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How a Typo Can Hurt Your Business

September 7, 2011  

"Have you noticed spelling errors on the websites of major, legitimate retailers and/or service providers?" asks Julia Rubiner in the Editorial Emergency newsletter. "The answer is almost certainly 'no.'" Large corporations set a high bar for the rest of us: A single error looks sloppy and unprofessional to visitors, who are used to polished online copy. But the ramifications can be worse than making a bad impression.

Typos on your homepage, landing pages and product pages aren't just embarrassing; they might actually hurt your business. Rubiner points to a BBC News article that provides anecdotal—but startling—evidence of a misspelled word's negative impact on income: After a spelling error was corrected at, the online retailer's revenue per visitor doubled.

"I like to think this is attributable to widespread disdain for spelling errors," she notes, "but it's not; it's attributable to shoppers wary of fraud." According to Rubiner, many people associate typos with phishers and con artists. "[I]t positively screams 'fly-by-night operation,'" she explains.

In an ironic twist, customers who notice misspelled words might suspect your website is merely pretending to be your website. Or—if they're unfamiliar with your brand—they might worry that you're not even a real company. That's when they'll decide to withhold their personal information and credit-card numbers. And a valuable click-through becomes a lost sale.

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  • by Karena Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    If spelling will make a decision on rather or not to do business with me, then thank you for the clients who pay attention to things in life that do not matter.
    I wont take everyone as my client, there needs to be an understanding, that we are all human mistakes happen, we are only perfect in our imperfection.

    English is my 4th language, as much as i try to proof read, by the time you are 17 learning your 4th language despite of my honors in school, taking classes on grammar and spelling, I can only do so much. I

    I don't mind if someone says to me there is a word i need to correct, example: I worked for one of the largest companies in the world, had to send and email and cc many people on it... instead of writing "attached sheet" I wrote "attached "sh i t", no one was hurt, everyone survived, got few joking emails... Life happens and whoever is paying so much detail to things that no one will remember "tomorrow", I have no time for you in my life. Not as a client for sure! Toxic.

  • by I don't agree Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    Anecdotal evidence and perceptions do nothing for me when it comes to marketing. All you have is one opinion.

    So all I have is my opinion: I have seen too many marketers paralyzed by perfection so their message doesn't get out to their consumers in a timely fashion. I work mostly with small businesses who are on a tight budget and a tight time line.

    If your e-newsletter goes out with a typo but it generates you revenue, you are in better shape than if you are stuck having your 10 best friends proof it and give their opinions.

    If there's anything that is a red flag to people in the US I would say it's poor grammar or spelling to the point it seems like you aren't a native speaker. Not a simple typo or two.

  • by Karena Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    I'm not sure if you know that the US scored 50th among all nations, LAST. There were ranked 1-50, in writing, grammar, reading. Have you noticed the education level in the US? Grammar is not even explained well in grade schools. Spelling?? Math? The US Education Department leaves a lot to be desire. Thus, unless he/she is a supper "grammar girl", they wont even notice one mistake. Life happens. Mistakes, we can say I'm sorry, and do the best we can to make the client happy but is it worth it? I love my life, and any client of mine who would make a big deal about one misspelled word, I would give him to someone else i wouldn't bother. Let them deal with his issues, I assure you that it's not the spelling that he has issues with. Life is too short to get deal with difficult people who do not understand that everyone is just a human. Have you ever made a mistake? Or are you perfect in everything?

  • by Karena Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    I meant unless your client is a "supper grammar girl" the chances of them noticing a misspelled word... Highly unlikely. While we are so quick to judge others, first we need to look very closely in the mirror. The reflection is not perfect. Perfect doesn't exist.

  • by Wordsworth Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    Major advertisers can be just as guilty of errors as anyone else, and it often suggests that they may not know the difference. A global airline once had a billboard at Los Angeles International Airport that read "Most 747's to Paris." Both the ad agency and the airline should have been slapped for that one. The billboard company, too, should have pointed out the mistake.

    Yet Karena and "I don't agree" both miss the point. It's not their personal opinion or skills that matter. It's the readers', the prospects', and the customers' that counts. If you don't care about them, why should they care about you... or the firm you represent?

    If you don't personally have the language skills, get someone who does. If someone's on your newsletter mailing list, they probably already know who you are, which isn't the case when a visitor lands on a website for the very first time. And if "I don't agree" is actually writing those newsletters, I hope the punctuation and sentence structure are better than they are in his/her comment.

  • by Scott Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    None of us can argue the point that mistakes do not happen. We are all human, they occur and we need to do our best to avoid them.

    The real take-away from the article is that the customer's initial impression of your website or service is what matters. There are numerous options for your customer to choose from and at the end of the day, there is not a great deal to differentiate one from the other. So anything, no matter how small, that puts you at a disadvantage is a problem. If we can grab the customer and explain our product, we have the opportunity to get past small mistakes. But if we turn them off before that point, they are just lost. And most of the time, we will never know about those lost opportunities.

  • by Karena Wed Sep 7, 2011 via web

    No mistake ever put me at disadvantage, ever Mr/Ms "wordssworth". For your information the "Most 747's to Paris" campaign was made so people pay attention. It was deliberate. As you can tell you still remember the campaign. Please do not assume anything about my language abilities, do you speak English? On what grade level do you read? NY Times, 5th grade level? I'm positive that you have made many written mistakes in life. Do you know how I know, "you spot it you got it". Please read my statements again, all i did was speaking about the client? I've worked with enough people and I will not take on a client who is making a huge deal because something somewhere was misspelled. I have a life to live and enough clients that love to work with me, so if someone feels hurt over misspelled word, and I do all that I can to fix the issue, and he is still not happy, he need get find his way to a happy and peaceful life. If I make a mistake, I raise my hand, asap. I try my best to make the client happy, if they are not the door is open. Mistakes happen, no one can point finger at others. We all have made mistakes. There is a reason why the economy will never get better, because we are focusing on "misspelled" words. Not productivity. Entering global economy, which we are not ready for, and way behind, the tragic state of the US economy, that we are owned by China, those are the issues that matter to me. Misspelled word???? I would have to be board at work to pay attention. As I said, I would do all that i can to fix the mistake, if my best was still not good enough. Money is not everything, I will happily say goodbye to a client who is taking my enjoyment in this life. this is not a try out, my life is a real deal. I do my best, if my best is not enough?? Goodbye.

    Scott please show me a website that explains anything in a clear way? sign up for free trail, but they need the credit card.... Websites are used just like billboards and other advertising tools. Everyone has a website. If I focused my attention on how many times I have seen an error on a companies website, or false advertising. i would never do business with anyone. Show me a perfect website? To this day I have not seen a website that impressed me. All have bunch of misleading and misguided information on it. God forbid you're trying to find a contact person or costumer service person, you can look all day. mistakes are need to be made. life wouldn't be true if mistakes did not happen. No we don't learn from mistakes, we try not to make the same mistakes again, but it's impossible to learn from mistakes, you can only learn from successes. Still mistakes must happen, so we can tell what is success and what is a mistake. you need to open your mind.. really open your mind.. wide open.. as you have noticed, the narrowness structure of corp. America. Has gotten us to were we are. If I was afraid to make a mistake, I would close my self in a closet and thought everyone is to get me... That's the state of our economy. Fear of making a mistake... if you make one YOU ARE OUT, how many mistakes did Einstein made? Newton? Bell? How many mistakes did you made in life, count them and then "slap yourself for all of those", make sure that it hurts Mr "Wordsworth"

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Sep 13, 2011 via web

    I'm a stickler for proper grammar and spelling and actually do a fun presentation on marketing bloopers. Of course, mistakes are made unintentionally, but the English language is deteriorating every day. I really believe that using good language skills is part of an organization's or individual's brand.

  • by Relax Wed Sep 14, 2011 via web

    "Have you noticed spelling errors on the websites of major, legitimate retailers and/or service providers?" asks Julia Rubiner in the Editorial Emergency newsletter. "The answer is almost certainly 'no.'"

    I hope this statement is a joke. I find spelling and grammatical errors on websites of "major, legitimate retailers" daily. While I too would expect these website to be flawless, I actually get a little happy inside when I do find one. It reminds me that they're no less human than the rest of us.

    If you're the type of person to completely write a brand off because of an error or two of this sort or their website... I suggest you stop going on the internet all together before your faith in humanity is lost entirely.

  • by Tal Tue Nov 22, 2011 via web

    As a copywriter spelling a grammar are very important to me. I always use, aside from common sense, an online proofreader:

  • by Elaine Fogel Tue Nov 22, 2011 via web

    Oops, Tal. Looks like your proofreader didn't work on your comment. :)

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