Mar 24, 2014 • Jessica Jones
Hopefully you already understand the importance of using correct spelling and grammar on your website. Just to be certain, let me emphasize it for you. Your website is making a first impression on potential clients, and may very well play a role in their decision on whether to hire you. While no one is saying that you need to pore over your website with a fine-toothed comb and an MLA Style Manual, if you confuse “their” with “they’re” or “your” with “you’re” you can bet that some users will judge your business based on those errors, and you may in fact lose business as a result.
Last summer I posted about the decision of whether to hire a copywriter. If writing isn’t your strong suit it may be worth your while to hire someone to help you with the task of making certain that your website reads well. Good copy can benefit your SEO through thoughtful keyword placement and many other techniques and factors, but it can also improve your user’s experience, and that’s even more important than SEO. What good is it to bring users to your site if they decide to go elsewhere once they start reading it?
“Well-written” doesn’t necessarily have to mean “formal.” You can write in an informal, relaxed style if that’s what your audience responds to. The tone of the copy on a law office’s website is going to be different than the tone on a burger joint’s. Just because the style isn’t rigid, however, doesn’t mean that clear writing and correct spelling aren’t just as important.
In August 2011 Matt Cutts of Google stated that spelling and grammar weren’t being used directly as factors. He said, however, that he thought they would be fair factors to use, given the correlation Google has found between well-written sites and sites that Google considers to be reputable. As far as I’m aware there hasn’t been any word from Google to contradict this information, so Google probably still isn’t using spelling and grammar as direct factors, but could that be something that’s coming in the future?
It’s possible - Google already evaluates sites by reading level. Even if those evaluations don’t affect ranking they’re available for users to see. Clicking “Search Tools” and choosing “Reading Level” under “All Results” will show you Google’s analysis of the reading level of the sites that your search returned, classifying each as basic, intermediate or advanced. Google will also show you a bar graph breaking down the percentages of those sites that fall into each category.
It’s unlikely that your potential customers are using this tool to check your site’s reading level - in my research the tool seemed to be utilized mostly by teachers looking for material of appropriate reading levels for their students. Many users aren’t even aware that this feature exists. Google, however, is in fact judging you, and if they’ve developed algorithms to classify reading level, is it hard to believe that they could also start evaluating spelling and grammar?
Even if these factors never become an official signal in Google rankings, keep in mind that Google has found a clear correlation between well-written sites and sites that are highly ranked. This could indicate many different corresponding factors, but I think the take-home message is this: Sites that are built and maintained with consistent and careful effort are going to flourish far more than sites that are thrown together. If you’re willing to invest resources into your website, your website will be far more likely to give you a worthwhile return on your investment.