Everyone knows a grammar prince or princess. You know, the ones who correct all your spelling and grammar online like it’s their divine right? Well, they might be on to something, given a recent update from Google. 

It might feel like our grammar-loving friends may be unintentionally helping us to rank better on Google. In the past week, Google announced that sites that don’t meet a new set of professional and editorial standards may be dropped from their merchant program. This comes with the assumption that your site might not rank particularly well in search either. The move by Google is designed to improve the shopping experience for customers who find products via Google. 

So what are the new guidelines that Google is pushing? 

  1. Content that is unnecessarily difficult or frustrating to navigate
  2. Sites where shipping, returns and contact info is incomplete or out of date
  3. Spelling and clear use of language So how can you make sure that your website and online store is not on Google’s naughty list? 

Clear navigation and non-intrusive elements 

The first item that Google mentions is one that annoys the hell out of me. Use of pop-ups that bug you to sign up for newsletters before you’ve even had a chance to properly view the product or read the features of a service. This is flagged as a particularly strong annoyance to shoppers and Google believes that it’s not only bad for customer experience, but the spam-iness of it tends to give the impression that the store or site is not professional and only there to gather email address for spam purposes. Which, let’s face it, is what most of these websites are trying to do so that they can relentlessly harass you to buy more stuff. 

Google also calls out those sites that make it difficult for people to click on the back button or navigate away from a particular product or service page. Many online stores use all kinds of technical tricks to get you to stay on their page longer with the theory that the longer you are on the page, the more likely you are to buy. 

Finally, in this set of guidelines, Google then wants to make sure that you have working links and menu items. If your site has dropped some pages, and you are yet to update all the places where those pages were internally linked, then you’re at risk here. 

Keeping your policies and contacts up to date 

Returns policies, privacy policies, your store contact info. It’s all pretty important to the customer and that means it’s important to Google as well. So, make sure you have working links to up to date pages for: 

1.  Your Privacy Policy – this one is very important now in almost every country. A compliant and up to date privacy policy lets customers and governments know that you are following the rules on data collection.

2.  Returns and exchanges policies – if you don’t have one, most social media platforms will stop you from advertising your products. The same goes for Google. You need to make sure that that your returns and exchanges policies are clear, current and true. If you don’t have them, you will be kicked off the merchant platform.

3.  Your contact details need to work. Email addresses that are no longer used, phone numbers that are no longer connected and message forms that don’t work are prime signs that your website is dodgy. Google agrees, and will boot you if you don’t address these issues. 

Spelling and grammar matter 

Another sign of a dodgy online retailer is the overuse of cute or complicated text that makes a product name or description really hard to read. Google specifically is calling out there use of numbers replacing letters, spelling errors for common words, overuse of emojis in titles and paragraphs and the use of mixed upper and lower case letters in words that do not need it.

Some fo these techniques are used by stores trying to sell to children and teenagers and these formats of writing are often used to try and seem edgy or fresh. But because they essentially just make it hard for everyone to read it, not just the oldies, Google will penalise this. 

So it will be helpful if you do these things to: 

  • Reduce the use of emojis in general
  • Only use uppercase letters where needed
  • Avoid deliberate misspelling.
  • Edgy spelling makes it hard to understand you and find you

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Dante St James is the founder of Clickstarter, a Facebook Blueprint Certified Lead Trainer, a Community Trainer with Facebook Australia, a digital advisor with Treeti Business Consulting, an accredited ASBAS Digital Solutions advisor and presenter, and the editor at The Small Marketer. You can watch free 1-hour webinars and grow your digital skills at Dante’s YouTube Channel.