I’ve seen this ongoing debate debate jump up again recently in several Blogs and message boards and I can’t help but laugh. It’s not a new debate… Ever since long copy masters of early 1900’s, people have been arguing for or against practice.
As a copywriter and conversion specialist, convincing my clients to test longer copy on their websites is often a very difficult task. After all, online customers have microscopic attention spans and are always in a hurry to move on.
Different visitors have different goals, different personalities and different buying styles. Some visitors will want to read everything you can give them before buying and then they still need “more information” before they can decide. Others just want to know “what are you selling”, “what does it do for me” and “how much is it” and they want to know it NOW!
It may sound like an impossible task to write copy that sells both of them… After all if you cut your copy to bone to sell second visitor, you won’t have enough information to persuade first visitor. And, if you waste second visitors time by forcing them to read a 20 page sales letter to “get to meat”, they will leave.
(Fortunately, there is a way to satisfy BOTH of them on same page… But more on that in a minute…)
There are two basic camps in this debate… The first group says “Long copy ALWAYS outsells short copy”, while second group says stuff like “…as a consumer, I don’t have time to read all that copy. I’ll NEVER buy from long copy.”
The part that makes me laugh is that 90% of people in BOTH camps have never scientifically tested copy of ANY length! They make these statements of absolute facts, with no test results to back up their claims.
The truth is, sometimes long copy out pulls short copy and sometimes short copy out pulls long copy. But you have to TEST it to know which is going to work for your site and your target demographic. (Actually there is one absolute when it comes to copy… Good copy always outsells Bad copy, regardless of length!)
Another thing to keep in mind is, just because you conduct a test and find that a shorter version out pulls a longer version, don’t automatically assume that “short copy is better than long copy”. If you are testing a clear, attention grabbing short message against a long, boring message, your test is not going to tell you much.