Aussie start-up spellr.us' latest ploy to attract higher education customers is to shame them for typos that appear in their first 1,000 web pages.
A survey of the top 20 universities in the world - which includes Australian National University in Canberra - found 13 of the 20 misspelled the word ‘university' on one or more of their web pages.
Spellr.us general manager Kevin Garber told iTnews by email that ANU "was about the middle of the list of 20 in terms of of [sic] their frequency and severity of typos."
Garber said "spelling errors can convey sloppiness and lack of attention to detail, which can detract from the message".
In the case of Universities, that message is that a high quality education is on offer, he said.
"A university's website is often the first point of contact for prospective students and staff," Garber said.
iTnews conducted its own survey of Australian universities using a free trial of the spellr.us tool, which checks only the top 100 web pages.
ANU again placed middle of the road, recording only four "likely" errors. Other major local Universities recorded higher figures; however, all had fewer than 10 errors in the first 100 pages.
A spokesperson for ANU said the University "has processes in place to ensure our website and individual pages are of the quality we would expect.
"In addition, each area has its own webmaster to update and check on web content," the spokesperson said.
"Despite that, misspellings will sometimes slip through the net. As soon as we identify those we work to correct them."
Garber said calling the spellr.us survey a naming-and-shaming exercise was an oversimplification.
"We wanted to highlight how challenging it is to keep track of content across websites and how organisations underestimate the impact on credibility that errors have," he said.
But he admitted spellr.us hadn't communicated the errors to the universities before publishing the list.
He cited "difficulties" with finding out who was responsible for the sites as a reason not to inform them before publishing the typo figures.
Instead, he called on the universities to contact spellr.us for a list of errors. Only one university - Duke, which is based in North Carolina - had taken them up on the offer at the time of publication.
Garber said Victoria University was among the institutions in Australia to buy spellr.us to date, but he could not reveal other customer names.