Low PageRank, Bad Spelling & Panda

A recent Search Engine Land article [1] by Matt McGee seems to be getting a lot of traction in the SEO community, but the misleading title triggers wrong interpretation.

In a recent YouTube video [2], Matt Cutts from Google answers a question about impact of spelling and grammar on site quality:

“Do spelling and grammar matter when evaluating content and site quality?”
(Original question) 

Let’s look at the article title now:

“Google: Low PageRank & Bad Spelling May Go Hand-In-Hand; Panda, Too?”
(This title is very easy to misinterpret by non-technical audience) 

Let’s cut to the chase – the answer is no. Google does not factor in spelling and grammar as one of their direct ranking signals (the famous 200+). There seems to be an issue with determining exact language or dialect which may cause undesired ranking shifts.

Matt Cutts states that there is a high correlation between high PageRank sites and high quality content but does not draw direct connection between the two. One can make the same conclusion when observing .gov domains which tend to have pretty good grammar and spelling, however that is not why those domains rank well. Search engine signals are numerous and complex and Google at some point may add spelling and grammar to the mix. Matt also mentions reading levels as an “interesting” way to look at content but again does not make any firm connections with rankings.

There is much to be left for free interpretation but by observing shares on Twitter [3] and other social channels webmasters seem to be jumping to quick conclusions about impact of spelling and grammar on rankings and even PageRank itself [4] which is certainly pure fiction. This is partly due to the misleading title, but mainly because of those who share news without actually reading the article or watching the video in full. Who is the victim here? Well, people outside the SEO community may get wrong ideas about how things really work. Some people refer to Google rankings as “Page Rank” which may confuse the situation further.  Here’s a an example:

Tweet about PageRank

Innocent Victim of SEO Rumors

It’s safe to say that Panda is not a direct signal, but more of a filter which is rolled out in installments so the correlation between content quality and impact of Panda roll-outs seems a more likely match. The video ends with the usual “what’s good for the users” statement with repeated message that spelling and grammar are not direct signals.

If you have made any firm observations or have an opinion on this topic please make a comment below.


[1] McGee, M. – “Google: Low PageRank & Bad Spelling May Go Hand-In-Hand; Panda, Too?” Retrieved from: http://searchengineland.com/google-pagerank-spelling-correlation-95821 on 07/10/2011

[2] Cutts, M. – “Do spelling and grammar matter when evaluating content and site quality?” Retrieved from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoFf6Kn4K98 on 07/10/2011

[3] Twitter search results for “http://searchengineland.com/google-pagerank-spelling-correlation-95821”: http://twitter.com/search?q=http%3A%2F%2Fsearchengineland.com%2Fgoogle-pagerank-spelling-correlation-95821

[4] Twitter: http://twitter.com/#!/GrammarGirl/status/121974954966261760 by @GrammarGirl

Dan Petrovic, the managing director of DEJAN, is Australia’s best-known name in the field of search engine optimisation. Dan is a web author, innovator and a highly regarded search industry event speaker.
ORCID iD: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6886-3211

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