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