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Long copy vs. short on the web

1:57 pm on Aug 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

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I'm new to this forum, so I apologize for the multiple questions.

I run an online career guidance program. Most visitors come to my site by searching on "career counseling", "career testing" and "career change". My goal is to to give off a professional feel, but also inspire/persuade people to give me their credit card info!

I know they say that long copy beats short copy if it's good copy. Does that still apply on the Web?

My main product page is LONG copy. I'm not good at cutting it down.

There are so many things that experienced copywriters say you have to do, that I find I can't cut anything. I struggle with getting all of the following on the page.

* Headline to generate interest
* Something that makes the surfer feel like I'm "speaking to them"
* What is the service?
* Who is it for?
* Testimonials
* How are the features?
* What are the benefits?
* Why is my service better than the competition?

One problem is I don't know how to present all of this information. Would multiple shorter pages do a better job than one or two longer pages?

If on a long page, what order should the above content be presented in? (Then there's the worry about download time, visitor impatience, etc.)

Are there sound techniques to get a surfer to read a long web page (other than the usual scannability suggestions regarding bolding, font, white space, etc.)?

Anyone know of any good example sites out there that do a good job with long sales copy?

Sorry for all of the questions, but I'd be grateful for whatever your thoughts may be?


2:17 pm on Aug 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Hi Steve,
Generally shorter pages are better than longer pages. As best you can break up the text in logical sections, you presented 8 good examples and put them on individual pages.
If you do this you need navigational aids to direct the reader to the next page. Make them clear and repeat them on both the top and the bottom of the page.
You don’t refer to any illustrations or photo’s that might help break up the text. Are you using any? If you have just text then keeping it to one page might work. Text only loads quickly.
If you keep to one long page, you will need to provide some navigation for the user using page jumps, referencing different sections of the same page.


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2:33 pm on Aug 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

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In addition to what jbinbpt pointed out, the general consensus here on the board (from what I can remember) is that most users do not read but glance through parragraphs.

Thus, it is crucial to have 'markers' throughout the page that will guide the reader quickly, independently of the length of each page.

Here is an interesting thread by Digitalhost

Increasing Your Conversion Rate [webmasterworld.com]

2:49 pm on Aug 13, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your thoughts.

I wish I could point you to my page so that you can tell me if I'm breaking things up visually like you're suggesting.


7:03 am on Aug 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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If we allowed people to post their websites, these forums would become overrun with URL drops everywhere.

Think short but sweet. People tune out after about the second page down. Someone might already know all the features and benefits, but wants to read reviews or testimonials. If you have a link right on the main page to them, a visitor can go to them quickly, rather than having to scroll down through pages of information to find the one specific piece of information he or she wants.

If I go to a page where I have to scroll down and down (and down and down!) to find what I want, I will leave and go to the competitor's site, where I can easily find a link on the main page to the exact piece of information I want.

When you are selling something, why make the potential buyer work for it? You want to make it as easy as possible for him to find what he needs to know and then order it - the more you make him work, the less likely it is that he will stick around long enough to whip out his credit card.

12:59 pm on Aug 14, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Thanks for your comments.

Anybody know of a good copy critiquing service?


5:30 am on Aug 15, 2003 (gmt 0)

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For the web, short and sweet is always better.

If your goal is to bewitch the search engines, than long and interesting keyword-rich copy would be good.

And if you are already getting high position than try to make the existing copy more sharp without disturbing the keywords.

When I have task where the client want LONG copy. I give the synopsis of each page in first paragraph in bold letters. So, that impatient visitor also gets the idea and at the same time the long copy also attracts the search engines.

4:12 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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yes i agree short pages are always better than long never ending pages where one has to keep scrolling down...its a test of one's patience and honestly I dont think many people on the net are willing to give that sort of time and attention to what you have to offer.....he might as well click the back button and look for something more easily accessible!
9:00 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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yes i agree short pages are always better than long never ending pages where one has to keep scrolling down

Depends on what you are selling - or writing about!

There's a whole batch of successful theorising around what are calle 'mini-sites' - one or two page sites that are devoted to selling a single product.

Here, the sales page is often a long one.

And they seem to work! One sales page - long; one order page - short.

But for content-rich sites (no overt sales pitch) I've found - and again backed up by other folks' research - that visitors are more inclined to click on through to the next page of an article, than to scroll down endlessly.

Why? Maybe it's our attention span.

If we're being fed hard facts, as in an article, we can't stomach screen after screen of facts. We're happier to click on through to follow-on pages.

But, if it's well written ad copy, which impels you to keep on reading, then we keep on scrolling down!


[edited by: engine at 1:58 pm (utc) on Aug. 21, 2003]
[edit reason] No urls, thanks. See TOS [webmasterworld.com] [/edit]

9:27 pm on Aug 20, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Funny thing...I've been around long enough that I can recognize one of those long sales pages within the first two paragraphs (after all, it's the same writing style as those ads seen in the back of various trashy magazines throughout my adult life, so I should find it recognizable by now considering how many of those magazines I've read). Well, needless to say I immediately grab the scroll bar and pull it ALL THE WAY TO THE BOTTOM just to read the real meat of the pitch -- the price & bonus offers. Those folks spent who knows how many hours perfecting their text and I skipped it all...ironic isn't it?

Thing is, many people on the web just want to confirm some facts the first time they see your website (they'll bookmark you and come back later if you fit their requirements). On top of that, they're in a hurry and don't really want to hunt to find those relevant facts. So Joe AverageWebVisitor may read through the testimonials and the "but wait there's more" type of one-page site ONCE or TWICE in their lifetime, but after seeing a few of those sites they'll either skip to the bottom or go on to the next website.

BTW, a majority of the long single-page mini-sites I've seen have been on the subject of making money (i.e. "buy my kit and your sales/traffic/stuff will climb through the roof -- just read what Jim had to say"). So my theory is that all the folks who read those pages soooo thoroughly and then buy the kit/book/package are actually just studying the text so they can go and build their own site. A small circular market all learning from each other and telling each other how great the technique is....but I don't think any other target market would get the same results from that style. Can you even imaging a long text-heavy mini-site selling bedroom sheets? Selling logo design? How about selling computer equipment? I sure wouldn't find that style appealing if I was looking for any of those three items.

That said, career help info is kind of at the edge of the typical target market for that style -- it's almost in that market because some folks want career help to make more money, but not quite because a lot of folks wanting career help want it for other reasons (self-actualization, boredom, you name it). I think you'd appeal to a larger group of people if you don't use the single-page "act now and get these bonus offers" mini-site style. But...if that doesn't draw enough of the "want better pay" crowd you might want to try a mini-site within your site that's written in the long style and geared just toward that mindset. Of course, that means you'll need to think up some "bonus" offers to go along with whatever you're offering!

Just my $.02, of course.

7:43 pm on Aug 22, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Direct response, according to the Direct Marketing Association, is a 1.8 Trillion dollar industry anticipated to grow at the rate of 9% through the year 2004. (That's actually down for the industry's average yearly growth).

Direct response includes:

Infomercials which "Nobody watches"
Junk mail "People don't open - just throw away"
Long Copy Web sales letters "People don't read" or scroll or just click off
(And other)

As far as who responds to DM, buyers defy characterization.

Not every situation should be addressed with a direct response approach, but I promise, you would be surprised at what goods and services are sold and in what quantity and for what amounts of money.


8:53 am on Aug 23, 2003 (gmt 0)

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Case in point:




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