Marketing Strategy

Attracting Customers with SEO Misspellings

written by Steve Lange


If you are not including misspelled search terms in your website’s search engine optimization (SEO) process you are missing out on connecting with many potential customers.

It is no secret that the Internet has created our enormous global market. Customers, speaking any of thousands of languages, from every nation can make purchases online from a marketplace where everyone can be an international vendor. Understandably, most small- and medium-sized e-merchants can’t afford to build their Web stores in dozens of parallel pages to handle dozens or hundreds of languages. But they can make their main sites more efficient by using SEO tools to cast a broader net and reel in customers who misspell keyword search terms. In our case, we want to catch those customers who seek our business-planning software products, but speak English as a second language, or don’t speak English at all.

As just one example, how many ways can you misspell restaurant? Recent visitors to our sites who were searching   for sample business plans for eating establishments used these misspellings (and others as well) in their searches:

  • restaraunt
  • restauraunt
  • restaurent
  • resteraunt
  • restruant
  • restrunt
  • resturant
  • restuarant

Not getting any results, they also tried the plurals of these not-words by adding s and es as well. Maybe these were merely sloppy typing errors, or perhaps the searchers really did not know the correct spelling. (Sorry, claiming that since restaurant is a French word, and so, is difficult to spell in English is a specious argument, since much of American English came from so many other languages.)

With so many gazillion e-merchants out there, search engine optimization is essential to our success and survival. We must use every opportunity, every tool, every search to entice, suggest, direct, link, and otherwise bring potential customers in to our websites where we can sell them our products and services.

The developers, webmasters, and editors of our websites collect, track, and analyze all these bad searches. Then we add the misspellings into keyword fields and other code, behind-the-website-scenes, so that from now on anyone who makes an attempt to search on our sites with any of those misspellings will still   receive a list of free restaurant business sample plans.

I am saddened though, to think how our facilitation of successful Internet searches is enabling birth-tongue English-speaking people to slip into illiteracy. Effective SEO is proactively driving down the lowest common denominator in vocabulary and language usage skills. Internet users are becoming less literate every day, and we are enabling them to do it. They don’t need to know how to spell correctly to generate a successful Internet search. Anything that is a close approximation of a word will do.

And truly, from the retail business standpoint I can’t say this is wrong. Sad yes, but not wrong.

Steve Lange

about the author

Steve Lange

Steve Lange is Senior Editor at Palo Alto Software. He recently received the Entomologist EXCELlante award in recognition of searches for bugs in product tables and features. Outside of work, he is a polymath and information generalist who enjoys seeking and finding intuitive correlations in information between different fields of study. A voracious reader, he has been known to scrawl edits in the archaeology, history and aviation books he reads for personal pleasure. Naturally, Steve is an inveterate player with words, having a Pollyanna-ish preference for polysemous polysyllabic polyphonic vocabulary and regularly puts the "p u" back into pun.


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