When you have a limited number of characters or words with which to capture your potential client's attention, you don't want to ruin your opportunity of doing business with him or her because of a distracting, confusing, or embarrassing error. Your conversion rate may depend on the accuracy of your content, even if it's "just" a 140-character tweet or ad. Just as first impressions are critical when you're conducting a business deal in person, the first impression of your site's content can significantly impact your click-through rate and brand management.
Content Gaffes & PR Disasters
Content gaffes such as spelling or factual errors can lead to the wrong kind of exposure for your business or organization and can jeopardize your credibility with potential customers or clients. An infamous mistake made by a PR company, for example, inappropriately and inaccurately assumed that "Aurora" was trending on Twitter in 2012 in relation to its client's product. The tweet's reference to the keyword, which actually was trending because of the horrific mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, resulted in a major backlash for the company. Some simple, quick research before posting such an item can help companies avoid similar PR disasters. Unfortunately, many companies are so quick to post content that they overlook errors that can have short- and long-term ramifications.
Similarly, misspellings can have grave consequences in terms of undermining the purpose of your content or insulting a customer base. Reports circulated by intelligence agencies regarding Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the accused Boston Marathon bomber, for example, failed to catch some investigators' attention because of different spellings of the alleged terrorist's last name. If you are targeting a certain market or demographic, it is also essential that you make sure that your content is written and edited so as not to offend your potential clientele. Word choice in marketing for legal websites, for example, is crucial to maintaining ethical boundaries and not insulting or assigning guilt to people who have been wrongfully accused.
Making sure your spelling is correct — and that it reflects current social, cultural, and geographic trends — may also be critical to converting a site visitor into a customer. Ukrainian leaders have tried for years, for example, to educate others that their country should be referred to as "Ukraine," not "the Ukraine," explaining that the difference can be offensive to some. More recently, people in and from Colombia have launched a campaign to stop people from misspelling their country's name as "Columbia." "From Facebook to Twitter to Instagram, as soon as the spelling mistake is found in social media — and it is found a lot — no time is wasted in shaming big companies, celebrities, and sports stars into fixing their error, using the hashtag #itscolombianotcolumbia," writes Dan Molinski of The Wall Street Journal.
Unfortunately, once you make mistakes in your content that turn away customers or are pointed out by readers in social media, the aftermath can be seen in search results associated with your brand. Make avoiding such errors a high priority in your content initiatives and branding strategies so that the quality of your content reflects the quality of your business. Your company's reputability and potentially your website's ranking can correlate with good spelling and grammar, something even Google's Matt Cutts has alluded to in the past.
Sloppy Content Reflects Badly on Your Business
Mistakes in your content can make you look like you don't care about the details in the service you provide or the quality of the product that you're trying to sell. Poorly written content can be just as detrimental to your site as spammy links, duplicate content, and factual errors that Google algorithm updates are designed to consider when ranking sites. Moreover, if you don't take your content seriously, why should a potential customer take your business or product seriously?
Using "spell check" in Word may not be enough to save you from typos and factual errors. The outdated Microsoft tool doesn't catch every type of mistake, but a reader may spot your error or be confused by what you're trying to say and subsequently choose one of your competitors based on its content and website.
Investing in a human editor can help you improve the spelling, grammar, and word choice on your site as well as the structure of your content to appeal to your audience. It's not enough to understand the topic you're covering; you must understand the function of the content and its purpose for the reader, whether it's an article, press release, meta data, or social media post.
In addition to reducing the effectiveness of your content and keyword optimization, errors also can make you vulnerable to companies that use misspellings against others. Some companies may try to do this as a way to dupe your potential customers into choosing their site instead of yours. Other companies are using misspellings as a way to capitalize on opportunities to improve marketing campaigns. Think Insights, for example, is using search engine users' misspellings as a way to build on an advertising campaign for Snickers candy. "We worked with Google AdWords to bid on misspellings of the most commonly searched terms," it says on its website. "Each time someone misspelled a word, they were given a tailored message to, 'Grab yourself a Snikkers' as 'Yu cant spel properlie wen hungrie.'"
Content Consistency as Part of Your Brand Management Strategy
When posting content or creating a content campaign, make sure that your content is being reviewed to avoid errors that will reflect poorly on your business. Moreover, make sure that you are asking what you can do as a company to avoid losing customers because of poor content and to avoid allowing others to take advantage of your mistakes.
You also need to pick a content style and stick with it. Your content should be written to suit your target audience. You may need to opt for wording that is colloquial or technical to appeal to your readers and supply your information in an appropriate context. To keep your company's content production consistent, you need to select a style guide. Whether you're using AP style, Chicago Manual of Style, or an internal style guide that you customized for your field, consistency helps you avoid errors and keep all members of your content department on the same page.
Just as you need to pick a content style for improved consistency to eliminate mistakes in content, you need your content to accurately reflect your branding choices. Are you starting your company or changing your company name? Make your branding decisions now and be consistent. Even something as simple as a character space in your company name, such as "BestCompanyEver" versus "Best Company Ever Inc.," can affect your brand management online and potential search results of terms associated with your brand.
Do not underestimate the consequences of errors in your content. Spelling mistakes, poor grammar, and factual errors can undermine the work and investment you have put into your online marketing campaigns. With the amount of capital and effort you spend on your online advertising and website development, "dotting the i's and crossing the t's," so to speak, when it comes to your content has never been more important.