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Misspellings And Grammar Errors In User Generated Comments

Updated on March 9, 2012

Panda Bites Down On Quality

Pagedooley Photo - Courtesy Of Flickr
Pagedooley Photo - Courtesy Of Flickr

Spelling Errors In Comments

Many website owners have been questioning the importance of proper spelling and grammatical correctness in user comments on their blogs or on revenue sharing sites such as Hubpages. The theory is that grammar errors and general misspellings in a user comment can hurt the overall rating and subsequently affect SEO in a negative manner. Webmasters need to know whether user comments are being used to calculate a page's position in the Google serps in order to effectively manage and make the right decisions regarding such user comments. This has become even more relevant with the Panda 3.3 update (and previous Panda updates) which have begun to place a brighter spotlight on the social aspect of the internet and user interaction through web 2.0 features. To sum up the conclusion of this post for those not wishing to read it in its entirety: yes, I believe that misspelling and grammar errors play an important role in Google SEO and should be moderated appropriately. Their significance seems to increase greatly as the ratio of user generated content (comments) to author generated content (hub) begins to become more equal or if the amount of comments usurps the original content. The rest of this article will detail why this conclusion has been made.

First off, I will share with you a secret I have learned through some trial and error processes. It is an seo secret that many may already be familiar with, but the value is good and it can help increase a pages serp ranking. The seo secret is that comments play a crucial role in ranking for keywords and sometimes this can be as important if not more so than your keyword density in the original content. For example, an article on the subject of "pink slime" or "nanotechnology" will do better if there is a relevant keyword in the comment section. User comments let the Google ranking algorithm know that the content is good enough to inspire readers to interact with it and therefore the posting becomes more relevant and valuable in terms of authority and ranking. The keyword "pink slime" appearing in a user comment is a flag to Google that the article is definitely about the ground beef additive controversy. I have found that keywords (and related terminology such as "ground beef" in this example) might even occasionally have a higher value than stuffed content because of the fact that they are indicative of relevance.

So, feeding off of that ground beef example, if user comments can play a role in raising the seo value of a page, then it is also true that they can play a role in lowering it as well. This can be in the form of random comments of text that do not really relate to the topic. Conversely, these type of comments could help the article rank for other keywords, but it also might cause a dilution effect where the article drops from its desired target. I would suggest that this is no reason to go about deleting random comments as the negative effect in that case is probably very minor. However, it is a good idea to write relevant comments when you respond to someone's Hub and to make sure to include a few keywords that are related to the topic. This will help the Hubber rank better for those words and is generally good for karma. Those type of comments are much better than the unoriginal "Good post" type material. Also it is smart to avoid copying lines of text from sources and other articles when posting comments. I have moderated comments of this type because of concerns about duplicate content.

But misspellings and grammar error problems in user generated content and comments can have a negative effect on SEO as well. Rather than basing this on my own meandering experiences, I will point you to the words of a Google employee John Mueller. He expresses in a forum post to a concerned webmaster that it is wise to help users create quality content. Spellchecking features and even grammar correction are nice additions that help those responding to maintain quality in forums and comments. The Google employee then goes on to mention that it would be somewhat unethical to edit user comments (not possible on Hubpages anyhow) but that the webmaster should take proper discretion when removing user generated comments in order to maintain standards. He goes on to discuss a few other methods of addressing spelling errors in comments: comment ranking systems (might be a worthwhile feature on Hubpages), summarizing comments, etc. Google worker John Mueller released these tips well after the initial Panda update in early 2011 and his advice was tweeted by Google's official account - you can read his entire response here. As he stated, it is up to you to decide where to draw the line, but just know that seo can in fact be affected.


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    • againsttheodds profile image

      againsttheodds 5 years ago

      Thanks for the comment jpcmc. I don't think that this is too big of a deal unless you are writing horrible content with paragraphs that read like they could have been spun or written via the infinite monkey theorem. This was just a simple response to a question as to whether grammar in comments could affect seo. I came to the conclusion that it may, but the effect is probably practically negligible for most purposes. Certainly, I have all sorts of issues with commas, typos, and other trivialities, so this may even be somewhat of a hypocritical post. The aim was not to scare people from commenting or writing for that matter. Now if a comment is complete gibberish or spam then it probably could use a dose of moderation, but other than that no one likes a fault finder. This is one of my more questionable articles in my mind and I have considered moderating it completely out of existence. To your quest on learning the SEO game, I would just say that we are all constantly getting better and finding new avenues as the game is changed. Good luck with your journey.

    • jpcmc profile image

      JP Carlos 5 years ago from Quezon CIty, Phlippines

      I'm not a big SEO fan and not into rankings and all that stuff. But obviously it is an important part of getting more traffic to the hubs. Slowly, I'm learning more about SEO, and rankings. Thanks for the additional information. I guess from now own, I'll be more careful with my grammar and spelling.

    • Alastar Packer profile image

      Alastar Packer 5 years ago from North Carolina

      Aha! Comments- just what I've been thinking with all the forum posts. Agree with your conclusions Odd.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 5 years ago from Northern California

      Voted up.

      I have a couple of points about misspellings. When I see one of these beasties in the title or summary of a hub, I can be reasonably certain that the author is sloppy. That spelling error helps me to avoid wasting my precious time wading through a poor-quality hub.

      On the other hand, we have some great hubs coming from overseas. For example, Goodpal (misspelling, bad Larry?) is an outstanding hub author contentwise (misspelling, bad Larry?), and I do not care that English is probably not her first language.

      Viva la spelling errors!

    • somethgblue profile image

      somethgblue 5 years ago from Shelbyville, Tennessee

      Perhaps you should ask Hub Pages to restrict any Hub from being published until all grammatical and or spelling errors are corrected . . .

      Better yet no text message can be sent until every word is spelled correctly, Hmmm!

      You could always deny any comments in which proper English wasn't observed, however considering I'm the first one to comment on this Hub you might want to reconsider that position.