- French: ça va bien?
- French: ca va bien?
- German: uber alles
- German: über alles
- Romanian: romaneasca
- Romanian: românească
You can write in a language with diacritics: ç, ü, â, ă, or you can write without them: c, u, a, a. What to do?
First of all, what is the simplistic way of solving the dilemma? The simplistic way of thinking goes like this:
- Users tend to type without diacritics.
- Google puts a very tiny small advantage for exact matching things.
- Thus, for SEO purposes, it’s always better to write without diacritics.
Unfortunately, Internet marketing is not about gathering 100 visitors into your web site, it’s more about creating a community with 10 people. And if you have this in mind, the perspective shifts from simplistic, to “there are other factors, also”.
So, what other factors are there?
- Usability – pro – in my opinion, this is the most important factor out there. If I am French, I care about my language, I am proud to speak my language. Writing with diacritics is the correct way.
- Usability – con – unfortunately, if you type with diacritics, you can’t be 100% sure that your text will appear correctly on every imaginable device / browser / country. Sometimes, it may show like this: □a va bien? / □ber alles / rom□neasc□. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s a factor also.
- Usability – neutral. Some people like reading texts with diacritics, others are very used to texts without diacritics.
- Google SEO. If you look at the results given at the start of this article (click on the links), you may notice that Google makes little difference if you type with or without diacritics. It matters, but it’s only a tiny factor.
How would I solve the dilemma?
- I’d ignore the SEO factor. It only has a minor importance in the decision, it should not be based on this.
- I’d put lots on emphasis on the usability factor. First, you need to predict whether your audience will like or not the diacritics. The second factor is to put into balance the fact that you are writing in the “right” / “correct” / “grammar-ly” way with diacritics, but you will avoid some potential and rare problems with display if you write without. These are the decisions – what your audience favors (with/without diacritics) and if you want to be “correct” (emphasis on grammar) or 100% sure that your web site will be shown correctly each time (emphasis on the exception users visiting your web site).
My personal decision for olivian.ro is to write with diacritics. I value Romanian enough to write with diacritics (this tends to be the exception among Romanian bloggers, rather than the rule).
The question – “Do diacritics work well for SEO purposes” is wrong from the very beginning. You should value the end result – community, people enjoying viewing the web site, people feeling good on your web site, rather than worry about the fact that you get 88 or 93 visitors from Google searches, depending on diacritics. Work on the community and the experience, not on pleasing Google.
Alors, comment ça va? (so, how does this work for you?)
PS, 2017.09.20: Also see, in Romanian “Cu diacritice sau fără? Cum e mai bine să scrii pentru SEO ?“.
PS, 2017.10.12: For meta descriptions, it’s best to avoid any special characters, including diacritics.
PS, 2018.07.24: I suggest using meta descriptions in most part of the web site, but not in: URLs, meta descriptions, titles (also known as “meta titles”, but that name is wrong).