Ensuring your SEO copywriting appeals to search engines has moved far beyond strategically placed keywords.

Google’s Panda and Penguin updates, Quality Score and ‘dwell time’ along with countless other factors that the main search engines use to determine content quality, mean that site ranking ultimately lies in providing a good end-user experience.

Specifically, SEO copywriters need to focus on answering the searcher’s question. That means no long preambles, no jargon, no keyword stuffing – simply clear and accurate information telling searchers what they need to know and what to do next.

However, whilst Content is King, another significant mark of quality for readers (and therefore search engines) is well-written, grammatically correct copy.

In an interview with Google’s head of search spam, Matt Cutts outlines the connection between poor spelling and grammar and lower page rank, saying:

“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.”

Good SEO Copywriting = Good Grammar

The bottom line is that people notice mistakes. Web pages punctuated with sloppy spelling and poor grammar lead visitors to question the overall quality and authority of the content and leave. The more times visitors bounce out of a site, the less ‘dwell time’ the pages accumulate which – as search engine Bing suggests – can have a negative effect on a site’s ranking.

Grammar mistakes SEO Copywriters must avoid.

A sign of a skilled SEO copywriter is an ability to adopt a friendly, conversational style which puts prospects at ease and breaks down barriers. But whilst this is fine for tone and even to be encouraged for SEO success, relaxing the rules of grammar is likely to put prospects off.

One of the most commonly mis-used punctuation marks around is the tiny but mighty apostrophe. Whilst it isn’t possible to sum up every nuance here, the basic guidelines are that apostrophes are used:

1. To show possession in place of ‘of’

2. To show that a letter is missing. For example: ‘It isn’t’ is the contracted version of ‘it is not’, ‘let’s’ is the contracted version of ‘let us’.

If an apostrophe is used to show possession by a single person or animal, the apostrophe is placed before the ‘s’. For example, the boy’s toy or the cat’s milk.

If an apostrophe is used to show possession by more than one person or animals then the apostrophe is placed after the ‘s’. For example, the boys’ toys (this relates to the toys of more than one boy) or the fire fighters’ hoses (this relates to the hoses of more than one fire fighter).

If the plural noun doesn’t end in‘s’ then add the apostrophe plus an ‘s’. For example, the women’s changing room (this relates to the changing room belonging to the women) or the children’s toy box (this relates to the toy box belonging to the children).

And finally, here are a few apostrophe checks for terms which SEO copywriters use regularly:

Decades – When referring to decades, such as the 1950s, 1960s etc. the correct way to write them is without an apostrophe. For example, ‘the market has slumped four times since the 1970s’. However if you omit the 19, then you would write the ‘50s or ‘60s.

Terms and Conditions -‘Terms and Conditions’ is often shortened to T&C’s or T&Cs. Which is correct? There is no possession so it is: T&Cs.

FAQs or FAQ’s – Again, there is no possession, so there is no need for an apostrophe. Both FAQs and FAQ are acceptable.

Dos and Don’ts or Do’s and Don’ts: There is no apostrophe after the ‘o’ in Dos, it is Dos and Don’ts.

Issues surrounding the correct use of grammar (especially apostrophes) can be complex which is why many publications and organisations issue their own editorial guide so that copy is consistent. If you are at all unsure about grammar use, invest in a style guide or grammar book or consult one of the many resources online.

The bottom line is that if you want your SEO copywriting to perform well in search, spend time crafting clear, concise, grammatically correct copy that contributes to a good end-user experience for your readers as this will be valued by search engines too.

What are your grammatical bugbears or questions? Let us know below.

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