Serchers Cant Spel – Let’s Make That Fact Work for Us!

As someone who was raised on the importance of spelling, the fact that correct spelling seems to have gone the way of the dinosaurs is a frustration!


  • We work in a world of medical words which can challenge the ability to spell.
  • Everyone is in a hurry, so rarely do people spell check their own writing. (And yes, I’m as guilty of that as anyone.)
  • Device text – meaning tiny keyboards and/or autocorrect – makes some communications impossible to decipher because spelling is either incorrect, or corrected to the wrong word.*
  • Acronyms are a problem, too – further exacerbated by autocorrect of acronyms. 

What a mess.  However!

While the writer and speller in me is appalled, the web developer in me says “Hey!  Let’s use this information to our benefit!”

So today’s tip will show you how to do that.

We’re going to misspell words on purpose. Yes, really.

Of course, it’s vital that all your promotional (marketing) materials, including your digital properties like your website, Facebook page, Linkedin profile, or your online directory listings showcase excellent use of the English language, including accurate punctuation and spelling. You are a professional, after all, and any public representation of your work needs to appear professional.

However, when patients and caregivers are looking for us through online searches, they may not be spelling correctly.  So we can use that information to help them find us in at least two ways:

  1. We can include misspelled words in the meta content ‘behind the scenes’ of our webpages.
  2. We can subtly educate our audiences and, to an extent, show them just how smart we are.

Let’s look at both strategies:

Strategy #1:  Meta Content: As I build or add content to my site, or work with my web developer, then it’s smart for me to include misspellings in the “meta-content”, those key words and key phrases that are used behind the scenes, but aren’t used on the public face of my site. They are, however, used by search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo, Duck Duck Go, and others) to determine the list of results the search produces.  So, if I have included the misspelling in the meta-content used by a search engine, and a searcher misspells that word, then my website SHOULD become part of the results!  Ta da!  That is a great advantage.

If that seems Greek to you, then ask your web developer, or your app support (if you built your site yourself), how to add any misspellings to the meta-content or meta tags. It’s as simple as that. The misspelled words won’t be seen by your readers, but they will be used by search engines.

An example: Many advocates misspell the acronym for HIPAA. Note – the spelling isn’t HIPPA or HIPA!  HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. Yes, HIPAA. I frequently see advocates spell it incorrectly.

So when I cite HIPAA in an article, my strategy is to include those misspellings (HIPPA, HIPA) in the meta-content of the article so that an advocate searching for information will find an APHA post, and link to the information he or she needs.

Strategy #2: Education: The second way I can use a misspelling or an acronym is to educate my audience by calling out the misspelling. Here’s an example of where I did that

Don’t Let HIPPA Drag Us Down

See?  I used it as education. And now, if someone is looking for a blog post that relates to patient advocates and HIPPA – they will find the APHABlog. (And, they will find this TIP too, because I’ve cited HIPPA.)

Another good example is something we have begun doing on the APHA Membership site. At the bottom of pages where we know someone may have searched internally and misspelled a word, we are calling out the possible misspellings so the articles show up in a search. A good example is an article and advice we offer about plagiarism. That’s a tough word to spell!  So at the end of the article, we have listed the possible misspellings. Now, when a search is done using any of those misspelled words, our member will find the appropriate information, even if he or she could not spell the word to begin with.

plagiarism article screenshot

Your turn!  Think of the possibilities for helping people find you!  What in your world is misspelled on a regular basis?  Your name? Your location? (I’ve always wondered how anyone finds Albekerkee!) A specialty area or niche you work in? A diagnosis?

Add those words to your meta-content, or call out the misspellings publicly as a service to searchers. Over time you’ll find more people are finding you online – and that can only be good.

*Just to show you that I do try to have a sense of humor about this:  when I first got my new phone, autocorrect would try to fix my spelling of “patient advocates” to “patient avocados” !!  It’s still my favorite 🙂


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