Quality: Do You Have It, or Just Think You Have It?

Most websites feel they produce quality content. Some even have internal processes in place to review, rate, edit and revise content prior to publication. This does, admittedly, usually take more people, so it costs more and so can be a bit daunting for many smaller businesses to enable. But what is clear, is that everyone strives for quality. Who wouldn’t? We all know quality is a sought after trait. Be it in an automobile, a hand bag, a pair of hiking shoes, a donut or even in the content posted to your blog or site.

Even large publishers with established editorial processes in place have instances when things happen that erode the quality of content, however. Simple things, usually, like grammatical errors, spelling errors, but also sometimes bigger stuff like mistakes around facts, or the wrong image in an article. Mistakes happen and in the end, it’s still humans editing things, so it’s completely plausible that the odd typo gets through.

So in the real world of a publisher, such things can slip past all too easily – even with multiple eyes watching. We’ve all experienced that moment where we see something go live and are stunned by the glaring typo in the middle of the article that 4 people failed to pick out during editing. It happens.

If it starts to happen frequently, though, a pattern emerges.

If you’re constantly on the fly and typing the word “from” comes out as “form” (I frequently do this), imagine how a reader sees this? It’s confusing when reading, to say the least. At best they simply move past the typo and keep reading. At worst they simply throw in the towel at such repeated issues and seek a new source for content to consume.

We’re talking about the basics here. The “how you write” matters as much as the “what you write”.

Common Errors

Many errors are common; like using the incorrect word or phrase in a given situation. Here’s a list of 20 common mistakes writers often make. That list is skewed toward literature writers, as opposed to technical writers, but you get the idea. Here are 15 more “grammar goofs” from CopyBlogger.

Some errors come from misunderstanding a topic, a lack of grammatical understanding, speed or a series of other decisions. Things like sentence structure (run-on sentences, lack of punctuation, over punctuation, etc.). Things like turning off spell checkers. Rushing or skipping your proofreading. All can and do happen.

As we all learn to read and write, over time we begin to see patterns. We instinctively begin to understand how to construct a sentence, which words to use where, and how best to convey our meaning. This starts happening when you’re a child. Cast your mind back to that time in your life and you’ll likely be able to dredge up a memory of how daunting it all was. Learning to write, when your entire world to that point was printing. Learning the meaning of new words through vocabulary homework. New equations with new symbols to understand; math was/is a language of its own!

But over just a few months, you learned it. You learned to construct sentences, use descriptors properly and convey the desired meaning. You learned those equations and aced your tests. You wrote essays and term papers constantly building on your early knowledge to produce better and better results.

So today, as you scan the newspaper, or read something online, it’s patently obvious to you when you encounter a typo, or a sentence just doesn’t read correctly. Again, most times we simple scan past it and keep reading, but in some cases, it’s a show stopper. The point becomes lost as your focus shifts to seeking out errors. You can begin to see all future work from this author in a negative light, as typos become commonplace in their writing.

Yes, there are multiple ways to write some words. Similar phrases develop differently in different areas of the world, and even within different regions of one country. But those aren’t errors. Those are simply differences. And while an American reader might get a wiff of Canadian, for example, from a writer using a different version of a word here and there, it’s how Canadians are taught to spell certain words.

This might all seem a bit “down in the weeds”, but just as you’re judging others’ writing, so the engines judge yours. If you struggle to get past typos, why would an engine show a page of content with errors higher in the rankings when other pages of error free content exist to serve the searcher? Like it or not, we’re judged by the quality of the results we show. So we are constantly watching the quality of the content we see.

Duane Forrester
Sr. Product Manager

Join the conversation

  1. siwu

    It seems to make sense.  But it is actually a policy that discriminates content created by people that utilizes English as a second language.

    Having a judgement call on grammar mistake is a totally different story than it is on typo.  Typo purely represents careless mistakes, yet grammar may represents incomplete skills on written English.

    Language is a tool to communicate, it is not only a tool to communicate between two American.  It is a tool to communicate between people in totally different cultures and backgrounds, and often between two people with completely different language skills.

    When we write articles on the web, it is a way to communicate.  Having a rank discrimination on grammar, is like setting a wall between people over the world.

    There are a lot of academic articles written by people that uses English as a second or even third language, they writes academic articles in English to share their knowledge globally.  You cannot judge quality of an article base on grammar, period.

    There are also a lot of companies that try selling product to the world by having an English website or even a blog to introduce their hard-worked product.  And how would it turns out to be if you discriminates their site because they use grammar wrong?

    I am a person that use English as a second language.  I remember when I was in high school in Canada, I was in a computer science class.  In an in-class assignment, I wrote a beautiful, complex computer scripts in comparison to some "Hello World" type of entry level scripts written by my classmates.  I end up having a B-, while my classmates have an A.  Why? Because the computer science teacher deduct my mark base on my English grammar. (I then wonder, was I on a English class or a computer class?)

    I think this decision was made without enough thoughts on the real life situation.  I am disappointed with Bing in short.  

  2. steve.baik

    Good point, siwu.

  3. gnicodemus

    Well, if you want to hang with the big boys, you have to be a big boy yourself. Otherwise, you can play a kid's game with the little kids.

  4. donjeffre

    For those who miss spelling errors, get a spell checker for goodness sake. Further, proofreading is getting to be a forgotten art. Before publishing, ask a colleague to check your writing. It can make a big difference.

  5. jonesycoast

    Perhaps approach a local language expert to translate? I had guides translated into 7 languages as my knowledge of French and German didn't extend to the complexity of the content and my grasp of the other target languages was non-existent. Some I got done free through friends and collegaues, others I sourced through very cheap translation sites.

    As this was marketing a product, it was worth ensuring that the documentation for it was professional, correct and didn't look like I'd used a free translation tool. It didn't cost much or take too long, and I didn't need to take a foundation course in Russian or Portuguese (although I don't think knowing other languages is ever a bad thing).

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