Is Proofreading Important for SEO?

By Michelle Bourbonniere

Strictly Speaking, No.

Proofreading isn’t important for SEO. But you should do it anyways. Why? Read on.

Spelling and grammatical errors are not ranking signals. Google doesn’t care about your typos or your grammar. (Proof? Lorem Ipsum text can rank.)

However, editing your copy is essential. Revising your content after publication is powerful. SEO editing (a.k.a. on-page SEO optimization) can absolutely improve how well you rank in search engines. SEO editing means making strategic, data-driven editing decisions to improve how well your content ranks for the keywords you’re targeting.

And, as a professional editor, I know that SEO editing—like kind of editing—always introduces new errors into the text.

So, proofreading isn’t important for SEO, but proofreading is an essential step in any editing process. Why? Because you’re not just writing for robots. Search engines bring you the readers, and it’s your job to keep your readers reading.

Nothing ruins the experience more quickly than sloppy copy.

seo proofreading doesn't matter for seo, but do it anyways

What is Proofreading?

Editing and proofreading aren’t the same thing. Editing means revising a text to make it better. Editing is inherently subjective—100 different editors will edit a text 100 different ways … and that’s OK, because there’s not one “right way” to write!

Proofreading is much more objective. Proofreading simply means finding and correcting mechanical errors like missing or duplicated words, spelling and grammar mistakes, typos, and inconsistent or incorrect capitalization.

SEO Editing vs. SEO Proofreading in Web Publishing

The big difference between print and web publishing is that web copy is really easy to revise after publication (not so for books.)

Web copy is living and dynamic. Here’s just a few of the SEO-focused reasons why it’s worth your while to periodically revisit and revise your web content:

  • Feedback: If you wrote something that’s worth reading, your audience will tell you how you can improve it. The collective intelligence of the internet is vast. Integrating new insights and responding to user feedback is an excellent reason to fire up the ‘ole CMS and edit your content.
  • Search Intent Shifts: Google rewards content that nails search intent. Over time, as Google collects more data about what people click on, the search intent for a keyword you’re targeting can shift. (Not to get too technical, but actually most changes in search intent seem to come from Google getting better at parsing and extracting the meaning of natural language.) Revising your content as search intent changes keeps your content relevant.
  • Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO): Conversion rate optimization is the process of fine-tuning your content to make it as frictionless as possible, and guide your readers to take the actions you want them to take. But data collection can only begin once a page goes live. CRO means your website is always a work-in-progress. Digging deep into your analytics, A/B test results, or using heat maps can reveal where your readers get stuck. Editing can fix that, and make a measurable difference in your conversion rate.
  • On-Page SEO Editing: On-page SEO optimization tools like Surfer SEO and Page Optimizer Pro make quick work of analyzing the keywords and entities that appear on the top-ranked pages, and provide insights on how to edit your text at the word and phrase level to better match what Google wants.

So, there are lots of good reasons why you should be editing your content.

Where Editing Goes, Proofreading Follows

If you’re focused on how your content is performing in search, you’re probably editing your online copy frequently. And that’s a good thing. Ranking well in Google in the first step. Defending your position involves smart, strategic editing.

It’s always satisfying to see your rankings improve, but rankings are only important if your readers stay and read … and leave with a positive impression of your website and your business.

Refreshing your content is a recipe for improving your search engine rankings and drawing in more targeted organic traffic, to be sure. But if you’re not careful, it’s also a recipe for disaster.

SEO optimization that introduces new errors is a classic case of one step forward, two steps back. Sure, it might rank, but at what cost? Authority and trust are on the line, not to mention sales. Web readers are skeptical, and smart.

Because frankly, compared to the humans reading your content, Google can be fooled rather easily.

Some Tips for Proofreading as You Edit

  1. Go Slow. (a.k.a. The Tortoise Rule of Proofreading): Re-read each sentence as you edit. I like to read it aloud. Twice. Sometimes it’s the smallest, most minor changes that require the most work to keep your website content grammatically correct.

2. Don’t proofread in your CMS: Once you’re done editing (and before you click publish,) it’s probably worth it to copy-and-paste the content over to a word processor, like Word or Google Docs. Taking the copy out of the content management system and into a plain-jane interface makes it much easier to identify capitalization errors in your headlines, for instance.

3. Proofread meta descriptions, image alt tags, and page titles, too: Be especially attentive when proofreading your page title, URL, and meta description. These elements show up prominently in the search engine results pages (SERPs) and a spelling error or grammatical issue on this part of your site can be disastrous to your click-through rate.

TLDR

Proofreading doesn’t matter for SEO. But do it anyways.

Need instructions? I’ve written up my start-to-finish process for proofreading a website, including all the tools I use to make website proofreading as painless as possible.

Your First One is Free

Send me 250 words of your writing and I'll give it my full-service editing treatment, for free.

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