A client asked me recently if he should be optimizing for misspelled variations of the keywords we are optimizing for currently. It’s a fair question, and one that gets discussed often in the SEO forums and blogs out there.
As with most things SEO, there are two schools of thought. Some believe that it’s ‘low hanging fruit’ and should absolutely be optimized (arguing that although their are fewer searches, there is generally less competition and cheaper CPC). Others feel it’s a waste of time and that focusing efforts on keywords that drive traffic and are properly spelled are the way to go. Their counter argument is that search engines typically try to correct misspellings by offering suggestions of the proper spelling.
A quick search using the misspelling of mortgage, ‘morgage’ shows that Google has defaulted to the correct spelling because the misspelling was close enough to the correct spelling:
Below, I tried a second variation with a less common misspelling to show the “Did you mean” feature in Google. :
So depending on the misspelling, you could get completed different search results for the same intended search.
To see what type of competition and search volume misspellings could provide, I ran a quick report.
SEOBook offers a free tools which generates misspellings based on the proper spelling. (To be honest, I didn’t think it was that useful, and I ended up just coming up with variations myself. But the link to the typo tool is here.) For this test I used the same keyword, ‘mortgage’, which I used in the example above. Admittedly, this is a broad keyword in a competitive niche.
I pulled the proper spelling and then 3 misspellings to see what type of traffic and competition those keywords get. I also wanted to look at competition levels and average CPC for the misspellings. Here are the results:
from Google AdWords Keyword Tool
Notice that in this case, the correct spelling actually has the highest search volume, the lowest competition level, and the lowest approximate CPC! The misspelling ‘mortgege’ has a much lower search volume but the approximate cost per click is more than double the proper spelling. If anything, this tells me that there are plenty of people out there who think it’s worth optimizing for misspellings. But, if I’m trying to get the most reach from my SEO campaign, I’d go for the highest volume keyword with the lowest competition. In this case, that’s the proper spelling.
Now, I’m not saying this is true in every case. In fact, if you were to delve into mortgage niches, or long tail mortgage keyword phrases and include misspellings at that level, the results could be different. I tested adding the word ‘broker and the words ‘broker richmond va’ to the misspellings but there wasn’t enough search volume to suggest it was viable in this instance.
For PPC advertising, going after misspellings may be much more appealing. Andrew Miller says “Google is usually pretty good about correcting misspellings for common keywords in organic search results, but I typically see great results in PPC channels by bidding on misspelled brand, product, and company names. These clicks are usually much cheaper thanks to lower competition and convert as well or better than correctly spelled keywords!”
So should you optimize around misspellings? The answer is: It depends. As with all things in the online marketing world, it pays to do your homework first. I’d suggest doing your keyword research first to determine the competitive nature and approximate traffic volume of the misspellings. I’d also suggest typing in the misspellings into Google to see if Google is automatically defaulting to the correct spelling. It seems that the greatest value from marketing online around misspellings may come from utilizing them in PPC marketing. Again, do your keyword research first and monitor your CPC to ensure your aren’t actually paying more and getting less conversions from the misspellings.