TL;DR: Google may understand the difference between sulfur and sulphur, but gives better rankings to pages (and entire sites) with better spelling, grammar, and mechanics. Also, it's easier to read a post with better spelling and grammar.
I have been doing copious editing. However, I do not typically edit for American v British spelling unless I see a post that is using both spellings. I've seen posts that use both color and colour and, in these cases, I've already opened the post because I had found a different issue with it. In addition, my edits no longer go into the review queue so it doesn't clog it up.
I am specifically targeting 'sulphur.' It may seem petty, but it gives me a search term I can use to find posts that may need other changes. I've been doing a lot of edits on "Sulphur" posts as it's a way for me to visit posts I've never before seen. I also edit grammar and punctuation on these.
As Google gives ranking priority to pages with better grammar and spelling, I visit a question and each answer to the question as a way to suss out any problems with a question. This can bring forward an unanswered question to users who hadn't seen it before and thus give it a breath of fresh air.
I edit at times of the day when user participation is low so it doesn't clog up the new stuff. In addition, I like to finish off a day of editing by visiting new questions and seeing what edits could be made in order to push some of the newer stuff back up to the top and find questions that should be closed.
My main goals in editing are the following:
- Clean up posts for better searchability in search engines = traffic. Yes, Google can
differentiate between sulfur and sulphur. However, when it comes to ranking in Google search engine results, it's best to clean up a
post's grammar, spelling, etc. Again, searching specifically for
"sulphur" allows me a guaranteed hit on a question I've never before visited. I could also edit by tag, but this could lead to, "What's
the deal with all the edits to organic chemistry questions? Is it
that important that we clean up only organic chemistry?"
- Meet IUPAC standards.
- Improve searchability on the site allowing users to be able to find all the sulfur posts in one go.
- Increase our number of answers per post. I believe we have something just over an 80% answer rate, which is great. However, one interesting point is that many questions have one answer and oftentimes that answer isn't that great. By pushing some of these questions to the front with a breath of fresh air, perhaps they will garner either an answer or a better answer.
Here's an example of an edit that (while seemingly minor) deals with punctuation and spacing issues, adds a few missing words, actually changes some words, pluralizing a word, etc... However, not only might Google give it priority over a similar page, but it just reads better.
Here is an example:
This data represents the traffic, over the course of a year, to some of my written work on the web. At one point (which I'm sure you can clearly discern given my philosophy on editing), you can see Google search is sending me more traffic (as a result of significantly higher rankings.) This was due to me editing only around 90 pages of my own work. Much of this work included things as small as grammatical errors, punctuation, and spelling. Google gives much more love to pages that are error-free (in terms of language.) Also, those pages look more polished and professional.
I hope this better explains why I edit and why it's part of my work here at Chem.SE. I not only want the site to grow, but I want what we show to the world to not only be authoritative but also look authoritative.