Is The “Long Copy” Sales Page A Thing of the Past?

by 10 10/27/2011

Do those epic 5,000 word sales pages with the big, colorful BUY NOW buttons work?

You might be surprised to hear the answers.

We asked our Crazy Egg Marketing Experts whether the long copy sales page is dead?

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It depends on what you’re writing for. I subscribe to the theory that copy should only be as long as it needs to be. For some products/services, that means long copy; for others, it means short. If customers need more information to make a purchase, that information needs to be included on the page.

I also believe that a writer’s job is to not waste the reader’s time. People appreciate brevity and not feeling like their time is being wasted. The more concise copy can be while still conveying adequate information, the better.
~ Joseph Putnam, Blog Tweaks

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Yes, and it is a thing of the future as well. The main difference is that the sales letter must support several different modes of reading, including: Scanning, partial attention, and engaged reading.

These pages must work extra hard to get those readers that scan to find something specifically relevant.

Many sites use video and audio so that they can capture multi-taskers’ attention while the check their email (though this is obviously sub-optimal).

Then, the methodical reader must be captured and taken through the page in a more traditional sales letter approach.

Sales letters work best with recognized brands, or email lists that are familiar with your company. We call them “warm” readers. They are not working well for cold visitors, and I suppose this trend will continue.
~Brian Massey, Conversion Sciences

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No. It may be delivered in different formats (ie. video) and you may not want to call it a long copy sales letter, but it really is a long copy sales letter. You gotta sell to make money and you can’t competently make your case on why someone should buy from you in a few paragraphs or short video.
~ Adam Kreitman, Words That Click

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If long copy sales pages are not a thing of the past, they should be. It seems evident that people have short attention spans, so the best way to convert them is to sell them on the product as quickly as possible. If someone can’t get the basic facts about a product and its benefits, they are likely to move on to something else, especially if they are comparison shopping.
~ Kristi Hines, Kikolani

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I don’t believe long copy is dead. Boring, long copy – yes. Those people who say long copy is a thing of the past tend to not be able to hold a customer’s attention long enough to keep them engaged and focused. The internet has a million distractions and people are honestly looking for reasons NOT to buy.

The copywriter has to trim out all the excess, superfluous writing that distracts from the purpose of getting that customer to take one small step toward “yes”. If you can get them to mentally agree on several points along your “long” sales letter – you’ll have a better chance of leading them through to the end (and the order!)
~ Sherice Jacob, iElectrify

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Long copy has a time and a place. In the world of online marketing, my personal opinion is that people have become disenchanted with it. People don’t want to read 5 pages of copy screaming at them to buy something, when you can get the point across with one.

But what works for one doesn’t always work for another, so it’s important to know your market and the niche you are targeting. What works online may not work offline and vice versa. At the end of the day it’s about knowing your people, what they’re needs are, and whether or not they are the type to take the time to read long copy or not.
~ Cori Padgett, Big Girl Branding

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I don’t personally get caught up reading them or using them. There is an audience and personality type that do find value in them. They are not dead, they just need to be used when their is the right match up between product and audience. I don’t see them disappearing anytime in the near future.
~ Aaron Stevens, Moosylvania

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No. In some businesses that offer more complex products or services this is still an appropriate use of their website. Many B2B websites will find long copy pages appropriate. This is especially relevant for businesses with technical friction points that must be overcome in the prospective buyers mind. Do not fill the long copy with sales jargon. Long copy has a place only if it is relevant information that the prospect was looking for to begin with. Don’t add any extras that are not necessary in this step of the conversion process. When prospects are confused, they do nothing.

This does not mean that you should require a prospect to read a long copy page before presenting the call to action. The call to action should still be presented as the main objective to the reader and the long copy is used to overcome friction or objection points.
~ Christopher Long, The Loud Few

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It’s a thing of a very particular niche. It doesn’t work for every type of online communication. It’s never worked for me, and I’m not interested in it.

That said, long or short copy isn’t what matters — what matters, in my opinion, is getting your message fully fleshed out and writing it in a scannable format.
~Jeff Goins, Writer

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I’d love to say it is, but it still works. And if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
~ Will Hanke, Where Is My Business?

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When planning content length and substance it’s imperative to understand what decision-making types (Competitive, Methodical, Spontaneous, or Humanistic) that you need to convert. “Long copy” is alive and well if you expect Methodicals (slow/logical deciders) to visit your site. They read everything and will consume all the value-added fine print details.

In contrast, Competitives (fast/logical deciders) want brief, succinct content that clearly presents and proves the unique value proposition. They will not tolerate long copy and would be most likely to bounce. If you have both types visiting your site, [and you likely do,] it’s important to find a balance. If you must present a lot of content on your landing page, consider using tabbed content, tooltips, or even infographics. (Note: SEOmoz has successfully implemented several “long copy” landing pages. Ex: http://www.seomoz.org/features)
~ Angie Schottmuller, Interactive Artisan

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I hesitate to unequivocally say that “long copy” sales pages are a thing of the past. Now I’m not advocating verbosity. It will no doubt be beneficial to pare down the content on your sales page to only include what’s best. But you must avoid simply dumping a bunch of buzzwords onto your page and calling it a sales page.

Industry jargon is a turnoff. Write out what you do in plain English so anyone can understand it. Provide enough detail to pique a user’s interest in finding out more. Make the page scannable for the casual visitor. If I’m on your site and have to guess what it is you do, I’m not contacting you to find out more information. I’m leaving. Find the balance between blabbering and buzzwords to give your users a true picture of how you can help them.
~ David Hartstein, Wired Impact

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No. And it won’t be until someone demonstrates that it doesn’t work. A good sales page provides enough benefits to seduce readers for one reason or another. The more benefits the better, which depends on the complexity of the product. Besides, the question is not “Is it too long?” The question is “Is it interesting?”
~ Demian Farnworth, The Copybot

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I don’t believe so. The page must have as much information as is needed for the customer to make a decision. So, if that makes it long, that’s the way it has to be.

That doesn’t mean that the page shouldn’t be carefully planned so that it’s easy to scan and digest or that it should have irrelevant information though.
~Naomi Niles, ShiftFWD

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We would love to hear your opinion.  Is the long copy sales page a thing of the past?

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10 COMMENTS

Josh S.

Long copy is still very effective, but I believe that design is an increasingly important component of it. We’ve all seen long copy pages for scam offers and there’s a stigma that is becoming attached to long copy pages for many people. The way to combat this is to make sure that your long copy page has a very polished design to act as an immediate signal of credibility.

October 27, 2011 Reply

    Demian Farnworth

    You are so right Josh. The two work in tandem, and often it’s the design that gets the immediate emotional pull.

    October 27, 2011 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    So…… no yellow highlighter? ;)

    October 27, 2011 Reply

@OptimiseOrDie

No – the answer here is that you have to test the page. If long copy works towards the outcome (further exploration, purchase, conversion) then that’s the optimal solution to me.

You can use multi-variate testing to modularise a raft of content chunks and then try these until you get the best result. Most UX consultants I’ve tested against MVT samples, asking for their choice of winner, get it right 60-70% of the time.

Senior execs get it right as low as 5-10% and conversion people are often as good as the UX folks. We’re all guessing – it’s kinda liberating because if you don’t measure, you don’t know.

Once you work that out, it frees you from opinion and ego because you can produce well written content, but also benefit from assembling it in a way that makes natural sense to *convert* that customer.

I practice UX, use a super copywriting agency and use MVT to test content. Words in my tests beat everything else, as they drive 50-70% of the value of ALL stuff. So I get a higher increase playing with button wordings, titles, straplines than I get with the button design.

I’m agreeing with you all here. Your opinions are all valid but within a context of reference of you, or a situation you construct. Fortunately, we can use our judgement now to aim for optimal and then test to increase this further. Admitting this is the first step of guessaholics anonymous.

I have seen situations where long copy works well and others where it sucks. It depends on your audience and you are not them – you are a neuropsychology of a different kind and you can never be them, react like them or purchase as them.

I’ll get off my soapbox now and go back to work. Enjoyed reading all these but please, let testing be the lift that drives good work of yours to be awesome.

October 27, 2011 Reply

    Russ Henneberry

    Great stuff @optimiseordie — I think we are all in agreement with that. Testing is super critical.

    But, as you say in your well thought out comment, the long sales page is not dead. But it isn’t for every situation. Let testing be the judge.

    October 27, 2011 Reply

@OptimiseOrDie

@Russ I completely agree.

However, if you carefully read all the comments here, testing isn’t mentioned! There is a lot of personal opinion, some very interesting, about this topic but nothing tells me what will work on *my* site, *your* site or even an *imaginary* site that hasn’t been built yet.

October 28, 2011 Reply

Janjan

For me, it depends on the readers. . There are readers ha wanted a long complete statement & info about the content of the letter. But usually if readers see long page letters they don’t bother reading it. They want short & direct sales letters, who answers all their questions in short letters. Nice post.
Thanks

December 11, 2011 Reply

Dave Colgate

Not sure if anyone has seen it, but a good example of successful landing pages/sales copy in a digital medium can be seen here: http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/seomoz-case-study/ ► An increase in revenue of $1 million isn’t to be laughed at!

December 23, 2011 Reply


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