A very common question that people ask about SEO is whether Google will actively penalise you for using curse words in your content. In this article, we’re going to see if we can get to the bottom of it
Google on curse words
Officially, Google doesn’t actually take any stance on curse words in website content. However, unofficially, it would seem that the amount of (and severity) of the curse words present in your content may impact it in a number of different ways. Let’s take a closer look…
You alienate people
By including curse words in your content, you will invariably alienate certain audiences. While this doesn’t matter if you have a very specific audience you wish to attract and resonate with, unless absolutely necessary, there’s very little benefit to using curse words.
Filtering for SafeSearch
Any content that is deemed as unsafe for an audience aged under 18 will be automatically filtered for SafeSearch. In other words, it won’t appear in a SERP at all if SafeSearch is on.
While Google claims that SafeSearch only applies to images, there have been a number of reported cases in which websites without imagery, but a plethora of vulgar language were blocked.
Google may choose to rewrite your metas
If you create content and you have especially crude or explicit words in your titles and descriptions, Google reserves the right to rewrite them before listing them.
This isn’t an official position from Google, but it has been reported to happen quite often.
It can reflect poorly on your brand
If the content you create and share has an abundance of foul language, it can reflect poorly on your brand. Again, unless there’s a good reason to use certain curse words, there largely isn’t any benefit to doing so.
So, while many scientists claim that swearing might actually make you smarter, in this case, it may be wise not to bother.
Curse words can undermine an excellent point
Particularly if you are writing a political opinion piece, you might feel compelled to throw in the occasional curse word for emphasis. However, in doing so you risk undermining every point that you make.
Some readers find the use of curse words so inexcusable, that even if you write wonderfully and make a compelling argument, one misplaced word and they will ignore you altogether.
Do so at your own risk.
It limits your potential for shares and backlinks
Finally, if you want to maximise your potential for getting post shares and having people cite your content and create valuable backlinks, using excessive curse words can limit your reach considerably.
Know your audience
In some cases, using regional slang or soft curse words could potentially help you resonate with your audience. For example, an SEO agency in Melbourne who is trying to connect with local businesses in trades such as construction, plumbing, and scaffolding, could use certain language to their advantage in an attempt to sound more casual in their email marketing (e.g., “bloody oath”, “strewth”, or “bugger”).
That said, you also need to be mindful of not coming across as trying too hard, like some 60-year old man who says things like: “That’s really cool my dude!”
Again, know your audience!
Conclusion: Keep it nice and clean
While there doesn’t seem to be any strict rules around using curse words in your content, your best bet is to keep the language that you use clean and accessible for everyone. Sure, there are certain curse words that are actually relatively harmless, such as: “arse”, however, you are far better off avoiding them entirely, just to be safe.
If, however, you like to throw in the occasional cheeky curse word, you might want to refer to Ofcom’s ranking of swear words in order of offensiveness. It actually makes for a bloody good read!
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