23 May 2014
When you think of the tools a company needs to succeed, a dictionary probably isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. However, there’s reason to believe that there should be one on every office bookshelf: good English is good business.
Any time a member of staff puts fingers to keyboard, their ability to write well is more important than you think. Whether it’s an email to a client, a blog post, a tweet or copy for a leaflet, spelling, grammar and punctuation have a significant impact on the way your brand is perceived.
If your brand publishes poor copy, your credibility is collateral damage. We associate bad writing with spam and scams, so spelling and grammar is something we look to when establishing a site’s trustworthiness. Believe it or not, a simple typo could ring alarm bells and send potential customers elsewhere.
Global Lingo research showed that 59 per cent of Britons would not buy from a company with grammar or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing materials. Richard Michie, the company’s Marketing and Technology Director, said: “You only have a short amount of time to make an impression on a potential customer, and if your website or ad is riddled with grammatical errors, it’s not going to place you in a favourable light.”
Mistakes also bring your professionalism into question. Just as you might doubt an applicant’s desire for the job when you receive an error-laden CV, a visitor questions your reliability and work ethic upon discovering sloppy copy. Bad English makes you look either lazy or incompetent.
Humans are surprisingly judgemental about writing skills: Kibin discovered that 43 per cent of American online daters find poor grammar a turn-off. Don’t underestimate this phenomenon and fall into the trap of thinking your customers won’t care.
Misspelling keywords will reduce your relevancy for the intended terms, harming your SERP position. And don’t even think about optimising specifically for misspellings, in the belief that low competition means you’ll rank well when users mistype their search.
The average number of monthly searches for ‘Louis Vitton’ in the UK is 4,400, even though Google Autocomplete reveals the correct spelling. However, ‘Showing Results For’ means the results for ‘Louis Vuitton’ are presented regardless. ‘Did You Mean?’ is another algorithm that ensures sites with correct keywords reign supreme despite users’ spelling mistakes.
It’s not just keyword spellings that you need to worry about. Google has released updates that punish sites with poor writing, including Panda, which looked at “spelling, stylistic elements and factual accuracy“. Bad spelling and grammar will also have a negative impact on signals such as bounce rates, which in turn damage your ranking.
Remember, Google’s quest to deliver quality content to users is at the heart of what it does. Poor spelling and grammar are anything but an indicator of merit.
We’ve seen that grammar goofs and spelling slip-ups can have a serious impact on sales by harming your reputation, trustworthiness and SERP position, but rectifying these mistakes is also a costly affair: you might need to reprint leaflets, pay your web developer to make amends, or even alter a batch of products.
Prevention is absolutely essential, so how do you go about it? Your best bet is outsourcing to — or hiring — a professional copywriter. They should not only ensure that copy is well written, but also that it will generate the desired results. Someone who knows their stuff should also be available for editing; see Autumn’s guide to proofreading if you’d like some tips.
However, it’s not only the editor who should be on the lookout for mistakes. Everyone in the publishing process should be ready to question potential errors and look to reputable sources such as Oxford Dictionaries for guidance.
Do you know of any businesses that have experienced the side effects of poor proofreading? Have you ever avoided making a purchase because of copy qualms? Let us know in the comments below!
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