Pearce responded to our “Ask the Experts” post, looking for a definition of “web copy.”
If you look up its definition, copy refers to any “written matter intended to be reproduced in printed form” (e.g., “The text of a news story, advertisement, television commercial, etc., as distinguished from related visual material”). The word was originally used in the context of the printing press, but it essentially means the same thing online.
Since all copy is content, but not all content is copy, some people separate the two. They use “copy” exclusively to mean text that is written to persuade visitors to take action. “Content,” meanwhile, doesn’t imply an intent to persuade. (For example, think of a website that features celebrity news Content, with a page urging visitors, via persuasive Copy, to subscribe.)
So, “web copy” refers to any and all words published on your website. And without it, your site looks something like this.
I don’t know if this is all that helpful for Pearce, but here’s what is important…
Offline copy (like a billboard) isn’t interactive. Web copy (like what you read on this blog) is. Web copy needs to be formatted in easy-to-read chunks. It’s hard to read a lot of copy online. Break up your copy with headers, subheaders, short paragraphs and bullet points.
Web copy has a powerful advantage over offline copy: Hyperlinks.
Hyperlinks create persuasive momentum. They provide a clear pathway for your visitor to accomplish his or her goals, and your business to accomplish your goals. What actions do you want your visitors to take? Your website should be planned with visitor goals and company goals in mind. Use your web copy to answer your visitors’ questions, address their objections, and provide hyperlinks that move them toward the actions you want them to take.
Pearce’s second question (“”Do you have any ideas on how to come up with goals for college websites?”) helps illustrate where web copy fits into the overall process of planning, building, and optimizing a website.
To find your website’s goals and use copy to support them, ask yourself these three questions:
Pearce should look at all the different types of visitors who might come to a college website (prospective students, current students, faculty, alumni, people in the community), then map out what each of these visitors is trying to accomplish. What questions are they asking? What information are they hoping to find? What information would you most like each of these groups to see?
For Pearce, this involves looking not only at his visitors’ goals, but the goals of the college itself. (Do they have a new program they want to push, a special event, or a special benefit that prospective students would love?) Once he has this information, he can plan pathways and provide information that is relevant for each of these types of visitors.
All pathways should lead toward an action you want your visitors to take. After all, how can you measure success if you haven’t defined what success looks like?
Thanks for the questions, Pearce!
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