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What's the big idea?
Do they make more sales than "normal" websites? Do they have a better conversion rate? Why do I see them only in sites that are selling ebooks?
quickly run screaming
Well I don't. I always check the "length" of the page to see if beats any existing records. After that I calmly close the browser window.
Did I forget to add? There will always be this at the end of the page -
Free Bonus Number 1
Free Bonus Number 2
.Free Bonus Number x
Total value $999
Your price $49
I'm almost sure there IS something in this strategy.
He said he found that sites which agressively targeted non-web-savvy people (like most "get rich quick" schemes and ebook sale sites do) converted better in the long page format. I think it would have something to do with not confusing an easily confused visitor with clicking links or making choices... you read the one long page, and then there's a big "Buy NOW" link at the bottom. If you're sold, you click. No muss, no fuss, no confusing navigation. (And there is a segment of web users who find almost all navigation somewhat confusing...)
As far as how they sell they can do very well if worded correctly. My friend tried experimenting with a page like this vs. a "traditional" webpage and saw 5 times better conversion with the one long page.
There seems to be a circle of about 4 or 5 guys that heavily promote this type of site. It might work for some purposes but I have never been convinced enough to try it.
No. I don't think it has much to do with the length of the site. It wasn't really a "site", just one page. There is evidence that certain page sizes to better than others but that wasn't the case here. It was just a bad site that shouldn't have been ranked as well as it was. It didn't get totally nuked. It still has a PR4 which is closer to what it should have been from the start.
generally selling ebooks or "How to make money without working" type of sites
I first noticed this when looking for bulk email software - I guess for some people bulk e-mailing falls into the "money without working" category.
If you're used to a nicely designed, easily navigated site, these are not for you! I kept expecting a pitch for Ginsu knives or something...
It's basically an adaptation of proven direct marketing tactics adapted from the old school direct mail info product legions.
In certain niches I've seen this design combined with good copywriting out pull every other approach by as much as 5 to 1.
Despite their potential in the right market, there are many lemmings defaulting to this approach in areas where a multi-page site could do better.
But then, follow-the-leader-itis is a disease that exists in just about every industry. ;)
In any form of marketing... testing is the key.
With that said many of the sites like this that I have seen pop up so many advertisments that I accidently close the main page (if I don't accidently close it I hit the back button as soon as I get that far down in the pile of windows).
I still feel that if you have a good quality product, clean layout that makes people feel comfortable and fast loading pages you will get good quality customers and return visits from potential customers.
I would think others would pick it up if it really worked.
It only works for certain naive target audiences and/or impulse buy items... As I mentioned in my post earlier, a "web marketing expert" e-book I read used his own sucessful one-long-page site as an example of what NOT to do when building a site in general.
He then went on to explain that in his own observations of his own sites, that particular (borderline scam/aimed at internet novices) site converted many times better with the ugly one-page design than when he tried to redesign it to a more "sophisticated" design.
You'd also think telemarketing and email solicitation "would never work" and that "everone would do it if it produced results," but what works great for one market/product/audience may bomb with another, and that goes for targeting your product to the right market, as well as targeting your design.
The logic I have formulated as to why the webmaster thinks it is a good idea to do it this way is:
Instead of letting the surfer pick and choose which pages they want to read under a traditional design, it forces them to read it all, or at least scan through it all.
Being exposed to more copy leads to the higher conversion rate.
However, personally, I don't like being forced to read section I don't want to. I don't like being forced to read/scan through info-garbage that I am not immediately interested in.
Instead of wading chest deep through all that information over-load, I hit the back button.
I have a friend, whos site I was resently optimising. He has a really long sales page which is about 4-5 A4 pages long. It is broken up by small, although not a lot, of images. I explained how I could better optimise the page, however, he stuck his toes in and showed me some very interesting statistics. Don't ask me why, but, REALLY long sales pages convert to more sales.
There are a few other trains of thought that (probably) apply.
1) Pay for Inclusion: Usually it's a pay by page inclusion. Pay for one and Ink will spider it all.
2) The "click-away" concept. Every click a surfer makes to go to a new page and not to the order form is another chance for the person to be lost. Fewer clicks to buy, better conversions. This is pretty standard with all of us.
3) Hook - Inform - Close - It's standard. You give them a hook. If the hook is good, they'll read on. You then inform them about it. If the information is promising or interesting, they'll keep going. Then, you close the deal. If the first two parts have worked, then the last will work. I use the same technique on many of my pages (though my front page is the only one with Info Bloat even close to the extent of what we're talkig about here). In fact, a good many of the pages on my site don't even let you know your supposed to buy something until I've already gotten you hooked. What I do isn't exactly the same as what we are talking about in this thread, but it's in the same family. Once I started applying it, my conversion rates quadrupled in a single week back in October.
Yeah, I agree, I'm not going to buy something like we're talking about here, but believe me, the concept is at least rooted in proven "real world" sales techniques. <shrug>
"I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then." - Bob Seger
These sort of sites usually have strong affiliate schemes going. I am amazed that they make someone who has read the affiliates review and soft sell wade through all the mush as well. I would of thought a smaller page would definetly work better for these sort of users.
Many of these pages suck in the way they are written and developed; others are truly masterful.
To address the original post, I would say that 'yes'- depending on your product and your own internet marketing resources, this type of site may be more effective.
I haven't seen any statistics regarding this type of ploy on web sites, but I'll bet the bigger guys doing these pages are doing the research and testing. They wouldn't use the pages unless they worked. In marketing fields, you shouldn't go with what you want, what you think people want, or what consultants tell you people want, you should TEST different layouts and copy, and SURVEY customers to determine the layout and copy that brings in the most sales.
A couple of other "tricks of the trade" that might be convertible to web use: the long sales letters were usually enhanced by simulated hand-written notes - an underlined or circled word, "This really worked!" in the margin, etc. Since you can't write on web pages, the metaphor isn't as strong, but I could imagine some creative use of images to accomplish a similar effect. Another common tool was a separate little insert that said something like, "Read this only if you have decided not to subscribe" - it would contain another selling point or two and perhaps some kind of bonus offer. On the web, this would be a popup window that opens when you leave the page.
The key to making a long page work is very effective copy. The reason the long paper letters worked is because they typically engaged the reader quickly, perhaps by starting a story or stating an outrageous fact, and held the reader's interest. Length alone won't help, and will probably hurt. Great copy will make the reader keep scrolling.
One advantage of long copy is that you can change reality for the reader. I've always been amazed at the success of door-to-door salespeople (a dying breed these days). I knew a guy who worked his way through college selling expensive encyclopedias. Naturally, nobody ever opened their door saying, "Thank goodness - we were just about to go out and buy a set!" NOBODY was interested at first. But if he could get in the door, and start talking about the huge amount of knowledge in the books, the improved school performance the kids would see, the pennies per day the books would cost, etc., he could actually change the perception and world view of the prospect. (Kind of like Steve Jobs famous "reality distortion field".) A long sales letter works the same way.
What about looong posts at WebmasterWorld? ;)