Lauren Kaye

How does content quality impact a website’s performance? According to an analysis by Acrolinx‘s proprietary linguistics engine, almost 70 percent of companies creating content are missing the mark for clarity and quality.

Just 31 percent of websites evaluated had content with a passing score of 72 or higher, which essentially means the writing is grammatically correct and stylistically sound. 

Content that ranks above this number is – well, good – and content that ranks below that is likely giving readers the wrong impression about your brand.

acrolinx data

Some of the common mistakes they looked for included:

  • Subject/verb agreement

  • Double negatives

  • The use of pronouns

To see more common errors that impact content’s quality, check out this list of 17 word crimes that drive our editors crazy.

Like it or not, consumers are scrutinizing the content on your website to vet out whether they want to do business with you. When they find spelling errors and typos in the content, they might assume your business lacks attention to detail. If they find your explanations difficult to read or understand, they may subconsciously assume there will be challenges if they partner with your business.

Good content shows you’re a peach to work with – not a pickle

Research supports a tie between readability and perceived ease of use. They associate hard-to-read content with a difficult activity, and easy-to-read content with a painless task.

Acrolinx cited a study from Global Lingo, which found poor-quality content can sour sales opps: 59 percent of consumers say they won’t buy from companies if they find bad grammar and spelling mistakes in their content.

Editor’s note: I silently judge grocery stores with “15 items or less” signs. It’s fewer, people!

We’re human, so it’s not that a wayward typo is unforgivable, but content is your first opportunity to make a good impression on customers. You want to give the impression that your business is smart and trustworthy, professional and uncomplicated.

Quality content ranks better

Good content doesn’t just give readers a better experience with your brand, it also impacts your search rankings.

Acrolinx found a correlation between content with a score above 72 (good content) and higher Alexa rankings. Conversely, sites with low scores and poor-quality content ranked lower – and it looks like those trends are expanding over time.

Acrolinx alexa data

Content quality is also impacting Google search rankings over time. The Panda algorithm was built to reward sites for publishing high-quality content, and Google has made it clear that sites won’t rank well if they don’t offer unique value to readers.

So how do you get your content from OK to awesome?

There’s no silver bullet to great content, but there are some basic principles marketers should follow:

1. Think about quality, not quantity

At the dawn of the content marketing craze, businesses were racing to adopt first. Now the web has since become crowded with a lot of hastily produced content that may be optimized for search, but doesn’t necessarily answer questions in the best way for readers.

Always think about what someone will gain from reading your content. What questions are you answering? Will someone learn from your asset? Is it in the format that’s best for delivering the information?

Your content will be most successful when it gives the best answer to a question people are asking within your industry.

Here’s a resource on: How often you need to publish for effective content marketing in 2015

2. Hire a professional writer (and editor)

To avoid common grammar mistakes and fix errant typos, you need an editor who is familiar with your company’s style guide (whether it’s AP, Chicago or MLA). It’s easy for errors to slip by when you’re self-editing. A second set of eyes will spot the small things, and bring a fresh perspective to make sure the copy flows well and makes sense to first-time readers.

3. Keep it simple 

High-quality content is technically correct, but it’s also easy to understand. Acrolinx pointed out that readability suffers when content is too dense with technical terms and confused by long, winding sentences. To reiterate: If your content or landing pages leave readers scratching their heads, you can bet those people are leaving your site and going somewhere else to learn.

The best way to demonstrate a command over your area of expertise is to make it easy for anyone to understand. A thought leader takes complex concepts and makes them simple. Even if you’re using technical terms, you should strive for crisper sentences and use fewer adverbs to keep things simple.

Earlier this year, Searchmetrics reported that sites with simple content actually outrank their superfluous counterparts. And sites that rank on the first page of Google contain writing that could easily be understood by a 13-to-15 year-old.

Fleish Reability Report from Searchmetrics

This is why content writers are a huge asset to marketing strategies. They can filter the technical information through a lens that makes it accessible to readers. Here’s a real-world example that shows how web content performs better when writers cut the jargon and make your expert insights accessible.

Quality content is the key to more effective marketing

There’s no more room for content that’s just OK. There are too many choices for readers to spend their time on resources that don’t really answer their questions. Smart brands are putting one foot in the writing ring, and bringing on skilled editorial teams to make sure their customers have the best possible experiences on their sites. They understand that’s the way to make a good first impression online and be competitive in search results.