Read below the video for further description, and make sure to leave a comment with your view or opinion in the comments section.
Matt Cutts is a one of my favourite SEO commentators and has been answering SEO’s questions for a long time.
But a recent video I watched from Matt got my blood boiling, or at least bubbling.
Matt was asked whether spelling and grammar was part of the Google algorithm?
Basically Matt’s response was that having spelling and grammar in the algorithm made a lot of sense, because users wanted pages and websites that were well written and easy to read.
We aren’t talking about university level English here, just a factor that would relegate poorly written pages (potentially written by non-native English/[relevant language] speakers) that provide little or no value to the user.
No user wants these kind of results and implementing a factor that would get rid of them makes so much sense, too much sense apparently.
Matt answered the question first of all and said that he wasn’t aware that Google used these factors in their algorithm.
Essentially Google doesn’t use spelling and grammatical factors in their algorithm.
In fairness to Matt he did say it would be a factor worth looking into.
Matt gave a couple of reasons why Google doesn’t use these factors in their algorithm:
- There are potential errors when creating an algorithm/factor that would measure spelling and grammatical mistakes, e.g. what if a page quoted French and the main page was in English?
- Google believe that PageRank will do the same job as such factors, i.e. if a page has poor grammar or spelling, fewer reputable people will link to it and therefore it will automatically be relegated down the search results.
On the surface this looks like smart reasoning from some very smart people, but lets look below the surface.
Rebuttal - Google’s Double Standard
First off Google already have the technology in terms of spelling (they pride themselves on on their spelling corrections in search) and language and dialect differentiation (Google Translate). So with a little fine tuning and the algorithm would have a low percentage error level.
Although they don’t have any major grammar corrector that I’m aware of, they do have thousands of the top engineers in the world to create one.
Plus as users are probably only interested in making sure the page has decent readable grammar, we’re not asking Google to come up with a masterpiece, just a basic algorithm that identifies basic grammatical errors that are obviously apparent to a reader when reading the page.
The whole argument that PageRank would do a better job is totally flawed.
If Google had that much trust in PageRank, then their algorithm would simply find out what a page is about, whether its doing anything sneaky/black hat and then rank in accordance with quality of links.
But it doesn’t why not?
Because Google know that PageRank can make mistakes too. For example what if the most reputable online English tutor linked to a poorly written page as an example of what not to do when writing a web page? That’s right that page would probably benefit from that link (assuming the tutor didn’t use the nofollow tag).
That’s why Google combine PageRank with other factors that make a lot of sense to use:
PageSpeed Example: Google currently use a factor that demotes pages that load slowly and increases the ranking of pages that load quickly.
Here’s what Google have to say about PageSpeed: “we believe that making our websites load and display faster improves the user’s experience and helps them become more productive.” – Source
And another good one: “Speeding up websites is important — not just to site owners, but to all Internet users. Faster sites create happy users” – Source
Hey, doesn’t that sound similar, you could say that spelling and grammar “improves the user experience” and that “well written sites create happy users.”
Yet Google use PageSpeed as a factor and not spelling and grammar.
Google has shown that PageRank needs to be combined with other factors to get the best results.
When a factor such as spelling and grammar is ignored it’s just Google contradicting itself.
If I was Head of Search…..
If I was head of search at Google I would:
- Develop a set of new factors to determine the grammatical and spelling rating of a page.
- I would create a set of signals within the spelling and grammar algorithm to rate how accurate the algorithm is on a page by page basis and if there was a significant level of doubt I would simply minimize the use of that factor on the page or not use it at all and defer back to PageRank.
- Create a notification method within Google Webmaster Tools that would let sites known which pages are being penalized and why, and of course then a reconsideration request so that if the site has cleaned up their pages they will be re-evaluated.
- And I would share this page on Facebook and Twitter, hint, hint.
Let me know if you spot any spelling or grammatical errors in this article :)