Guest blog from Rachel Williams, professional copywriter.

I’ve just been looking for a decent carpet fitter, someone I can trust to carry out a large job over several flights of stairs, take care with a not inexpensive carpet and, preferably, not attempt to rip me off like the last lot that provided a grossly over-inflated quote. I always trust personal recommendations, so when a friend mentioned that she knew a really good chap (who just happens to be fitting carpet for a well-known football player, apparently), I rushed to Google his name and get his phone number.

And that’s as far as I’ve got, because his website is so disappointing. It is littered with spelling mistakes. Now I know I get a bee in my bonnet about these things, and you don’t have to be a great speller in order to be a very good carpet fitter – I accept that completely. But – and this is a really big ‘but’ that matters for any small business – websites are a really important sales and marketing tool; it’s the first point of contact for many prospective customers and, as most of us are well aware, people make a decision within about six seconds whether to stay on a particular website or whether to check out the competition instead.

Applying that to my carpet fitter scenario, I immediately started to form an opinion about him and his business standards and that led to my conclusion of shoddy website content = shoddy workmanship. I could be completely wrong, of course – and my friend’s recommendation suggests that I am, but if I’d come across that site purely via a Google search I would immediately move on to other companies that look more professional and show that they care about how they present themselves to the world.

I believe that words really do count when it comes to websites. After all, for the most part, it’s the written word that is doing the hard work on any website – small businesses have to rely on their website content to get across their key messages and find a compelling way to engage with customers in order to break that six-second barrier. Your website content is your business voice, so if you want to build trust and credibility, the words on each page of your website are just as important as having a decent logo.

The Internet has presented us with so much choice, so we have to find ways of making decisions, applying various filters to get down to the final two or three businesses that we might purchase from. And I bet, that consciously or not, spelling will be up there in terms of decision making. It’s a very similar process to recruitment; sifting through countless CVs and trying to decide who to shortlist – if the applicants are all similarly well qualified, at some stage you have to find a way of differentiating. So if they’ve spelt your name wrong in the covering letter, or there are silly errors in their personal summary, they may well be destined for the reject pile because you simply can’t interview every single applicant.

Everybody worries about SEO and how they can get further up the search engine rankings, but isn’t it time there was also a little more time and effort spent on optimising content to improve customer perception? A little attention to detail, ensuring your site has no spelling mistakes, could make a huge difference to online sales or enquiries.

What do you think of websites that have spelling mistakes – does it colour your judgement? It would be great to get your views.