If you own a blog or a business, SEO is probably important to you. Then you also know that Google cares a lot about user experience. But there’s one aspect of user experience that’s often overlooked: inclusive language.
But why should you care?
Creating inclusive content is good for your users and your SEO. On the other hand, if you use language that isn’t inclusive, you can exclude people and reinforce systemic biases. Yikes, right? In short, your users definitely value inclusive language, but the big question is: Does Google care?
What is inclusive language?
Before we dive deeper into the topic, let’s look at what inclusive language means. Inclusive language aims to use words that don’t express or imply ideas that are derogatory or excluding towards marginalized groups. For example, using a racist or misogynistic slur.
Just like accessibility, inclusive language makes everyone feel welcome on your website. If you use non-inclusive words, you’re likely to exclude part of your audience. And in a worst-case scenario, you may even offend people. This, of course, can cause them to quickly leave your site and never come back, which is bad for your SEO and your business.
How could inclusive language affect your ranking?
As you know, Google and other search engines’ goal is to provide people with the best result for their query. That’s why, with a few exceptions, it’s usually not great if users leave your website quickly and never return — for example, if they feel excluded by your content, then they will think it’s not for them.
So, why is this bad? Well, Google sees these behavioral patterns and uses them to figure out how people are experiencing your site. If a number of people leave quickly, Google may think they haven’t found what they’re looking for. Meaning: Your site isn’t useful for the query you’re trying to rank for. As a result, your website’s ranking can decrease.
On the other hand, if your content is available to more people because you use inclusive language, the chances of people sharing your posts and linking to them will increase. Just think about it: If you write a funny post about “Things firemen do that just make sense“, you’re only referring to firefighters who are men. Which means only people who don’t notice or ignore that other genders weren’t included will share your post. You might think: So what? But you could be excluding a lot of people, and missing out on a lot of engagement. However, if you write “Things firefighters do that just make sense“, more people will read and share your post. So by taking advantage of our inclusive language analysis you open up your content to more people. Which in turn means more people can relate to it, like it, engage with it, share it, and link to it. Which is obviously great for your SEO!
Google cares about inclusive language
We are not the only ones that believe that inclusive language is important. Let’s see what Google says. On their website, they have the following statement: “Everyone should be able to access and enjoy the web. We’re committed to making that a reality.” In other words: Google cares about its users, and they also care about inclusive language. Recently, they also tweeted about inclusive language confirming this:
If you write anything for SEO […] please watch out for inclusive language. It doesn’t take much work, and you might not get it right all the time, but taking steps to get better matters too.
John Mueller, Search Advocate at Google
Stand out from the crowd
As with accessibility, inclusive language is widely overlooked by other websites and businesses. Did you know that a whopping 98% of websites in the United States aren’t built with accessibility in mind? That’s a ridiculous amount!
You’ll be one step ahead of the competition if you ensure your website is available to everyone. Plus, it sends a message to your audience that you value them. This could lead to great word-of-mouth advertising because you’re one of the few who actually focuses on inclusive language. Of course, more advertising can lead to more visitors, which can lead to more shares and likes, and… you get it. We firmly believe that using inclusive language is great for your SEO and can actually improve your rankings.
Inclusive language analysis
What is and isn’t inclusive can be hard to figure out. Especially since language is constantly evolving. Keeping up with all the changes can be very time-consuming, but we have good news: You don’t have to figure out how to write inclusive content all by yourself. Yoast SEO now has an inclusive language analysis, developed and maintained by linguists.
So, what does the analysis do? This new feature works similarly to our other analyses by giving you real-time feedback on your text with the use of traffic lights. It scans your text (and also looks at context), then highlights words or phrases that might not be inclusive. It also gives you an alternative word to use, so you don’t have to spend time searching for one. Easy, right?
Point to remember! This feature is opt-in! So, it will be turned off by default. This feature is available in our free and premium plugin, read more about the inclusive language analysis in Yoast SEO.
As a business owner, inclusive language may not be part of your business goals. Especially in terms of SEO. However, inclusive language can have a positive impact on your SEO and your users’ experience. You’re less likely to offend anyone, and more likely to include everyone. As a result, more people feel engaged, so your content is more likely to be read and shared. That means your audience grows, which can also boost your rankings. Plus, you’ll be one step ahead of the competition.
A really positive step in the right direction for inclusivity, this forward-thinking, innovative new feature will give publishers who truly care about their readership an edge that would’ve previously required a more thoughtful language consideration and manual intervention at the hand of an ethically-minded editor. Delighted to see Yoast take a strong stance and offer writers this tool to help keep both conscious and unconscious bias’ and insensitivities in check for the greater good of web-based humanity!
Digital Marketing Consultant, RightFitz Consulting
Sam Alderson is a digital native with an analog heart, and a passion for all things marketing. They’ve a particular interest in social media. They believe it’s a fantastic way to communicate your brand’s story and values while having fun. And the more human you can make it, the more connections you’ll make.