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Let's say I have a web page with user-contributed content, which has good content but with bad grammar, slang terms, and an inappropriate tone.

I know that bad grammar is also a problem, because it drives away visitors and scares people from linking to it, but let's put that aside.
Let's also put aside the fact that incorrectly spelt terms might be ignored by a crawler, potentially leading to fewer text-comparison hits.

Do search engines like Google directly recognize and penalize bad grammar?
For instance because they might consider bad-grammar as a sign of low-quality content.

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3 Answers

up vote 13 down vote accepted

Google's Matt Cutts was asked this question and responded directly in a video (Aug 2011):

Do spelling and grammar matter when evaluating content and site quality?

At least the last time I checked (which was a while ago), it is not used as a direct signal within our rankings. So its not one of the 200 different signals that we use to assess the quality of a page.

But I think it would be fair to think about using it as a signal. We noticed a while ago that, if you look at the PageRank of a page — how reputable we think a particular page or site is — the ability to spell correlates relatively well with that. So, the reputable sites tend to spell better and the sites that are lower PageRank, or very low PageRank, tend not to spell as well, which is a pretty interesting effect if you think about it.

So for example, take spelling and grammar. There’s an inherent assumption in that question that you are talking about the spelling and grammar of a particular language. And so in order to figure out how is the spelling and how is the grammar, you have to figure out what is the language of that page. And even if you have the best language identification in the world, over tens of billions of documents, you’re going to find that maybe there’s a few pages that you missed.

And so you might think that this page has awful spelling or awful grammar, but it turns out it’s really just in Hungarian instead of in English. Or maybe a paragraph or two is in Hungarian, instead of English. And so it’s not the case that you can automatically say, aha, this will be a perfect signal. That’s why we try to do a lot of evaluation. We do a lot of testing to see whether something is really a quality win, whether it matches our intuitions. But it is the sort of thing where it turns out in our experience the more reputable pages do tend to have better spelling and better grammar. And so if you can put in the time to make sure that something is edited well, you’ll find it’s probably not just a good overall piece of content that’s more likely to stand the test of time, but probably users will appreciate it. People can understand when they land on a page whether something is a little bit knocked out quickly versus somebody put a lot of work into it. There was a copy editor or someone did some fact checking or they’re an expert on the subject.

And so, when at all possible, I certainly try to pay attention to spelling and grammar, even when I tweet. Sometimes you mess up, but it is something that I would encourage people to pay attention to, maybe not necessarily for the search rankings directly, but just because it’s a good experience for users and users appreciate that. They’ll be a little more likely to bookmark you or come back or tell their friends about you.

Bing's Duane Forrester now says that Bing is taking spelling and grammar into account in the rankings (Feb 2014):

Quality: Do You Have It, or Just Think You Have It?

...

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 we are constantly watching the quality of the content we see.

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I would say that this is a much better answer, with the caveat: If it's minor, it shouldn't be an issue; however, if the site is riddled with errors, it may lead to a bad user experience and higher bounce rates which would in turn become an indirect signal to Google that the site may be low quality and therefore deserve lower rankings. –  Drew Copenhaver Oct 25 '13 at 13:11
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I think it might be possible. Google does detect bad grammar, but they will (most likely) not directly penalize bad grammar. Take the following (useful?) cases for bad grammar:

  • Engrish funny content and such.
  • A page with "examples" of bad grammar with corrections below.
  • Some grammar is considered "bad" for different regions... This could happen with "Dutch" being used in the Netherlands, Belgium or South Africa.
  • A page displaying cute texts said or written by children.
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Good point! I guess it would be hard for Google to differentiate bad grammar from usage of en.wikipedia.org/wiki/English-based_creole_languages and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_English –  Nicolas Raoul Oct 25 '13 at 8:19
    
Belgium, man, Belgium! (Z.B.) –  Peter Mortensen Oct 26 '13 at 4:16
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Google won't directly penalize a page that contains bad grammar. Google consider the bounce rate of a page so if you have web page content with bad grammar and your users hate those grammatical mistakes and they bounced out from your page, then your web page will get negative impact to Google. Google only count the content quality ( Duplicate or not ) and not the grammatical mistakes. Even many forum sites have both good grammatical content as well as bad, but they are in the top position in Google result page. Hope you understand..

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