Why you need a proofing drill

Quality, rather than keywords, is an increasingly important factor in Google search rankings. So how can you make sure the quality of your content isn't underminded by mistakes?

 Why you need a proofing drill

We all know that Google rewards quality content – now quality-related user experience factors, such as time spent on sites and bounce rates, are playing an even more important role in Google search rankings, according to a recent Searchmetrics report. This states that “The reaction of users offers search engines direct feedback about user satisfaction with your content.’

It makes sense then, that content containing mistakes like typos and grammatical errors is unlikely to keep users’ attention. Google itself warns content creators to be careful of things that could make people leave or not trust sites, such as grammar and spelling mistakes. But the importance of error-free copy goes far beyond search – content that contains errors will reflect badly on your organisation, undermining your credibility and customers’ trust in your offering.

However, while many companies are aware of the importance of producing error-free copy, it’s also true that making this a reality is a considerable task, especially if you’re producing large volumes of content. That’s why it’s vital to have a proofing drill in place – a process that checks for and corrects errors. Here are some tips on how to organise one.

Set the standard

Consistency in things like the way numbers, dates and certain words are written is a basis for producing easy-to-read copy. To have consistency, you need a style guide – a set of rules to check copy against. Ideally, you'll develop or commission a style guide specifically for your company.If you don't yet have your own, the Guardian style guide and the Economist style guide are both useful.

Organise your people

In an ideal world, no one will proof copy they have created. That’s because it’s extremely difficult to see your own mistakes. If you don’t have dedicated members of staff for quality control, organise so that writers can have their content checked by other people. Each piece of copy should be seen by at least 2 people before it’s published.

Do an initial check

The first stage of a proofing drill should be an overall check of the basics:

  • does the content match the brief?
  • is there a call to action?
  • is the content up to date?
  • are the right keywords featured?
  • are benefits prioritised over features?
  • do headlines and sub-headings make sense?

Checking for spelling and grammar

The key to spotting errors is to see your words afresh. You can try:

  • printing out the copy – it’s easier to see mistakes on paper
  • changing and enlarging the font
  • reading the copy in reverse order
  • using a ruler or pen to separate lines
  • using the spelling and grammar check in Microsoft Word – this is often criticised but it’s a useful tool provided you apply common sense when using it

Final or emergency check

Your final check (or the one you carry out if you’re really pushed for time) should be of the things that will be a big problem if published innacurately like:

  • prices
  • phone numbers
  • email addresses and URLs