Long, long ago (well, 20-odd years) when the world wide web remained a private members club headed by Tim Berners-Lee and Thailand was an ultra-exotic destination visited only by those wishing to push the boundaries of international travel – rather than Chelsea fans wishing to buy fake replica shirts of comparable quality to those on sale at Stamford Bridge – the newspaper I worked for ran a front page story about a police chief from Bankok (sic) visiting a small town in Shropshire.
The day after this error appeared, a memo came over from head office warning “editorial staff about mispellings (sic)”. The scolding was greeted with much hilarity by the sub-editors who were responsible for the schoolboy-style spelling mistake, and any embarrassment (that’s two Rs and two Ss) was forgotten by the time the 3,000 copies of that week’s edition became cat litter or chip wrappings.
That only evidence of the paper’s error is now buried deep in the archives of Whitchurch library (or wherever my former employer now stores its back issues) and is unlikely to see the light of day again.
Things are very different today. Thailand welcomed 26.7 million visitors last year, the vast majority seeking more than a cut-price football shirt.
Today we have the ability to correct any misspelling that appears on a digital platform within seconds of it being spotted, something that should mean errors on web pages are as rare as hen’s teeth. More often than not, however, they fail to even be noticed – even when they are being broadcast on live TV.
Just the other week, Southerly had to make contact with a company that had misspelled its own address and I have lost count of the number of business websites that contain the kind of spelling that sends search engines into meltdown.
And this is my point. While the above example from Chelsea FC continues to embarrass the football club many years after the image was published online, thanks to Google’s ability to place it at the top of its search results, it has not harmed the club’s SEO strategy (if you haven’t spotted it yet: it’s the banner in the background). I’ve just typed ‘chelsefc’ into Google and the search engine very helpfully suggested results for Chelsea FC while also displaying results for the inhabitants of Stamford Bridge.
This example from Snickers neatly illustrates how common it is to misspell search queries, and is why Google now corrects our mistakes. But if you are a small business and misspell a keyword you have bid on, then that is money set aside for content marketing straight down the drain.
Whether to prevent professional and personal embarrassment or to ensure your spend on keywords delivers results, the importance of error-free digital output cannot be overstated because your online errors will come to light quicker and more often than any offline offence.
Top tips for passing the online spelling test
1 Use a spellcheck. Whenever writing content for use online or offline, run the completed document through a spellcheck. They’re not infallible and will not have place or company names in their dictionary, but spellcheckers will at least highlight words that it does not recognise.
2 Read your content when you have run it through a spellcheck. The temptation is always to press publish. You want your work out there ready for visitors to your website to take in, digest and act upon. But they will be more likely to reject your advances if your content contains misspellings.
3 Get somebody else to read your content. You’re less likely to spot your own errors than somebody else who is less emotionally attached to your content.
4 Give it another read before you press send or publish.