The danger from automatically formatted text

by Gary on May 13, 2009 · 4 comments

in SEO Mistakes

Microsoft Word and other word processing programs auto format punctuation. Unfortunately, punctuation that has been modified by word processing programs is not converted in the same way by the programs running the search engines.

For example, word processing programs will turn:

•    straight apostrophes, commas, and quotation marks into curved ones;
•    a short hypen – is converted into a longer hyphen – ;
•    ordinals such as in 1st become 1st ; and
•    fractions written as 1/2 become ½.

The simple solution prior to uploading formatted text onto a webpage is to strip out all the formatting or remove the formatting before the copy is typed. In Microsoft Word all the copywriter has to do is go into Tools and click on AutoCorrect Options. Next, click on the AutoFormat tab and uncheck the boxes beside the words:

•    “Straight quotes” with “smart quotes”
•    Ordinals (1st) with superscript
•    Fractions 1/2 with fraction character ½
•    Hyphens – with dash –

Flash and other distractions

As more and more websites fight for attention the temptation is to give the Home Page the full movie treatment and bombard the visitor with flashing images, scrolling text as on Sky News and numerous other creative combinations and sales messages. It may be a cliché but the old expression that less is more is becoming more and more true today.

Once you have attracted a visitor to your site courtesy of a search engine or through some other means, the next plan should be to lure them deeper into the site by following internal links. Sites that are overloaded with information and are slow to load can lose visitors as fast as they attracted them.

It is also important to bear in mind the age and types of people that are going to be coming to your Home Page. Many older people regard the Internet as a resource and just want the information to be relayed in as simple a way as possible, whereas young people are more used to being bombarded with messages and images.

Every website is a sales tool and the old KISS adage still holds true today: keep it simple Sam.

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  • Mandy Suite171

    Thank you for emphasizing that every website is a powerful sales tool. There really is a danger from automatically formatting text similar to a word document. Our clients have seen this in action and have turned their websites into stronger sales tools because of it!

  • Jeremy

    Yes that automatic formatting done by MS Word is a pain in the ass. I frequently buy paid content and one of the first things I do upon receiving the content is to do a find-and-replace for the apostrophes, quotes, dashes, ‘…’, etc. I think the autoformatting only works when you are typing it yourself, right?

    I agree about the excess of flash/animations is a bad thing. I think a page should have at most 1 or 2 animated elements. Some long pages might be the exception. You don’t want to overwhelm your visitors. Just give them a few obvious calls to action that the eye naturally gets drawn to.

  • Jayashree

    This is very important to check automatic formatting done by MS word,for the apostrophes, quotes,dash,’….’, etc so we should first copy it into notepad then paste into web content , it remains as it is , use of flash and animations in web pages takes more time to loading the page and crawler do not consider flash and animated pages.

  • Gry dla Dzieci

    I always turn out all the automatic formatting in text I’m working on. It can reallu bug You when You want to say one thing and moment later You see completely other content of written sentence (or no sense at all).