Content is King. But is yours making the grade when it comes to quality? A recent study from marketing software provider Acrolinx has found that almost 70% of big brands are producing content lacking in quality.

Using linguistic analytics software, Acrolinx analysed the marketing, corporate, technical and customer support content of 150,000 web pages from 340 global companies such as Gucci, Audi and Xerox.

Using a 100-point scoring scale, they found that only 31% of brands passed the target ‘impact score’ of 72 or higher.

How was the content analysed?

As well as spelling and grammar, the software also evaluated style, tone of voice and clarity.

  • Grammar – when compared to standard grammar conventions (based on The Chicago Manual of Style), how many errors on average did the content contain per thousand words?
  • Style – did the content’s use of language and structure follow standard rules and writing best practices?
  • Clarity – taking into account factors such as sentence length, structural complexity and use of words, how easy was the content to read and understand?

With only 31% of brands analysed scoring a passing grade, this leaves a huge 69% producing content deemed by the software as below acceptable quality.

Although the specific company names attached to the scores were not revealed, the report did highlight Caterpillar, EE, Kohl’s and the National Australia Bank as having the highest scores.

When it comes to industry-specific content, the retail industry is at the top of the class with a 73.2 impact score, while the telecom industry’s score of 66.2 puts it last. With a score of 70.2, the US and Germany share the highest regional scores.

“Content marketing is one of the highest priorities for today’s marketers, with growth rates for content development and distribution skyrocketing”, said Acrolinx’s CEO Kumar Vora. “However, it’s clear from our research that the focus on volume is negatively impacting quality.”

Poor quality content loses you sales

Highlighting the importance of quality content, Acrolinx referenced a 2013 UK study from Global Lingo which found 79% of consumers notice a website’s spelling and grammar quality, and 59% wouldn’t buy something from a company with bad grammar or spelling mistakes on their site.

The majority said that they “wouldn’t trust” a company with poor quality content to provide a good quality service, while others would consider the company to be unprofessional, or be put off by the lack of care that had gone into their content.

“The fact that such a high percentage wouldn’t trust a company with poor spelling or grammar just goes to show how crucial it is that business make the most of every opportunity” said Richard Michie, marketing and technology director at Global Lingo.

“You only have a short amount of time to make an impression on a potential customer, and if your website or ad is riddled with grammatical errors, it’s not going to place you in a favourable light. Competition is tough, and if you don’t take the care to present yourself in as professional a light as possible, you may well be losing yourself important business.”

Poor language translations fare even worse. 31% of shoppers surveyed said they had come across sites that had obviously been translated from a foreign site into English because it read inadequately with bad grammar. Only 4% remained on the site or continued to make a purchase.

This will go both ways, so if you are translating your English site into a foreign language, invest in the services of a good translator, not the Google Translate tool.  The money you spend making sure your content is mistake-free will probably be far less than what you’ll lose in sales from customers leaving your site when they see a shoddy translation job.

Poor quality content can reduce your website ranking

It’s not just your customers who notice the quality of your content. If your site is full of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors, the search engines will also pick up on this, which will impact your search rankings.

Google has been making it clear since their Panda update that it is no longer tolerating sites that aren’t providing value to their readers – the algorithm was built to reward sites which are producing high-quality content.

As Bing webmaster Duane Forrester asked, “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 content exist to serve the searcher?”

The Acrolinx report also suggested the possibility of a connection between Alexa rankings (a measure of a website’s popularity based on number of visitors and number of pages viewed per visit) and its scorings of website content quality.

Sites with good content (a score above 72) had higher Alexa rankings while those with poor-quality content and low scores ranked lower.

What does this mean for you?

Quality content should be at the top of every merchant and affiliate marketer’s priority list. Remember, you have about six seconds to capture and hold your visitor’s attention. You might have the best designed website in the world, but that won’t be enough to keep your visitor on it if it’s filled with low quality content.

Back in 2011, a BBC news article reported findings from an online entrepreneur that a single spelling mistake on a website can half online sales. In it, director of the Oxford Internet Institute at Oxford University William Dutton stated that although there is greater tolerance towards spelling and grammar in some informal parts of the internet such as social networks, “there are other aspects, such as a home page or commercial offering that are not among friends and which raise concerns over trust and credibility. In these instances, when a consumer might be wary of spam or phishing efforts, a misspelt word could be a killer issue.”

Credibility and reputation is of crucial importance to all businesses, whether a global brand or an affiliate marketer. You may not have ever considered yourself to be running a business, but consider this: carelessness content will make you look unprofessional and can irreparably damage your credibility and reputation. Which means you losing out on sales.

In the competitive world of affiliate marketing, can you afford to be careless with your content?