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The importance of spelling (and the value of typos)

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? What about a rsoe? According to this article on the BBC, spelling typos like this could slash your online sales...
The Super Dictionary

Would a rose by any other name smell as sweet? What about a rsoe? According to this article on the BBC, spelling typos like this could slash your online sales in half. In total, it is believed that such inaccuracies could be costing UK markets millions in lost online sales every year.

Why is keeping on top of spelling errors important?

  • It limits the chances that your message will be misunderstood
  • It reflects your credibility, intelligence, and readability
  • And it indicates that you care about how you do business

What’s your first impression of a brand whose website is filled with poor typography, spelling errors, and grammatical mistakes? You’re horrified. You’ve never purchased anything from them before. And if the quality of their language is poor, who knows what their products are like. You’re likely to dismiss that brand and move on to another site. This can be devastating for business.

It’s all about crdeibility

In recent years, web users have become more savvy at sussing out a credible website from one that is likely to take their cash and run. This has raised the standards across the web as businesses scramble to create a strong, professional impression. Your website is often the first point of contact for customers and is responsible for revenue. It needs to come across as trustworthy and knowledgeable.

What’s key is a high standard of language – the ability to communicate with consistent grammar and spelling so that it doesn’t become jarring to the reader and make them question their time on the site. Bad grammar dissolves credibility and can kill a brand, so don’t fall foul of any superfluous commas or double negatives.

If you let the standards drop in this area – even if visitors don’t suspect that you’re phishing for their details – they will still start their online relationship with you doubting the quality of your operation. Sometimes that’s all you need to do to lose the sale.

Remember, you’ve only got 15 seconds to capture the reader’s attention.

Tips to avoid errors

Slow down. The fast-paced world we live in dictates that we’re ‘always on’. Doing too much in a short amount of time isn’t always best. Never send anything without going through it with a fine-tooth comb.

Focus on one thing at a time. Multitasking may result in you making more spelling errors. Think about it: your brain has to refocus after switching to a new task. Try completing one thing before you move on to the next.

Get a second pair of eyes. Getting someone else to proofread your work helps you identify any spelling or grammatical errors you couldn’t spot yourself. Before you send that customer email or publish that important landing page, nudge a colleague to review it and feed back. It may take more time, but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Double-check the facts. Misspelling a place name or getting someone’s profession wrong can have negative consequences. For example, if you’re applying for a job and misspell the company’s name, you won’t get the job. Mistakes like these can undermine someone’s identity and offend an entire audience. What’s more, it makes you appear unprofessional and amateurish to customers. Don’t run that risk: Attention to detail means everything.

SEO – an indicator of national literacy?

There’s another interesting side to the debate.

With a growing concern over the basic literacy skills of school leavers, it’s no surprise to find keyword research littered with misspellings (that receive just as high search volumes as the actual phrase).

Moreover, this can create conflicts for your SEO strategy and conversions: I.e. do you go with the realistic approach and try to optimize toward some of these misspellings? (This risks a dent in your conversions.) Or do you just accept that your target audience is made up of the most literate customers?

In our view, it’s worth a compromise. Simply including the incorrect phrase within your strategy will increase the chances of ranking for the term and increasing traffic. But you need to be clever about it.

Consider adding the phrase to an image’s alt text once or twice as this will include the phrase within your website without being obvious to the user. Remember, once or twice – having the front of the site full of correct spellings and the back of the site full of misspellings will be identified as a scheme to trick the search engines and could negatively affect your ranking. Make no mistake, content errors do harm your brand and SEO.

Finally, please excuse any misspellings!

Regardless of the strategy you undertake for your SEO, it’s worth being vigilant for errors of any kind, from spelling to dead links to scripting issues. Despite a high level of traffic, any faults with your website can result in a loss in conversions.

And if you do make an error, own it

Owning your blunders can be a great form of PR. Sometimes pointing out an error you’ve made, and making a joke of it, makes you more credible to customers. All you need to do is to master the art of ‘oops’.

Want some copywriting inspiration? Check out our killer guide here.

The marketer's guide to copywriting - Part 1
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