Diacritics and SEO

4833345111_afafbce1d6_zYou may notice that in some languages you can write the same word with special characters or not:

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?)


Note: Also see the Yahoo! Group on which I present similar issues:IMRo. To join, email imro-subscribe@yahoogroups.com and reply to the confirmation email.

I am a Freelancer. My expertise is in SEO (Search Engine Optimization) / UX (user experience) / WordPress. Co-founder of lumeaseoppc.ro (series of events on SEO & PPC) and cetd.ro (Book on branding for MDs). On a personal level, I like self-development - events, sports, healthy living, volunteering, reading. I live in London, and lots of things live in me.

8 Comments

  • Viorel Spinu

    7 March 2013 - 12:33

    For me, it happens quite often to get to an article written with diacritics which does display well. It’s really annoying, I close the site in few seconds, no matter how cool the content is. For this reason, my decision so far is not to use diacritics on our blog.

  • Olivian Breda

    7 March 2013 - 15:28

    I hope in the future, this kind of technical reasons will not be present anymore. :) I’m writing with diacritics with this hope, also.

  • Ioan Szabo Kovari

    22 March 2013 - 14:15

    As far as i know the incorrect display of diacritics is not an SEO but a browser/platform/font problem. The main search engine in my focus displays the same results on a query done with and without diacritics as you can see here http://bit.ly/YJVQYT and the fonts are displayed correctly. What i liked about your article is that you gave a good answer to a redundant question. It is important to test de display of your texts on the majority of browsers and OS’ specially if you write for countries that care for the correct spelling of words (like you very well exemplified, for instance, French)

  • Olivian Breda

    19 July 2013 - 08:54

    Thanks, Ioan!

  • Razvan

    28 March 2014 - 09:54

    “Vreau sa refac link-urile unui site de inchirieri auto si am nevoie de ceva sfaturi. Am deja o idee dar vreau mai multe pareri.
    Am domeniu de genul http://www.x-inchirieriauto.ro si vreau sa creez niste pagini interne.
    Sa creez link-ul de genul: http://www.x-inchirieriauto.ro/inchirieri-auto-bucuresti sau http://www.cuvant-inchirieriauto.ro/bucuresti
    Eu m-am gandit la varianta: http://www.x-inchirieriauto.ro/bucuresti

    Where are the diacritics?

  • Olivian Breda

    28 March 2014 - 10:12

    You are referring to part of the article from this link, the only part which has no diacritics: https://olivian.ro/cuvinte-cheie-url/

    Do you think I would ask myself that question? It’s a copy&paste from someone else’s question, it’s logical that I wouldn’t put diacritics on that text. My answer has diacritics, the title of the blog post has diacritics, also.

    It’s actually funny. If I write:
    “My personal decision for olivian.ro is to write with diacritics.”
    , people feel that now they can demand diacritics on my blog. It’s their right. They demand diacritics!

  • Dorin

    28 March 2014 - 11:54

    I find that writing using diacritics should be the rule rather than the exception. I write with diacritics on my blog and urge everyone to do just the same.

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