I was reading an email yesterday from someone who shall remain nameless and it was, quite frankly, terrible.
The sentences were too long, the grammar was incorrect, it read terribly. In fact, it didn’t just read terribly, it was impossible to read. By the time you’d got to the end of one sentence, you’d forgotten what it was all about. Or why you were even there in the first place. Or what your name was.
Now, to be fair, the email hadn’t been written with the intention of being used for any marketing purposes; it was a personal email. In fact, it was technically a HR document, sent with the need to be legally binding.
Nevertheless, it got me thinking about the way people write and what they want their reader to do with that piece of written information.
Because all writing serves a purpose or, at the very least, has been written with the intention of serving a purpose. To make someone feel something. Or to make someone take an action.
And SEO copywriting is the epitome of this. As an SEO Copywriter, the purpose of my writing is to make someone take an action, whether that be to visit a website, to contact a business having already visited a website, to buy a product or service having read an email etc. etc.
So naturally, the way I write my copy matters. It needs to be persuasive. It needs to be engaging. It needs to be interesting. And, I would argue, it needs to be grammatically correct too.
But does it matter for the purposes of SEO whether or not that latter point is there? Well, let’s find out.
Why Does Copywriting Matter To SEO?
Copywriting is crucial to SEO, which is why it has even spawned its own genre – SEO Copywriting (I’ve discussed the differences between the two numerous times before, so I’m not going to repeat myself again here. You can check out this post from a couple of weeks ago if you’d like a brief explanation).
At the very basest level, search engine algorithms rank your website based on how useful they are going to be to the searcher. Will your website answer the questions the searcher is asking? Will it answer the subsequent questions the searcher has? Does your website explain what you do? Does your website show that you have expertise in your field?
Basically, is there plenty of content on your website?
Clients always want to know what the secret is to ranking at the top of Google, but it isn’t hard. You just need to have a really, really good website, with plenty of really, really good content on it.
Easy peasy, right?!
OK, maybe not. But if you’ve got a website with two or three pages that just contains a tiny bit of information about who you are and what you do, then I’m afraid it ain’t gonna rank mate. Not unless you’re literally the only person in the world who does what you do. In that case, you might stand a chance.
For everyone else, you need content, content and then a little bit more content. If you’ve got that, you’ve at least got the strong foundations laid for some successful SEO.
Do Grammar and Good Copywriting Matter To SEO?
So, you’ve got plenty of content on your website, but does the way that content is written make a difference to how successful it will be? Well, I’d argue that yes, it very much does.
OK, so it’s true that, if you ask Google, they’ll tell you that grammar and syntax are not a ranking factor. In fact, here is what they say on the matter;
“I don’t know if any of our algorithms specifically look for the grammar and say this web site uses English in a bad way, we will demote it. I don’t know. It is possible but it feels really kind of niche. We can find better ways of finding lower quality content than just checking the grammar. Because something like grammar is really hard to do across the internet, where there is so many different languages and so many variations of languages. We can’t possibly check Swiss German websites for grammar.”
(You see what I mean about Google being vague?! Even when they’re trying to give us a definitive answer to something, provided by a guy who actually works for them and whose job it is to know these things, the answer begins with “I don’t know”! Anyway, back to the point…)
Their whole argument is that, essentially, you can’t correct the grammar of every single bit of content on the internet, and even if your grammar is perfect, the people commenting on your content will possibly have poor grammar, so how will you ever police it, or rectify it all? You won’t, so don’t stress.
However, many SEOs (including Google themselves) admit that, even if good grammar isn’t a ranking factor directly, poor grammar might very well be something that gets your website dropped down the rankings.
And here’s why.
Why Does Grammar Matter To SEO?
“Not really. So it is more a matter of how it is received from a user point of view. If you are a banking web site and you have terrible English on it, then I assume users will lose trust in your web site.”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the nub of it.
Good grammar might not be a direct ranking factor for a search engine algorithm, but in the wider sense of SEO, it certainly makes a big difference.
If we take the outcome of SEO to be an increased number of visitors to your website, and thus an increased number of customers for your business, then the very point of SEO is twofold; first of all, we need to get people onto your website, then we need to get more people to take action and convert from a visitor to a customer.
If you’ve got poor grammar on your website, then you might be able to get more people on it in the first place, but if they’re not then converting into customers, what’s the point?
You could have the best, most interesting content in the world on your website, but if readers are going to be put off after two sentences, then the whole exercise has been a waste of everyone’s time.
I know, as an SEO copywriter, that I might be slightly biased, but when I think about the way I engage with content, if the grammar is poor, then I’m not reading any further. I don’t care how educational or useful your content is.
On the one hand, poor grammar erodes your credibility as a business; if you can’t even write a blog post correctly, how are you going to look after my business/finances/customers (fill in the blank for your case) etc.?
On the other hand, poor grammar corrupts the user experience (or UX, as we call it); if I’m having to fight my way through your sentences and decipher your meaning myself, then it’s not a very ergonomically designed website and I’m not going to be able to ‘get it’ with ease.
Essentially, when it comes down to brass tacks, if your grammar is poor then your content is poor. And if your content is poor, then your SEO doesn’t stand a chance.
And just to clarify, when I speak of bad grammar, I’m talking about mixing up ‘their, there and they’re’, or saying ‘your’ when you mean ‘you’re’. I’m not referring to the style of writing. I’m well aware that, to an English Professor at Oxford University perhaps, beginning a sentence with the word ‘and’ would constitute a huge grammatical faux pas, however, for modern web standards, it’s a perfectly acceptable style of writing.
Therefore, to some extent you can fit your grammar to the style of writing you’re using, but remember that poor grammar is poor grammar, whatever mode you’re writing in.
What Can I Do To Improve My Grammar?
Fortunately, there are a few very simple things you can do to ensure the grammar on your website is on point.
I know it’s one of the first thing’s they teach you in primary school, but first and foremost you must simply read back what you’ve written. You’ll be amazed at how many grammatical mistakes you will spot in your writing if you check your own work. The best plan is to leave it for twenty minutes or so after writing, then go back and read it after a bit of time away. That way, your brain won’t just read what you remember having just written, but instead will be able to check more accurately whether it’s correct or not.
If you’re not confident at all in your ability to write grammatically, then there are plenty of tools out there that will give you a helping hand. For one thing, both Word and Google Docs have in-built spell and grammar checkers, so use them. They won’t pick up everything, but they’re likely to get the biggest and most obvious mistakes, which will stop you looking like an idiot.
If you’re wanting something more robust, then you can’t go wrong with Grammarly. Not only will Grammarly check the accuracy of your spelling and grammar, but it will also check for plagiarism and tell you if you’re obviously ripping off someone else’s work. But the best thing about Grammarly is that it’s absolutely free. So there’s no excuse for not using it.
Finally, if you’re absolutely determined that you want content that’s well written and grammatically correct, and you don’t trust yourself to deliver that, then why not get a copywriter in to do it for you? If you hire an SEO copywriter, then they’ll not only ensure you get fresh, original content uploaded to your website regularly, but they’ll also ensure it’s well written, grammatically correct and search engine optimised to boot. Bonus.
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So, if you’ve ever wondered whether or not grammar matters to SEO, the short answer, in my humble opinion, is that it very much does.
Which is precisely why, here at GrowTraffic, we pride ourselves on creating top notch content that is grammatically correct and also does what it’s supposed to (i.e. turn your web visitors into customers).
Images courtesy of SomeECards.