By Joe Gillespie

the-importance-of-clean-blog-copyImagine this scenario: Your company has committed to a robust blogging calendar to enhance your inbound marketing strategy. You have dedicated time and effort to researching, writing, and promoting your awareness stage content. You have determined and used optimal keywords for driving search traffic to your blog posts. Everything is set for the content to bring in visitors who you hope will become leads and eventually customers.

And indeed, your strategy works at first—prospects are finding your blog via search and social media. Visitors open a post, ready for the quality content you are providing, but see something disconcerting in the first sentence: a typo. And not just any typo, but a misspelling of the general product or service you offer. They go through their own Blink Test—blinking in disbelief that you made an error so obvious. These visitors click away, thinking you don’t know what you are talking about.

The quality of your marketing content is important, but so is its presentation, and that includes error-free text. Research sponsored by the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) in 2011 confirms the importance of clean copy. The study, conducted by Fred Vultee of Wayne State University, discovered that readers prefer professionally edited articles; notice and are distracted by grammar errors; are aware of badly written copy; and can distinguish between edited and unedited stories. Though this research was aimed at newspaper copy, it easily can apply to—and perhaps is even more sobering for—inbound marketing content.

Negative First Impressions Can Kill

Regular visitors to your site, as well as subscribers, may not be as put off by errors in copy as someone who is reading your blog for the first time. If you have established your awareness stage content as informative and helpful, these leads likely will overlook a mistake here, a typo there, in exchange for the valuable knowledge you are providing. (Just don’t make it a habit—even the most patient readers will tire of rough copy.)

The real risk is with first-time visitors to your blog and website who see a glaring error, or two, or 10, and click away believing you have nothing of value to offer. After all, if you can’t spell “cat” right in the first paragraph of a blog post (or even worse, the title!), how reliable will you be as a trusted provider? The misspelling and your service record may not have any correlation, but in the visitor’s mind, a lack of due diligence in content may mean a lack of due diligence in everything else you do.

Don’t Give Your Competition an Edge

Once a visitor who arrives by search sees a big copy mistake in your post and decides not to stick around, he or she might click the browser’s back button and return to the Google, Bing, or Yahoo results page. From there, a competitor’s website might be found. The visitor clicks and becomes a prospect, but not for you. Never mind your content is better, or your services are better—the visitor, already unimpressed with your blog, sees cleaner copy and thinks the competitor is a smarter choice. Your inbound marketing content should be drawing potential leads into your funnel, not driving them away, so don’t let ragged posts prevent you from ultimately increasing business.

Be a Thought Leader, Not a Thoguht Leder

Another key goal of your blog (as well as e-books and other content) is to establish your company as a trusted authority in your industry. Committing too many errors in copy chips away at that authority. To be a thought leader, your content must exude excellence, from the intellectual value it provides down to every subject and predicate, comma and period.

Copy is not going to be absolutely perfect every time—inevitably, an error will slip through no matter how many times you edit something. What’s important is reminding yourself and your writers to always strive for perfection, creating a process in which posts aren’t written and instantly posted without another set of eyes taking a look, and quickly correcting errors after they are found online. With that approach, the blog you are hoping to impress visitors with won’t unintentionally derail your inbound marketing efforts.

What struggles have you encountered in ensuring your content is error-free?

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Joe Gillespie

About the author

Joe Gillespie is a Senior Brand Journalist for SmartBug Media. He graduated from Marquette University with a B.A. in journalism and is a two-decade veteran of the newspaper industry. As a Senior Brand Journalist, Joe writes and edits inbound marketing content for SmartBug's clients. Read more articles by Joe Gillespie.

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