The question as to whether content is different from copy is not the esoteric challenge you might think. Many people operating in the digital sectors struggle with categorizing this essential element of the mix.
But, getting the labels right in this field is not just a question of nerd-like obsession, it not only helps understand the various roles assigned to content and allows for the creation of useful Key Performance Indicators (KPIs), but it also helps those managing lead to revenue projects.
What we need to realise is that content is very much different from copy and the best way to illustrate this is by looking at a website.
Now, in the case of this argument, when we refer to content, we are talking about words, or text as some might say, which is comparable to copy.
Of course, content is not just words, but also images and videos.
Text has had a very good run and it will remain crucial going forward, but this has been down to the fact that search engines are fairly old fashioned and are ‘blind’ when it comes to indexing. Search engines rely on spiders which crawl text and look for keywords which dictate the subject matter.
This has spawned a whole search engine optimisation (SEO) industry which has devoted itself to pointing the search engines in the right direction via signposts on a website. These signposts are collectively known as the Metadata and once they reigned supreme within SEO. Now, although still vital, they have dropped down the list to the housekeeping part of the agenda, not the creative part.
Nowadays, spiders which crawl text are fairly low-level search technology and we await developments which means that Google and their competitors will be able to properly index an image, or video (not just as now, via a line of text, a caption in effect, written in the Metadata Alt Tag).
The change will be based on complex algorithms, but once this starts, websites will become obsessed with stuffing their pages with optimised images and videos, to compliment the optimised text. And that day is not far away.
But that’s the future. When you plan a website, content is very different from webpage copy, in much the same way that editorial is different from advertising copy. This distinction is important and is unfortunately blurred, especially in the eyes of the content buyer, the commissioning clients.
Content Comes After Copy
But, and here’s the big differentiator and the easiest way to see it, content is what is added to a website once its complete.
Think of the average website. It should consist of a number of first fully optimized level pages which frame the main propositions and calls-to-action. These are constructed from webpage copy, together with images and graphics, and support videos.
On many sites, this has a low turn-around, getting changed when a product line, or service offering is changed. Thus, in many ways it is static and there is no point in keep changing it. Anyway, these major landing pages are the ones that attract the most SEO tactics, because they should draw the main traffic.
But search engines like to see sites that regularly change, and continually enrich the user offering. The way that most webmasters do this is to build the website out with content, rather than webpage copy.
Blogs, News, Articles
This is why blogs, news stories, articles and case histories are very important for a site. Even just one blog a week means at least four new pages a month and 48 a year. With not too much effort, a site expands. With a medium sized company, they will build out a site at a very fast rate. And, each piece of content needs to be optimised, in order that it is making a contribution to the overall SEO effort.
Therefore, the site is evolving through the strategic use of content, not the addition of copy, which of course, will also be updated and expanded over time. But it’s not just content per se. Remember that this can be further sub-divided into the categories we mentioned above (‘news’ etc) and again, remember one of the words we used to describe content before, ‘editorial.’
Newspapers have long divided their editorial into main sections and they are as applicable in the digital space now as they were decades ago. A newspaper is generally built around news (short, snappy factual pieces), comment pieces (which are effectively blogs and express the views of an editor, or columnist) and features (long form piece of content which take time to explore a theme). These categories work and are understood by readers of newspapers, as well users of website.
Also, we shouldn’t forget that much of the work at the sharp end of the L2RM effort is bringing leads back to a website, via emails. What’s more, the individual nature of various campaigns (if they are implemented correctly), will create a lead for a special website landing page, not a first level page. Bringing leads to a generic web page is tricky, because an outbound email will have a particular catch and call-to-action. To bring them back to a Home Page which might contain numerous messages on the generic level, is often a waste of effort.
So the email link should come to a page which can either elicit a reaction (buy a product), or more usually, with long term B2B campaigns, elicit engagement with the potential lead, or existing customer. And that is one of the central roles of content. It is more animated than static webpage copy that is there to raise a knee-jerk reaction. Content should be more thought provoking and engaging, it should create that level of engagement that we all desire.
Content is not copy, and this distinction should not just be the concern of the writer, it has to be understood by the buyer of content. Furthermore, text based content is not just about words to fill a gap. It needs to be formulated (new, blogs etc) to give it user credence and it has to work hard to earn its living – it has to educate, please and inspire the user. In short, it has a lot to do, so there’s no point making things worse by not getting the approach to content right, at the very start of a campaign.