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King: Content or Copy?

By Judy Vorfeld

Ever get 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:

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. They need good text for a num­ber of reasons.

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 solve their prob­lems, 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 Jodi Kaplan, Gerry McGovern, Hal Alpiar, 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.


* Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th edi­tion (2003).
** VIZBOTS: site vis­i­tors and search engine robots


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