You keep nattering on about how bad grammar and spelling in website content hurt my business. Where’s your proof?

The road to success is littered with the broken remains of companies that couldn’t finish the trip. When you pick through the rubble of their websites, you’ll see horrible misspellings, tortured word choices, and grammar that doesn’t belong in any English sentence. It’s obvious that most of this wretched website wreckage wasn’t made in the United States, and that the webmasters tried nefarious SEO techniques to attract customers.

So much effort wasted to so little effect. Makes you sad, doesn’t it?

Even if we gave you names of some of the companies, medical practices, and law firms that failed, that’s not the sort of evidence you want, is it? Anecdotes are fine for stories told around the campfire, but proof comes in the form of scientific results that anyone can reproduce. The question is, do we have the evidence you want, or not?

Yeah, we’ve got it. Pull up a campstool, Bucky. This will take a little bit of time.

A Proof by Counterexample

Bad grammar and incomprehensible spelling usually don’t draw a big fan club. Frankly, it’s not believable that website readers have been sending feedback to complain, “Oh, man, this site is far too informative, helpful, and clearly written! We demand more incomprehensible bilge, like we get from your competitors!” Our experience has been that when a business owner starts complaining about the burdens of good word usage, that’s a sign that some other game is being played.

You can bet that “other game” is about money.

Now, we know that good grammar and interesting, informative content really doesn’t cost any more than weak and incoherent gibberish. Your staff members can learn to write fantastic content as part of their regular job duties. But money can become part of the equation when an unethical web marketer tries to sell a bargain package to a naive business owner. The long-term result is always unfortunate for the business.

So if you’re really asking for our permission to neglect all ethical considerations and try to fool Google into giving you a leading placement in search engine results, we have one answer: it’s your business. We don’t get a vote, and you don’t need our permission. If you manage to prosper over the next year or two, please come back and tell us about it; you definitely will have beaten the odds.

Do you really feel like wagering the future of your business on one roll of the dice? If so, we wish you good luck.

Globo Lingo Captures Evidence From the Field

But we promised you hard data, and we haven’t forgotten that promise.

Hard data’s not so easy to come by, as you’ve probably realized. We can’t do double-blind testing because we can’t set up two identical law firms or podiatry clinics or some other company, create two complementary websites, and test whether good grammar attracts and retains more business. We can’t even create two websites—one grammatical, one not—for one company, because the existence of the “bad” site will potentially skew search engine results and contaminate the data.

But about a year ago, one company, Globo Lingo, figured out a way to extract some valid statistics in a real-world social experiment. Although news links change over time, you still may be able to find contemporary news reports of the experiment. Globo Lingo’s researchers found that 59 percent of its participants would be less likely to use a service or product if there were obvious grammatical or spelling mistakes on its website or marketing materials.

Fifty-nine percent. Much more than half. If this were an election, they’d be calling it a landslide.

Now, the study wasn’t perfect. The sample size was fairly small (just over a thousand people). Globo Lingo is a translation service based in the United Kingdom, so perhaps its results don’t translate perfectly to U.S.-based business websites. But we probably can trust the overall direction of the results—the qualitative data—because they align so well with what we’d expect based on reasoning and the real-world anecdotes in case after case.

Don’t Buy Pandora’s Box

If someone is trying to sell you on a marketing system based on promises that grammar, spelling, and even content itself doesn’t matter, think again. Remind him that anecdotes don’t count. Demand to see his hard evidence and statistics before you pick up that black hat.

High-quality content writing is easier than it looks, and a bargain at almost any price. Why? Because your website content is at the heart of your marketing strategy. You’ve heard us say it time and again: Content is king, and there are no signs of an abdication any time in the near future.

Don’t just take my word for it: read what the best minds in the marketing business have to say. Take the time to download our FREE book, The Foster Web Marketing Clients’ Guide to Great Content. It may change your life; it certainly will open your eyes to possibilities you haven’t considered before.