Connotations writers will be the first to admit that there are terms our industry uses that do not have uniform meanings. Web copy is one such term. Just try to look it up yourself and you will quickly see that there are a lot of different definitions. The confusion stems from the definition of the word ‘copy’. Actually, the word has multiple definitions, which is what causes the problem.
The Oxford Dictionaries offers four different definitions of the word copy for British and world English. The two most important definitions for the purposes of this post are as follows:
- Material for a newspaper or magazine article; and
- The text of an advertisement.
Back in the day, before radio and TV ever existed, the definition of copy in the publishing world referenced any kind of printed material – whether it appeared in newspapers, in magazines, or on signs and billboards. Eventually the term was expanded to include written text that would be disseminated through radio and television broadcasting.
At some point, the advertising industry decided to make the definition of copy a bit more specific. They choose to apply it only to text created for the purposes of selling things. While their definition may be at odds with the definition used by professional journalists, it persists in marketing circles today. And that leads us to modern definitions.
Copy in the Internet Age
The introduction of the internet as a publishing and marketing medium inevitably led to the transference of the term copy into the digital arena. Thus, we now have people who cannot agree on what web copy actually is. As we see it, and we, as a group and as individuals, have been producing web copy since 2008, the phrase can apply legitimately to any piece of text created with the intent of publishing it online.
This means that in the broadest sense, web copy includes everything from blog posts to product descriptions. It includes news articles, case studies, press releases, and any other text-based content suitable for web publication. Using this broad definition, it becomes clear that web copy is not distinctly different because it encapsulates every form of written content. But there are practical considerations that need to be dealt with.
Creating content for SEO purposes is different from creating content to sell things. Sales may be the eventual long-term goal of SEO, but sales are distinctly different in both principle and practice. Therefore, we have to account for these differences when talking about web copy.
So as to avoid all confusion between SEO goals and sales goals, it is common practice to use the term web copy to refer only to content designed to sell. This would mean product descriptions, pay-per-click ads, landing pages, marketing announcements, and so on.
Using this more specific definition would exclude things like blog posts and white papers. These other things would be considered online content published for some purpose other than direct sales. This seems pretty clear, doesn’t it? It is, until a piece of online content crosses that grey area that moves it into sales.
Tell Us What You Want
You still might be unsure of the definition of web copy despite our best attempts to explain it here. That’s fine. The definition is really just a semantic issue that does not really make a difference in the real world. If you want to order any sort of online content from Connotations, just tell us what you want in the simplest terms possible.
If you want product descriptions, we will write them. If you are looking for blog posts, we will write blog posts. It matters not to us whether you call it web copy or online content. In the end, it doesn’t really matter to anyone else either.