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Is your Website's Spelling Search Engine Compatible?

Aug 17, 2007
If you have ever created a site targeted for a non-US English audience that uses International English, you've likely encountered at least one of several frustrating events. These can include many things, but most directly are the well intended, yet ill-informed visitors who complain about "spelling errors" via email or comment form on your website.

The fact is that many countries, including - but not limited to - Canada, Australia, and the UK, use International English spelling, which includes such changes as "humour", "colour", "generalise", and "jewellery". This leads many people from the US to believe that there are spelling errors
throughout the site.

While many web designers simply ignore these messages as being sent for the right reason but without the right knowledge, this may not be the wisest decision. Remember that when you create your website, you are trying to make it as available to visitors as possible, and this includes its search-ability using search engines and web directories. Remember that people searching the internet for a web site won't try a number of different spellings for their search. They will use the spelling they feel is correct. Therefore, if you are creating a site about labelling systems, it is important to recognize that the US spelling of the word is "labeling" and that many of your prospective clients may spell it that way.

Of course, even more difficult than making sure that your web design is suitable for all international forms of spelling is to make sure that you've covered your sit for words that are commonly misspelled. Though some search engines - such as Google - does list sites for keywords as they are spelt, they also make alternative spelling suggestions at the top of the page. Nevertheless, if your site does include those misspelled words in its content, then it will be among the sites initially listed, and you won't miss the chance to attract visitors who spell your keywords incorrectly.

They key to solving all of these problems is to look into your keywords and make sure that you've embedded all variants and misspellings in your web design's text.

Since keyword tags are no longer usable for the vast majority of search engines, it is vital that you use the keywords within your content to have them properly indexed and to gain your high search engine ranking. This means that as you design your web content, you will need to include not only your primary keywords the way that you would prefer to spell them, but also all international variants and common misspellings.

Naturally, this is not exactly the most elegant way to work, since no web designer really wants to riddle his or her content with different spellings for the same word, both accurate and inaccurate. Furthermore, some readers may look at a webpage that includes multiple spellings for the same word and leave since they may feel that your site is unprofessional and poorly edited - there is no reason for the visitor to know that you have done this intentionally.

There are a few solutions to this dilemma. The first is to create a separate content page for each spelling variation for the word. This means that you will need to create entirely original content for each of these pages - since your site will be considered SPAM if it contains too many identical pages - and each page will need to cater to its own spelling. If you have the time and the inclination, that is perfect.

You may also choose to leave a note on your site to explain to the readers that you have deliberately used alternate and incorrect spellings of certain terms on your site for search engine optimization purposes. This will often appease readers that would otherwise go squirrelly at the site of the many variations.

Another solution can be to simply use the most important variations, instead of all of the variations. This way, you've covered the vast majority of your potential visitors, and you can hope that the rest will have the spelling picked up by the search engine used.

One of the more pleasant tricks, that is often utilized by experienced web designers is to use your keyword spellings of choice, and then use alt tags for your images which contain all of the other variations that you wish to include. Some engines - specifically Google - will index such tags and help you to make your site much more pleasant to read, while still catering to the variants.
About the Author
Mark Nenadic
Mark is the director and face behind FifteenDegrees-North, where you will find articles and resources to help with SEO,
marketing and Web design.
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