Website SEO: The Grammar of a Search Engine

Search engines, by their very nature, have to understand grammar. Grammar is inherent in every human language, and that includes the language we all use in our search terms and our web pages. But grammar is also insanely tricky; it’s very easy to get it wrong, and to add to that, it’s constantly evolving. (Just try going back to pre-Mackelmore days and asking someone on the street how to pop a tag!)

Search Engines Radically Simplify Grammar

For an English teacher, our language is rife with elements. Articles, prepositions, nouns, verbs, adverbs, pronouns, postpositions (yeah, that’s actually a thing), each of those things with the word ‘clause’ after it — the list goes on and on. But for a search engine, a vast majority of English is irrelevant. Google doesn’t care about words like “the” or “very” or even “ourselves” or “through.” Those words don’t even register on Google’s algorithm, because Google cares about exactly three parts of each sentence:

  • Subject
  • Verb
  • Object

That’s it. As far as Google is concerned, the sentence you are reading right now scans as “Google is concerned. Sentence scans eyes.” to its eyes. Because when Google is trying to determine what a website should rank for — or even what the website is about in the first place — nothing else really matters. All of the flowery superlatives and complex subordinate phrases in the world aren’t nearly as important as “hey, this webpage is about how subject verbs object.”

But There’s More

Of course, Google doesn’t keep its understanding of your website at that level, because that level introduces a lot of questions. For example, if subject is “fly,” are we talking about bugs, zippers, tent flaps, or fisherman’s lures? See last week’s article on LSI for the answer to that question.

Writing for Search Engines

Now, this doesn’t mean that you have to write See Spot Run-type grammar in order for to craft solid website SEO content — Google has been parsing the most complex (and foolish) human sentences for more than a decade. What it does mean is that when you write about a topic online, you want to make sure that your topic appears at least a couple of times in subject verbs object form. Whether it’s ‘How to Dance the Tango’ (subject: implicit ‘you’/verb: ‘dance’/object: ‘tango’) or ‘7 Lifehacks that will Improve Your Office Space’ (subject: ‘lifehacks’/verb: ‘improve’/object: ‘office’ and/or ‘space’), taking the time to present your topic in a clear s/v/o relationship will help Google decide where you put your site — and if your keyword happens to show up somewhere in that sentence, it might even help you rank well once you arrive there.