Confused about the differences between online content and online copy? Join the crowd. Merriam-Webster’s* defines content as “the principal substance (as written matter, illustrations, or music) offered by a World Wide Web site.” The Web Content Style Guide (McGovern, et al.), says that content is knowledge that’s been formally produced into media (text, graphics, video, animation, etc.). Some Web experts consider content and copy synonymous.
Regardless of the debate between content vs. copy, let’s discuss why good copy is so vital to a website’s success. Most people have websites to achieve the following:
* Provide information
* Sell products
* Sell services
All-graphic sites often fall into the category of online brochures. And when a business says it wants nothing more than an online brochure, it probably means that the website is not-and is not expected to be-the primary source of income.
While it’s possible for an all-graphic website to convey a product or service effectively, why are there so few-in terms of percentage-on the Web? Because of the need for search engines: those awesome software programs that bring us most of our visitors.
If you have an online business, and were given the choice between having a website with either graphics or copy, which would you choose? Most online business owners value search engines and visitors (VIZBOTS).** And most search engines have great regard for relevant copy, and no interest in graphics.
Text. Graphics. Audio. Video. All these features can offer relevance. But for a moment, try thinking of your website as a kingdom and your copy as king. A king reclines regally on his throne, surrounded by those who serve in various capacities. His ability to delegate wisely makes a profound difference in the outcome of the kingdom. Every person at every level has a job and understands the kingdom’s hierarchy. Common threads. Common goals. Everyone wins.
Would His Royal Highness perch on the edge of the throne, timidly raise his hand and say, “‘Scuse me, guys. May I speak?” Nope. Why should he? Further, should he roar to get attention? Never. He simply must be where he belongs-surrounded by those props and people that make him look majestic-so he can command and control for the good of the kingdom.
If you have a website, why not treat your visitors as if they were royalty? Create peerless copy. And make sure the best copy is placed on your first page, first screen. Regardless of writing style, these words have a mission: they must let visitors know how the website can fill their needs or help meet their goals. And they must entice search engine robots.
Although it’s important to have unusually good copy on the first page, it’s also important to brighten every page with excellent copy for VIZBOTS. Good copy is a tapestry woven with the best of grammar, HTML, marketing, sales, research, search engine optimization, programming, and customer service.
Whether copy is king, content is king, or copy is content, copy deserves respect. Big time. Learn more about the importance of copy from experts like Mike Fortin, Gerry McGovern, Nick Usborne, Jill Whalen, and Marcia Yudkin. Then go back to your website, do an analysis, and-if necessary-get busy and create copy worthy of your VIZBOTS. Resources:
* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edition (2003).
** VIZBOTS: site visitors and search engine robots