There’s nothing like a horrible typo or two to wake you up in the morning.
Perhaps you already can guess that the mistakes in the title of my article are intentional. But even knowing that, doesn’t it jolt your sensibilities to read it? (If it doesn’t, or if you didn’t even note the mistakes in my article headline, alas, read no further.)
Editorial quality standards are important to Google. They’ve been telling us that for years. How ironic that editorial standards are in a catastrophic rate of decline. Take this jarring, unpleasant example in a news story I saw not too long ago:
Antonin Scalia’s body lay in a Texas funeral home Sunday and officials waited word about they would need to perform an autopsy before the late Supreme Court justice could return home to Virginia
First of all the headline is so long that it’s practically a run-on sentence. Read it out loud; it sounds stilted and awkward. Additionally it confuses me; I have to read it twice to understand what the article is about. Last but not least, the headline is actually missing a word! (Hint: it sounds bad whether or not you spot the missing word. Get it?) Normally I would expect to see a headline like that in high school newspaper, or maybe in a blog post on an amateur website, or maybe on Tumblr.
So what low-brow publisher would allow a headline like that to appear? Um, can you say “Associated Press”? Don’t believe me? Here’s the link. And in case they decide to clean up their headline between now and whenever you read this, here’s the image:
My point here is not to take a swipe at the venerable AP. Since I’ve been checking news stories on my phone I’ve noticed two things: the blizzard of stories (they come in at a rate of dozens per hour), and the poor quality of proof-reading, regardless of the publisher. I spot typos in at least half of the stories I actually bother to read. In the days of “wet ink” that would have been the death of a news outlet.
In our SEO training classes one of the “new generation” search optimization principles we teach is the necessity of quality content (see the part about Google’s standards again). And yet the rush to keep up with online publishing deadlines, the ephemeral nature of digital content, and the desire to provide huge amounts of grist for Google’s information mill, have led all of us to risk sacrificing quality for speed. I’m also to blame, as I’ve had my share of typos, none of which I intend to link to (hey, it’s my article, I can link where I like!).
I don’t have any hard, empirical evidence for my next statement, but I believe it anyway: Don’t! Don’t rush to publish and ignore the proofing. It’s not just about Google, it’s about your readers and the perception they create of your organization. I have to admit that my opinion of AP’s quality dropped quite a bit when I read that headline about Scalia. If they can’t bother to check their headline, what does that say about their commitment to checking their facts?
Fight the trend. Proof read your headlines (and the rest of your content as well). Rise above the crowd. It becomes easy when the standards are fallng all around you. (And yes, that last one was indeed intentional)