As a company providing proofreading and copy-editing services to government departments, large corporate entities and charities, we encourage our clients to do everything they can to ensure their work remains error-free across all their communications.
We can take it for granted that mistakes in ‘real life’ publications, from annual reports to road signs, are to be avoided at all costs but, according to some people, online communications don’t require the same attention to detail. Which got us thinking: does the public mind whether information online is perfectly presented?
What we wanted to consider was whether there are different expectations in online environments, when speed is an absolute priority over all else. So much peer-to-peer communication now takes place as voice notes, instant message chats or emails packed with acronyms; do people even still notice mistakes online? And if users notice errors on the internet, would mistakes change the way they might think about the organisation which made them?
Accuracy matters to your bottom line
A decade ago, e-commerce had already matured into a £500 million-per-annum industry in the UK when one entrepreneur did his research to determine that mistakes on websites absolutely had a measurable negative impact on online traffic and sales. Charles Duncombe measured the revenue per visitor to one of his sites and found that the revenue was twice as high after an error was corrected.
Apparently 10 years of bickering on Twitter and hundreds of new Emoji still haven’t changed this fact: a recent survey in the US concluded that women are 81% less likely to buy a product advertised with spelling/grammar errors, including in online ads, while 77% of men feel the same way; the same study found that 85% of millennials said they were less likely to buy a product advertised with errors.
Accuracy matters to your credibility
A 2020 survey looking at LinkedIn profiles found that professionals who failed to progress to a director-level position within the first 10 years of their careers made 2.5 times as many grammar mistakes as their director-level colleagues. At stake here is the issue of credibility: as this article from usability.gov discusses, credibility can be earned, or destroyed, through first impressions, and so many first impressions are now made online, for both individuals and companies.
Accuracy matters to Google (and therefore to absolutely everybody)
Other research in the field of advertising found that, most important of all for what we are discussing, accuracy matters to Google. According to an A/B test run by Website Planet in 2019, adverts run online with a typo resulted in a 70% decrease in click-throughs compared with ads which ran with the correct copy. Not only this, but the erroneous ads were then downgraded by Google’s quality score which meant the testers had to pay more for every click-through they did get. In the UK, the study found, you will pay 20% more per click for ads with typos and 72% more per click for grammar mistakes.
Interestingly, the study also found that the bounce rate for a landing page with typos was 85% higher than the clean version. This doesn’t only matter because it means people are ‘bouncing’ away from your website – it also matters to Google because it monitors how long traffic spends on your website, and will downgrade you in search results if users go elsewhere in search of information. So badly written websites will lose out in search results too, in real time.
We are going to be doing a deeper dive into the impact of spelling and grammar mistakes throughout 2022, including a look at social media. But it looks like, on the evidence to date, it’s more important than ever to double and triple check your online copy, or alternatively to employ a fresh pair of eyes.
If you’re looking to start a new editorial project, you can download our three bespoke checklists for free, to help you plan your work. Or if you need help, just get in touch with us @AccuracyMatters to see how we can help with any proofreading or editing requirements.
Image by Brett Jordan on Unsplash