The internet has established itself as a dominant marketing and business medium where businesses can profit tremendously through online sales.  The key to successful online sales is the marketing copy that convinces a visitor to transfform into a paying customer. 

Although the final purchase is made at a “checkout” page, most of the “selling” is conducted at the page where visitors first land, also known as the landing page.  A landing page is typically reached from a search engine result, a Pay Per Click (PPC) advertisement, or a link from another website. 

However it is found, a landing page acts as the selling point for a potential customer through the sales copy – which brings up the question of whether you should use long or short copy versions to convince a visitor to become a customer. 

There are two distinct camps who debate between long and short copy, both of which promote one version over the other.  Here are the typical advantages listed by each camp.

Short Copy Camp

  • Succinctness Sells – Short copy proponents are those who say that sales copy should be succinct, cutting right to the point.  This party believes that long copy tends to ramble, providing much more extraneous detail than is necessary to deliver sales points.  In contrast, short copy lowers the risk of losing a potential customer’s interest.
  • Minimize Scrolling – Visitors do not like to scroll through long text on web pages.  Long text tends to distract and deter most visitors.  If a visitor wishes for more information, a short copy landing page can provide additional links that will lead them to the answers they seek. 
  • Less Hype – Short pages have less chance of appearing as “hype,” thus reducing the likelihood that the visitor will click away. 
  • The Lower the Value, the Shorter the Copy – Typically, the lower the value of the final sale, the less sales copy is needed to help convince a prospective customer of opening his pocketbook.  If you are trying to convince someone to buy an online product for $9.99, you don’t need pages and pages of virtual text to do the job.

Long Copy Camp

  • Details Sell – Long marketing sales copy provides more details about the product or service.  The longer the copy, the more questions can be answered from a prospective customer.
  • Qualify Customers – Longer copy can better qualify customers and reduce the amount of customer service required to answer questions.
  • Improved Search Results – Longer, keyword-rich copy has a better chance of getting search engine attention.
  • The Power of Testimonials – Long copy usually includes previous customer testimonials that help convince a potential customer about the benefits of a product or service.
  • Higher Value, Longer Copy – The higher the value of a product or service you are selling, the more likely you will need longer sales copy to convince and answer questions from prospective customers.

Marketing Experiments’ Results

Since there is much debate ranging between the short vs. long camps, the internet-based research lab, Marketing Experiments, performed a study to determine whether long or short copy landing pages would be more profitable. 

The company devised a series of test landing pages with a research partner to sell a health-related product.  Each landing page had either a short sales copy or long sales copy, and the visitors were reached through PPC ads.  The tests were modified twice, still using the short and long copy to ascertain if the results would change.

What were the results?  In the three different head-to-head tests, the long sales copy came out ahead with more profitability than the short copy page.  Though the experiment’s landing page contentdid not describe the actual product or the price, the study found that visitors who searched for certain keywords and found these landing pages bought more frequently from the longer sales copy than the shorter version.   

Short vs. Long Copy Guidelines You Should Consider

Even though actual testing results showed that longer sales copy on landing pages outperformed shorter versions, you should always consider the following to determine which works best for your online business:

  • Perform Split-Testing – Testing short and long copy side by side can provide you with actual hard data to determine which works best for your particular product and industry.  When you have a clear winner, capitalize on the results. 
  • Control Your Variables – When you perform side-by-side testing, you should always control other variables when changing your copy, such as layout, graphics, and overall page design.
  • Quality Writing – Ultimately it’s the quality of the sales copywriting that will win customers, not the length.  Whether developing short or long copy, always devote the best possible quality to your sales writing.
  • Higher Price – Testing and sales results have consistently shown that the higher the price of a service or product, the longer the sales pitch should be to help customers commit to purchasing.
  • Complicated Products – If you sell a product or service that requires a great deal of information to be given to a customer, a long sales copy landing page is more likely to be the choice.

The debate on short and long copy for landing pages will doubtlessly continue.  However, you can use the results from other online businesses to guide your choice, as well as perform your own testing to determine which works best for you.  Regardless of length, however, remember that it’s always the best sales writing that will win a customer.