Do you produce great written content?
Blogs are largely text-based, but the value of writing well often isn’t discussed as much as it should be. A well-written blog post adds
This post is part of a series I’m writing looking at the 20 questions Google suggests for digital content creators asking themselves when to optimize for SEO, and they all focus on delivering great content to your reader.
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Here are the two relating to writing:
- Is the content free from spelling or stylistic issues?
- Is the content free from easily-verified factual errors?
Let’s jump in.
Free from spelling issues…
This one seems simple. But, I want to offer a few tips.
Of course, be sure to use spell-check. Even with that, it won’t catch the wrong word if it’s a correct word spelled incorrectly. For instance, you might use their, they’re and there incorrectly, or simply type the wrong word such as “foot” instead of “food”.
I suggest using a free tool such as Grammarly, which will check spelling, grammar and catch any mistakes such as mentioned above. And if you need an extra boost, there is a paid version with added editing features.
Free from stylistic issues…
What is Google referring to when they say “stylistic issues?”
Basically, this refers to the rules of writing and of the language in which you write. Where do commas go and why? When do you capitalize a word or not? Do you write out numbers as words or use the roman character?
It’s the type of stuff that English majors and journalism majors really enjoy.
This all may seem straightforward, but trust me, it isn’t. There are several different popular “styles.” You may be familiar with some, such as MLA, Chicago and AP. All of them have variations in how you should properly format your work.
Why Should a Blogger Care?
So, should a blogger even bother with learning and sticking to a style guide? It’s an interesting question because blogging, at least originally, developed as an informal communication tool. As a rule, it is not considered as formal as a newspaper publication, for example.
If you want to run a professional blog and give your readers the best experience possible, you should hold yourself to professional standards. And that means following a style guide.
You should do your best to be consistent throughout your blog (especially within each blog post), and that’s why an official style guide is very handy.
AP Style (AP stands for Associated Press) is followed by most newspapers and magazines. Therefore, I strongly suggest using it as your default style since the general public finds this the most familiar and interacts with it most consistently.
You can visit the AP Stylebook website to purchase the stylebook or online access. There’s even an option to purchase a yearly subscription to an online checking tool that will analyze your blog posts for AP style. (At the very least, follow AP Stylebook on Twitter for lots of good tips!)
Your own guide
I also suggest creating your own style guide as an addition to the official one. You can use it to specify things like how to capitalize the name of your blog/business, and any other products you offer, and to clarify any phrases or words you frequently use that aren’t very common.
You can always disagree with the official style guides, but for consistency sake, be sure to write down your decision and why.
For instance, style guides differ on how to write food names that include proper nouns, such as French toast, Brussels sprouts and Swedish meatballs. (Or should it be french toast, brussels sprouts, and swedish meatballs?) So, make a list of how you want to capitalize each food and add it to your style guide.
This helps you stay consistent across your blog and brand, and if you ever work with someone else to do writing or designing, you’ll be able to keep up with that consistency in place.
Free from easily-verified factual errors…
When you make a claim about something, be sure to check it.
For instance, if you make health claims about your food, make sure you either verify them from several sources or clearly label them as one person’s experience and not a hard fact.
Or, if you write about the best way to defrost a turkey, make sure you follow food safety standards. If you have a different way, clearly explain your reasoning behind, and mention that your example varies from the routine suggestions.
Not fully checking these detail, or fully explaining your position can quickly make your readers lose trust in you.
Write for the web
Writing for the web is different than any other medium.
The top thing to realize is that people skim. Because of this, readers like short sentences and paragraphs. Use headings and subheadings to break up text and get your point across quickly.
And consider writing in an inverted pyramid style, where your most important information is stated upfront, and then fill in the rest of the details as you continue. This is a common journalism technique, one readers will appreciate as they find what they are looking for right away.
Are spelling and grammar actual SEO ranking factors?
I think that it’s safe to assume two things.
First, even if it’s not a literal signal that Google uses, it clearly plays into your expert-authority-trustworthiness factors (E-A-T), and affects the reader’s overall experience.
Secondly, the video referenced from Google is old enough now that it needs to be taken with a grain of salt. Their algorithm technology has advanced quite a bit in ten years and is more human-like than ever. I find it hard to believe they don’t currently have a way to do some baseline analysis for spelling and grammar.
I also want to mention a very interesting comment from the video, where the presenter says, “The ability to spell correlates rather well with [a higher page rank].” Even though at that time nothing specifically looked at spelling and grammar, other signals must have provided a roundabout way of checking.
Writing well is a major factor in creating an amazing blog that will be reader-friendly and ultimately convert your visitors into followers.
It does play into how Google assesses E-A-T (expertise-authority-trustworthiness) on your blog, as it’s hard to believe and trust someone as an expert in something if they can’t spell. (Although in truth, I’m sure many experts can’t spell, they just have good editors.)
It’s wise to invest in a style guide and create one of your own.
And I’ll end with a bit of advice. The more you write and read, the more you will improve as a writer. If you really want to develop your writing, spend time each day writing and re-writing, and also reading well-written professional blogs, news sites and books.
Looking for more in-depth help with your blog? Check out my site audit offering just for bloggers!