Last week in our copywriting training course “Writing for the Web”, I was asked about those long sales-y pages that you see for certain products online – you know the ones I’m talking about. The ones that go on and on and on for 5 or 6 presses of the page down key. The ones that repeat the same thing separated by ‘but that’s not all’ text and dubious testimonials.

The question was: what did I think of those when there is evidence for short web copy being more user-centric and there is evidence that long copy still sells on the web?

This, of course, is the age old debate between long and short copy. And as a copywriter, I’m supposed to know what the advantages of both styles are and have an opinion. But, as a web copywriter, I don’t actually care about the question or the answer. That’s because I have a different concern when I write a page of copy – it is called ‘people’ aka the customer.

Your customer dictates the length

What works best for a page is what works best to convert your customer. And while landing pages should be focussed on the task, I believe that offering people choice or options as links within or outside your text is a good thing. In fact, I know it helps people (customers) make decisions and helps them to see that you are an expert in your niche, because that’s what they tell me and my clients.

The long sell on its side

What people need, generally is information to help them make a purchase. The length of needed information depends on the person, and to some extent the type of product you are selling. Websites work best when they take the traditional ‘long sell’ approach of providing ample selling points that act together to convert prospects, and turn it all on its side – i.e. the copy is not all on one page. All the points are there, and are clearly spelled out. The difference is that readers can choose to read it all and won’t need to scroll. The less work they have to do, the better they concentrate on what I’m saying to them. The more options (to a point) that I lead them to, the more convinced they become as to my client’s credibility.

When I deliver copywriting training, the heart of my approach is to get writers thinking about the customer, not the product. I will use whatever approach works best for them. If my target customer needs a long page, they will get one. If they need a short, action focussed page, they get one. But those extremes of people are rare. Most people prefer short pages with links to supporting content. This type of approach to copywriting gives most types of visitors all that they need to believe in the brand, believe the message, trust the offer, and take the plunge.

Debating whether long or short works best is just missing the point.

 

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