.

If you’re getting spam comments, you’ll want to set up a better security setting with a CAPTCHA plugin or remove comments altogether.

Spelling & Grammar As A Ranking Signal: Our Verdict

Spelling & Grammar: Is It A Google Ranking Factor?

Based on all the evidence, it seems like spelling and grammar can impact your rankings – possibly directly, but definitely indirectly.

We know from Google that spelling and grammar directly impacts site quality, which impacts how your site ranks.

That means you shouldn’t simply ignore the importance of spelling and grammar.

Before you publish your next piece of content, read your copy.

Then reread it out loud.

Use tools like Grammarly to clean up grammar issues (aim for a score of 90+).

And, tools like the Hemingway app to ensure your content is easy to read (aim for a grade of 6-8, unless your target audience dictates otherwise).

Remember, even though spelling and grammar are not a direct ranking signal, it does impact the user’s experience.


Featured Image: Robin Biong/Search Engine Journal

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Google Ranking Factors: Fact or Fiction

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Anna Crowe

Assistant Editor at Search Engine Journal

Anna is the Assistant Editor for Search Engine Journal. Over the last 10+ years, Anna has successfully been running her ... [Read full bio]

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