Is Grammar Powerful Enough To Ruin Your Blog Rankings?

I can’t believe how many blog posts I’ve read in the last week on reasons that many of us bloggers, and a heck of a lot of websites, lost ranking over the last month due to Google’s Penguin update, and then the Panda 3.5 update as well. Most people didn’t know there were two updates; well, there were, and they were within days of each other.

I’m sure this guy’s
suffering greatly

There’s one thing that’s come up time and time again, and I feel that someone has to actually write about it to dispel it as a reason, so it might as well be me. That one thing is that grammar can be used as a reason why many people took a hit.

Come on folks, really? Actually, let’s break this down because when most people are thinking “grammar”, they’re not really thinking grammar at all. Per my Webster’s New World College Dictionary, grammar means:

that part of the study of language which deals with the forms and structure of words, with their customary arrangement in phrases and sentences

Is that what most of you using the word have been thinking? Nope. You’ve been thinking about misspellings, capitalization, and typos for the most part. That’s a part of grammar but it’s not grammar. But we’ll let that one go for now.

Grammar is terrible these days. Forget that people can’t figure out which “your” or “their” they should be using. There are phrases like “these ones”, which grates my nerves, and things like “I ‘heart’ you”, which I just learned what it means (yeah, I’m slow sometimes) that people use, to the point that some kids actually write these things in papers in school, and teachers are allowing it; I’m shocked! Okay, no I’m not, but I am greatly disappointed.

Still, let’s be reasonable here. If Google was going to penalize people for grammar, just whose grammar would they be penalizing people with? Folks in the south use a different grammar than folks up north, and I’m betting out west people say some things differently than we do. What about people in other countries that know English as a second language? Wouldn’t an overwhelming majority of their sites be penalized drastically?

Let’s go back to misspellings, capitalization, and typos. There’s so much of all of these, even on prominent news sites like CNN and MSNBC, definitely on my local newspaper, that one would expect these site would take a much bigger hit than those of us writing our little personal blogs because it’s much more pervasive there, yet they’re not suffering at all.

Does this mean one shouldn’t try to work on those things so they minimize errors? Absolutely not. Does it mean that one’s traffic might not drop if there’s so many errors people can’t understand the content? Nope; it most certainly will drop. But it’s not because of any updates by Google, or any other search engine.

So allay your fears; you will not be tested any time soon on your grammar, spelling, or anything else. That is, unless you’re still in school, in which case study! 🙂

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32 thoughts on “Is Grammar Powerful Enough To Ruin Your Blog Rankings?”

  1. Point taken Mitch..

    What I was sharing was what people who actually do this have shared with me. Thank goodness I don’t have this issue so I never have to worry about this. But you definitely set us straight on this one.

    I might have to go back and correct that one on my post and put a note that you said so! 🙂 Hey, you the man!

    1. Thanks Adrienne! 🙂 Actually, it just wouldn’t make sense in general, and they seem willing to forgive errors, as I had a couple of big ones over the years where I really thought I was spelling the word properly, but wasn’t close. lol

  2. You know I see this debate from time to time and I have read some blogs that are worse in grammar. Like you said, it is might be how they converse amongst themselves where they live. I am told I talk to fast being from the west, where my man’s relatives might be deemed slower in the way they speak.

    Grammar is important, but I don’t hold people accountable if they spell something wrong. It happens and I just chalk it up to a small oversight. I just don’t tell them in my comment, “hey you spelled this wrong”. I hate when I see people do that.

    Why not tell them privately offline so they can fix it and move on with their life? Who knows, everyone is different, but I do my best to write good content and proofread till I am blue in the face.

    1. Sonia, except for Sire and I playing the game with each other I rarely do it. However, with so many people saying Google was holding them accountable for it I felt it was time to help dispel the myth.

      1. You can’t please Google no matter how you much you try. They always seem to come up with some new crap to throw people off. That’s just wrong.

      2. I see Google trying to play the game the smartest way. Imagine some indian bloggers with English as second language, what will happen to them? Because they are mostly everywhere with two to four blogs each. Google just want to promote spammers and chase away the game changers. @Sonia than for your comment

      3. I think that’s their intention Olawale, but I also think they’ve hurt some of us regular folks also without realizing it or really caring all that much.

      4. I fully agree with you Sonia, because every time they say they’re doing something to improve search, all it does is hurts someone because I haven’t seen any improvement on search at all.

  3. I do love it when someone lets me know of a typo or error. Of course in a message is best but I would rather know about it than not and be able to correct it. I find myself turning to Google if I am not sure about the use of certain words. I wonder how this relates to retail websites too?

    1. Truth be told, grammar relates to nothing. Now, what they could be looking at is this old SEO trick, which I’ve never subscribed to, of intentionally misspellings words in multiple posts to rank for words that really don’t exist because they all know that some people will misspell words or have typos for some of those words and will find them that way. Now, if they went after that it’s still not grammar in the real sense, but it would make some sense since it’s sneaky stuff.

  4. First of all its not really possible to install a grammar searching algorithm, that’s stupid.

    I’m not going to lie here. I really struggle with grammar sometimes and as far as I can tell, I always make mistakes. But English is my second language and I’m still learning, so I might have an excuse…

    1. You do Cristian, but you don’t need an excuse because you know English, while most of us don’t know a second language of any kind. And I’m with you, that kind of grammar algorithm could they create that could be balanced?

  5. Not at all, Mitch. Haha, well actually there were 2 more updates after Penguin update. Part of the algorithm related to grammar and spelling mistakes have weight of less than 1% of the total things that matter for SEO. It didn’t just happened from the latest updates, it happened since first Panda and algorithms were implemented then, right now the same algorithms were amended. One of the things is pagination, 2nd website speed, 3rd how many websites on the same server, valid CSS and markup and the major change link evaluation. One other thing – source of origin, for instance if last year a blogger write about “SmushIt” plugin, most likely will hit top 10 and right now the first few links in top results are those from original sources. Honestly, Google is doing their job quite well, the only part of top 10 results which I am not happy with is that Wikipedia appear in more than 51% of top 10 results in comparison in Bing, Wikipedia appear only in 30% of results.

    1. Carl, here’s the reason I’m of the opinion they’re not doing such a great job. I checked one of my keyword phrases on Google for my main business. I come up in 72nd place. I don’t come up behind anyone else in my area that does this particular thing that’s actually here though. I come up behind companies that do training and may mention my home city somewhere on their site. That’s not how it’s supposed to work, but it explains why local people can’t find me, or other local people. That’s just not right.

      1. Solution for this problem is to list your business on Google maps, most likely it will appear straight in the top 10, 72 hours after phone verification.

  6. I think Grammar does affect your rankings, partially.
    If you have one or two mistakes within a post, it’ll be acceptable. However, if you have lots of mistakes, chunks or spammy sentences, the visitors won’t stay on your blog for long. They’ll simply leave, thus increases the bounce rate. Higher bounce rate will raise a sign for Google, they will devalue your blog because it doens’t make sense to readers.

    1. Tho, the way I see it, that’s just bad writing, and it’s not the grammar that’s killing the ranking as much as Google not being able to figure out what it is. That’s why their first Panda update last year hurt so many writing sites, because there was a lot of junk in there that make no real sense and was, well, pretty useless stuff. I don’t think it’s grammar, or other stuff associated with grammar, as much as it’s just useless words strewn around that say nothing.

  7. Yeah, too much grammatical knowledge is enough to devastate your blog. People come to blog in order to share their view. To some relief & fun. Not to read some sentences which are enough to make your brain work after a long day at office.

    1. That’s an interesting position Nolan. I think some people actually do look for literary knowledge that makes them work their brains, the comparison between Maxim and the Wall Street Journal, if you will. But what everyone wants is content they understand, and if grammar, spelling, punctuation and spacing isn’t correct enough to make that part of the experience easy, no matter the topic, people aren’t sticking around.

  8. People are too quick to judge sometimes and fail to realize there are other things they may be doing wrong. They look at their page and say “What’s wrong with this page?” and fail to look at how they’ve promoted it. Or in some cases, created it.

    Just before Penguin hit, I had several pages on the first page in Google. I did a quick study of my pages, and every one of them had a keyword density of LESS than 1%. Yet prevailing “wisdom” seems to claim you have to have 1-5%. I don’t know about you, but articles with a 5% keyword density sound so stuffy as to be almost unreadable, in my opinion. But neither update targets this even.

    I’m to the point where I’m going to keep an eye on my rankings, but I’m not going to depend on them. I’m going to start finding ways to get TRAFFIC (the ultimate goal of SEO anyway) from places other than Google. Do that, and I bet you SEO will go up naturally anyway, especially if you keep putting quality content on your site.

    Great post, Mitch!

    1. Thanks Grady. Overall I don’t worry much about these things until I see a big drop, and I actually did over a month or so. It’s in the slow process of recovery now, but it’s still strange how it all comes out. Still, it has nothing to do with grammar, although badly written pages might seem like it’s a grammatical error.

  9. This is just one of MANY misconceptions about whats hurting your ranking and what’s not.

    I swear, some people are just making stuff up so they have something say. It gets irritating after a while. You hear everything from grammar to duplicate content. One guy even said you could get hit for having to many social media backlinks. lol

    This Grammar thing has been beat into the ground and it’s total B.S. and in all honestly, you don’t WANT to blog with perfect grammar.

    You are not writing a term paper or textbook, you are writing a blog. This style of writing needs to flow; you need to write the way you talk. This is one of the best ways to get people to “connect” to your writing.

    Thanks for helping to dispel this myth.

    Maybe now people can stop worrying about all this silly nonsense and get back to blogging.

    1. Thanks Micah. You’re right, perfect grammar can be pretty dull; almost no one speaks that way 24/7. It’s amazing how things can become an urban legend so fast, even when they don’t make any sense. That’s why sometimes I just have to go against the grain; can’t allow these things to go unchallenged.

  10. Mitch,
    First, I liked your post image 🙂

    Although I care a great deal about grammar, as a non-native English speaker, I do make some mistakes. However, as you rightly said, it would be too bad if Google measures all those zillion pages on the web with the same yardstick. It may be okay to punish a poetry/literature/news related websites for grammar mistakes but it will be too harsh on technical sites, those who deal with programming etc. Well, it’s good to have good quality language but unfortunately not all of them possess such skills.

    However, what I really hate is the young generation reverting to SMS/Texting language and poor grammar even when they write about serious matters!

    1. Glad you like that image Ajith. The guy that started that stuff makes around $15 million a year online. And I’m with you on the texting language; I still haven’t been able to figure out most of it. Overall it’s a good thing Google doesn’t go after grammar; most of us would suffer in some way.

  11. Drat! You mean I’m not going to be tested on my grammar, spelling and punctuation?? Anyway, I’m a perfectionist so I would try to get it right whether it mattered to anyone else or not. I did find a strange jump (down!) in my rank, going from around 880k to 1.1 million very quickly…can’t imagine what happened but would love to know if it’s anything I’m doing wrong (and that would NOT be grammar, spelling and punctuation!)

    Enjoy the journey.


    1. No tests upcoming Mandy. lol I took a quick look at your blog and there’s nothing that jumps out. See, that’s one of the problems with this whole thing; there are no easy diagnoses and no help. I know what it’s not, but don’t know what it is.

  12. This is a good point Mitch. There is a ton of bad grammar out there. Although they don’t add much credibility to a person’s website, I doubt Google could or ever would penalize that.
    Good post, thanks.

  13. This is another great post, Mitch!

    I have to agree with you that it doesn’t make any real sense for Google to slap people for poor grammar, punctuation, and spelling. It is far, far to pervasive for there to be any real traction with it.

    Unfortunately, it’s so common that it truly is an issue. It’s absolutely ridiculous what people put out for written content, particularly the paid professionals at the likes of CNN, FOX, and the various newspapers. It really just makes me shake my head.

    Don’t get me wrong, I make mistakes also, and probably more than I realize. But, I truly believe that it doesn’t affect the message that I try to impart. I also put forth serious effort to ensure that I catch as many mistakes as I can. It all serves to limit the issues.

    That being said, the garbage put out by some people really does nothing but to make them look bad to anybody who is even remotely educated.

    Thanks for the great information!


    1. Thanks Barry; seeing you everywhere today. 🙂 You know, it just seems like grammar and spelling have gone to the wayside in today’s world. The thing is that I haven’t seen the computer yet that doesn’t have a spell check, and as I write this blog I see spelling questions here and there indicated by the program and I get to decide whether I’m right or the computer is right. But at least I pay attention to it.

      As for grammar itself… well, we all have different speech patterns, but there are phrases that I hear today that in my day in school the teacher would have thought I’d lost my mine. I’m calling out “these ones” as one of those phrases; really? lol

      Still, I was glad to help dispel the myth that Google is penalizing anyone for this type of thing. As long as their program knows what you’re talking about, it’s all good.

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