How your bad grammar loses you money

Updated 17 July 2020

Their are two kinds of people in the world. And one just had a physical reaction to my use of “their” instead of “there”. Don’t care? You should because there are 57,148 of our kind working for a company with make-or-break power over your business.

If you experience bad grammar and spelling at a physical level, you’re likely tired of hearing from the Philistines in the second group that good English don’t matter in the internet age. <Insert your winking emoji of choice here.>

Light shines from an unlikely source in these dark times, a searchlight, if you will. Yes, the biggest internet company of them all still cares about spelling and grammar. Not only that, but Google and its 57,148 employees are punishing those who don’t write well.

Google ranks sites with bad English lower than otherwise equivalent sites that are better written. That means fewer potential customers click through to the badly-written sites, so their authors make less money.

The company that comes first in a Google search snaffles 31.24 per cent of the clicks.* The runner up siphons off another 14.04 per cent of the sales potential. Coming in third means 45 per cent of people who might have become your customers already slipped through your fingers into the hands of the competition.

If you were making $100 a day at #1 on Google, you’ll make $44.90 at #2.

96.27 per cent of searchers don’t make it past the fifth result. That leaves results six through 10 pecking for scraps. As for being on the second page, that’s like being airbrushed out of history.

Data screenshot

Bad spelling and grammar could cause a drop in Google ranking

How do we know Google cares?

“If you look at… how reputable we think a particular page or site is,” Google search oracle Matt Cutts says in an official Google video, “the ability to spell correlates relatively well with that.”

Put in a less gnomic way:

  1. Google exists to connect searchers with quality content that answers their questions
  2. Google’s data show people putting out quality content tend to care about spelling and grammar
  3. If your site has poor spelling and grammar, Google infers your content comes from someone who cares less about it than they should
  4. If you don’t care for your content that much, Google doesn’t think its customers will either (all other things being equal)

Duane Forrester, senior product manager for Bing, puts it this way:

“As you’re judging others’ writing, so the [search] engines judge yours. If you struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error-free content exist to serve the searcher? Like it or not, we’re judged by the quality of the results we show

So next time you feel the world is dissolving into smiley faces, thumbs up icons and lost apostrophes, take some comfort: Google has your back.

July 2020 update

Since this post was published in July 2015, the top slots in Google snaffle even more of the traffic on page one than before. You can see the latest data in this tool from Advanced Web Ranking, which shows the clickthrough rates for Google searches.