VisibleThread – Language Analysis Platform

Spelling mistakes on websites – How to kill your online credibility

3 min read

Fergal McGovern

CEO & Founder

Online Credibility

Avoid making spelling mistakes on websites

Misspellings in your web copy are a sure-fire way to instantly damage your brand’s online credibility. Have you ever left a job interview realizing you had a stain on your shirt? Or a blouse in need of an iron?

You could be using software like spamzilla.io to get great backlinks for your business website, but the potential customer who visits it might not know that and will solely judge your site based on its contents.  First impressions count. So, why are websites riddled with misspellings? Have a look at this, from a major US insurance company’s product page (scanned May 2014):

“Teen Driver Discount: Parents and teens have enough to worry about when a teenager is learning how to drive; getting a teen auto insurance shouldn’t be one of them. Learn about our teen driver discounts that can keep your rates down while rewardring your teen for responsible driving.”

Here is what your reader thinks: Wow if they can’t even get basic spelling right, what else could they be screwing up? Misspellings in your web copy are a sure-fire way to instantly damage your brand credibility. For marketing teams, misspells are at best an embarrassment, at worst something that can lose potential customers.

I wanted to get a realistic feel for how corporate sites fared

Do they have many misspellings? If so, why are they slipping through? Surely the CMS (Content Management System) vendors have spell-checking built-in? Why do marketing teams miss this kind of stuff? Is there some issue with spell check in the CMS?

So, I scanned an arbitrary 100 pages on a number of sites with VisibleThread (used to audit web content). We looked at a basket of 13 large corporate sites. All are publicly traded, 8 are US based, the balance are UK or Australian companies. Most are in Financial Services mainly; Banking, Insurance, Retail and Legal.

So let’s see what we found. Spoiler alert- it wasn’t pretty! I’ll finish out by explaining why I think CMSs are not working for Marketing teams.

What does the web look like today?

Example 1:

One leading US-based insurance company issued a press release on 14th April 2014. They announced a senior appointment with this text:

“We are excited to have Timon join us,” said John XXX, Chief Underwriting Officer, Commerical. “His experience in managing global complex insurance solutions will be valuable as we strengthen our customer segment strategies abroad.”

This same organization had more issues. Some with possible legal implications like this:

If you are an employee based outside the U.S. please review the 
Non-U.S. CIG guidelines (PDF, 47kb), complete the application form (PDF, 44kb), and have the charitable organization complete the  Affidavit Packet.

This is a publicly-traded company in the Financial Services market. We only looked at an arbitrary 100 pages. How many more issues lie undiscovered across their full website?

What does the reader think when looking at this content? If they publish content rife with simple misspellings and don’t care enough to fix these issues, can I really trust that they’ll look after me?

Example 2:

We had a hunch this is not an issue confined only to the US, so we analyzed a top Australian bank, publicly traded. We spotted no less than 9 misspellings of ‘voliatility’. Not to mention ‘oustanding’ on another page:

FAQs

…During times of market voliatility, you can keep on top of your margin loan by registering for buffer and margin call alerts.

and…

You need to transfer enough security to restore your amount oustanding to your borrowing limit or below. This can be determined by dividing the margin call cash amount by the loan to value ratio (LVR) of the security you wish to transfer:

Now when you see spelling mistakes like this, you might think; “ah well, it’s probably in a fairly out of the way place on the site. Nobody will likely find the issue”. So, here are the pages where we found these issues. Many are prominent; educational pages, FAQs, etc.