July 16, 2011
Poor spelling is costing millions in online sales.
Recent reports of how poor spelling loses UK websites millions have been flying around the web recently. These reports raise many issues that affect businesses both on and offline.
The origin of these reports was Intranet entrepreneur Charles Duncombe who said that an analysis of website stats show that a single spelling mistake can cut online sales in half This story then went global and was reported by the BBC, the Times of India … and just about every other major news site worldwide. It was also taken up by David F Cox @DavidFCox from Bedford UK. David and I have shared many a Tweet and I can see why he Tweeted this story. There is a serious business moral here.
My response via Twitter was that to lose sales because of poor spelling assumes someone out there can spell .. otherwise they wouldn't get upset by misspellings!
Of course the problem is far deeper.
Let's face it we have all made the odd spelling mistake online. Even spellchecker will fail to pick up words like there and their for and fro .. I know the for and fro one is forever catching me out. I know what I mean but my brain and fingers don't coordinate when I type. Predictive text can accentuate the problem as well.
David has raised the question of Google becoming our spelling teacher. We've all seen the term "do you mean … " when mistyping search terms. Well this could be taken further. Google could auto-correct our spelling on websites I suppose. Coming from a nation that calls a boot a trunk and a bonnet a hood this would grate with many a native British born English speaker. But words like "diarise" are being used more and more in the businesses I work with … and make me cringe.
The other issue David raises is that many SEO experts purposely misspell words so as to get more traffic from people that can't spell. In a sense this seems logical .. even if, these misspellings perpetuate the problem when they appear on websites. Oops … misspelling leads me to misspelt and misspelled and thousands of pages on English forums that argue about their use …. the case for past tense, past participle, and adjective are all argued. And they right answer seems to depend on the nationality of the person putting the case.
Now I have a confession to make. I use the misspelling technique myself. But I never purposely post a misspell on a webpage (although I ocasionally do so in error).
Using misspelling to attract website traffic.
Let me explain my secret. I sometimes add misspelt words in the keyword metatag. This works really well even if the word is spelt correctly on the page.
I use a variation of this technique in Google Adwords, where it also works a treat.
So I hope you will excuse the misspellings on this page. The language is evolving all the time and what you thought was misspelt is the medieval* spelling of the word …. or a version yet to evolve!
Now that takes me on to the use of the "Oxford comma" … but we'll leave that one for another day.
* Would you prefer the spelling variant, mediaeval?