‘Tis the season for bargain hunting, and according to this recent New York Times article, new sites devoted to bargain-hunting with the help of misspelled brand names are popping up to help shoppers find the best deals. These sites, aimed at helping searchers find the best prices on eBay, offer searchers common product and brand name misspellings, locating items with fewer bidders because items aren’t showing up in most correctly-spelled product searches. Though a common tactic among the seasoned eBay deal hunter, this practice is being brought to the masses this holiday season with websites such as TypoBay.com and TypoBuddy.com.
And, hey, why can’t we use this same tactic for SEO? Think how many searchers never see your website in their search results, imagine the traffic you’re missing out on simply because you’re ignoring the basics of human nature—we all make mistakes, right?
When a searcher enters an incorrectly spelled keyword, product, or brand name into a search engine, the results are often not what the searcher expected at all. Let’s look at one example. People looking for a Burberry brand scarf, an ultra high-end luxury clothing and accessories brand, will often head to the internet for the best deals. So, you go to Google and type in “burberry”, the top result will be the Burberry official site, and the first page of results is dotted with discount and bargain sites offering Burberry products at discounted prices. But, run the same search but accidentally or unknowingly misspell “berberry”, and you’ll see that there are a number of sites counting on this very mistake. The top few results are sites selling discounted or imitation Burberry brand items, and these sites have optimized for this common misspelling to capture the traffic that otherwise would be lost. Very simply, they’ve purposely misspelled terms like this in the text of their websites hoping to capture searchers who are also misspelling these terms.
It seems so easy, more traffic is just waiting for you if you optimize for misspelled words. But, there is a debate among SEOs about whether to optimize for common misspellings of your top keywords. Sure, you may be able to wrangle more traffic to your site, but at what cost? Is this traffic increase really worth the risks? Before you jump into optimizing your site for misspelled keywords, let’s look at the reason’s to steer clear of this practice.
Misspellings undermine your credibility.
To position yourself and your business as an authority, your website needs to reflect a level of professionalism. But, how professional will you appear to your site visitors when common keywords are sometimes, or often, misspelled on your own website? Remember, every site visitor will see these “mistakes,” and things like this will undermine your professionalism and credibility.
Misspelled terms impact visitors’ site experience.
You’ve invested a great deal of time to making your website a usable and appealing resource for site visitors and for your company. Do you want to risk throwing away much of that work just to add a few visitors? By adding misspelled terms to your site copy, you can not only lose credibility, you could lose conversions. Will your visitors choose to work with your company if your site has misspellings littered throughout the copy? Remember that searchers are often researching companies and products online, and they won’t necessarily know that you have intentionally misspelled keywords. You may get more traffic, but you could lose business.
Major search engines are working against this strategy.
Go back to our Burberry example and look at the top of the Google search results for the misspelled “berberrry.” What do you see at the very top, before any misspelled results? Google is clearly telling searchers that they have made a mistake by adding “Did you mean: burberry” right at the top of the page. The major search engines, in an attempt to help searchers get the intended result, are offering corrected spellings for commonly misspelled keywords. No need to figure out the mistake yourself or even type in your corrected query, Google has let you know that you may have misspelled the term and offered you a link straight to the results you wanted—bypassing all of the sites conveniently taking advantage of your mistake.
The lesson here: intentionally misspelling terms to grab some extra search traffic carries more risk than reward. You lose credibility, compromise site usability and work against the search engines in helping searchers get the relevant results they are looking for.
For ideas on how to use SEO to increase traffic to your site without the risks, take a look at Top Ten Basic SEO “To Do’s” For Increasing Traffic To Your Website. And, feel free to leave a comment and share your opinion on optimizing for misspelled keywords.