If you can’t write, you won’t show up on the search engines.
That’s because Google is now looking at user experience as its primary ranking factor. That means, they check whether people are sticking around on your site, reading the great content you provided.
They also know when people leave your site because it sucked.
According to a Google employee, Wysz, on the Google Forums, Google uses a number of different signals to find low quality sites, including shallow or poorly written content. Here’s what Wysz says:
Our recent update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites, so the key thing for webmasters to do is make sure their sites are the highest quality possible. We looked at a variety of signals to detect low quality sites. Bear in mind that people searching on Google typically don’t want to see shallow or poorly written content, content that’s copied from other websites, or information that are just not that useful. In addition, it’s important for webmasters to know that low quality content on part of a site can impact a site’s ranking as a whole.
This can be a bit of an ego blow if you actually create your own content. I mean, it’s one thing to try to trick Google with a bunch of crap copy that got puked out by an article spinner. You shrug your shoulders, say “it’s a fair cop,” and then figure out another way to peddle your penis pills.
But if you’re not trying to trick Google, it has to be the worst feeling to find that Google dinged you because your writing was shallow and poorly written.
While Google isn’t getting into the literary criticism business or making moral judgments about you as a person (that’s what Facebook is for), Google wants you to write good copy that uses proper spelling, punctuation, and grammar. Here’s why:
- People spell and use grammar correctly when they search. That’s because Google will correct their spelling in a search. “Did you mean _____” appears at the top of the search engine if you typed in a word incorrectly. Or if they think you’re really stupid, they just ignore your word choice and do a search for the correct spelling, giving you the option to click the less desirable, incorrect choice.
- People share awesome. Scott Stratten said this once, and I’m stealing it. If you write some great stuff, people are more likely to share it. That means people are more likely to link to it in their own blogs, which builds backlinks, which helps your Google juice. But, more importantly, Google is starting to tailor your search results, not with the “official objective” results, but with the results you are more likely to be interested in. For example, you Google “Moleskine notebooks.” Instead of getting the regular search results for Moleskines, you’ll see a blog post I wrote about the little black notebook in your results. You’ll either see it because we’re connected socially, or because someone in your circle shared it, tweeted it, or even left a comment.
- Google is getting better at semantic search. That means, Google knows what you meant, rather than what you said (see #1). Combine that with the fact that programs like Microsoft Word can check your grammar, and I can see a day where Google uses a grammar checker in their indexing to weed out not only the shallow, poorly-written copy used by spammers, but start dinging the poorly-written copy from people who just can’t write to begin with. After all, Google is about providing the best user experience. So that may start including ranking “good” writing higher and “bad” writing lower. While I can’t see them using an Amazon.com review system to rank sites, I can see them pushing all the lunatic ramblings, misspellings, and drunken love poetry off the top pages.
If you’re a writer, this is one more reason to work on improving your craft. If you’re not a writer, this is a great reason why you need to improve. And if you’re a business trying to rank high in the search engines, this means you need to consider hiring a ghost blogger or other professional copywriter who actually knows what they’re doing.
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds (Flickr)