Long Copy vs. Short Copy

By Patti Stafford | Writing

Feb 17

I don’t consider myself a copywriter, but over the years, in considering this aspect of my writing career, there’s been the debate of long copy versus short copy. My personal preference for reading (or even writing) copy is that it be short and to the point. The advertising industry still claims that long copy is best for overall sales.

I find this kind of confusing actually. In the blogging world we’re told to write short, precise blog posts because readers are in a hurry and want their information pretty quickly. There are, however, a few bloggers that have a knack for keeping you interested with a longer post–they’re quite entertaining actually. I often ramble on with my posts, but I don’t know how entertaining they are.

My personal experience with long sales copy is that I generally read the first paragraph and then I’m scrolling to see the price of this “great” bit of information the page is trying to sell me. I hate long copy because by the time I click to find out more information I’m almost sold on the product–if I wasn’t I wouldn’t have clicked to find out the price. I consider myself the average blog reader and customer. I don’t need a long pitch to hook me if I’ve already been hooked by the ad I clicked on in the first place–just give me a decent summary, a few testimonials and the price.

I recently had my interest sparked by a product I wanted to check out. I clicked the link and instead of a long written sales copy I found a long audio sales copy with no option to skip it and get to the order page. It did inform me the option to buy would be available at the end of the audio “pitch”. What did I do? I turned the volume down, opened a new tab in my browser and waited for the sales pitch to end so I could get on with ordering the product.

To make a long story short–this was also one of those pages that if you click “no” or just try to close, you get a lovely pop-up giving you a better deal. This guy wants this sale really bad. Normally that annoys me but I did want the information for research purposes and to find out if I agreed with him about his information. I finally ordered and for the most part I agreed with his information–but it was nothing new. I also took him up on his refund policy because 1.) the information wasn’t anything new to me, and 2.) it was overpriced.

I have several concerns regarding the story I’ve just given you.

1.) Is long copy better than short copy or is it just annoying?

2.) If readers are in a hurry, do they need long copy to sell them on the product, or will a shorter pitch suffice?

3.) Is an audio pitch, with no option to bypass the audio, a good idea?

4.) Will we see more sales pitches in the form of audio and will it annoy people?

My preference is  short copy. I find long copy to be annoying. We do live in a fast paced society with online being a lot faster than the traditional sales and business route. Sales copy should be about the length of a good blog post–short and to the point.

The majority of readers don’t want a long sales pitch. Like it’s been said, they’re in a hurry and they want that information quickly–impulse buyers want it even faster. If impulse buying wasn’t a big deal, the department stores wouldn’t try to sell you more stuff at check-out. Think about it.

I personally don’t mind a nice audio pitch as long as it’s short and to the point–but I would like the option to bypass it if I’ve already been sold on the product.

I think if the word gets around over audio pitches we may see more of it. Podcasting has gotten pretty big and I don’t see why entrepreneurs wouldn’t go that route with their sales pitches. But I believe they should find a happy medium on length and the option to skip it so it doesn’t annoy people.

I’m also not a fan of audio that starts automatically. I think people should be given the option to listen and/or shut it off if they choose.

The best scenario for using an audio pitch versus the traditional written pitch is to give the visitor the option to choose–have both available at the readers/buyers discretion.

I would love to hear your opinion and what trends you’ve noticed in the world of landing pages and advertising.

Are you happy with what you see or would you do it different?

Image courtesy: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattmcalister/3600757441/sizes/l/in/set-72157619327504488/


About the Author

Patti runs several websites covering PLR/Niche Content, and strives to help others through life coaching and personal development.

Jewelry Secrets February 17, 2010

I dislike anything audio, unless I'm on youtube. I do find it very annoying to have to listen to a salespitch. I'm like you, I would rather just scroll the page looking for the info I want, vs letting someone ramble on about how great their product is without getting to the point.. the price! Good article. I hate those closing popups. I would have asked for a refund as well! 😉 I'm happy this wasn't an audio blog, because frankly, I did jump ahead! (just a little)

Adrienne February 17, 2010

Against audio. I can't listen to it on my laptop. I like short copy and a link if I want more details.

--Deb February 17, 2010

I HATE audio. It's one thing to choose to watch a video or to listen to a podcast (I don't like those either), but to be required to watch a video? Sorry, no, that immediately chases me away, no matter how much I might have wanted the product.

As to long vs short? I lean toward short, but can at least appreciate the technique … though I'm at a loss, too, as to why that is supposed to be so effective. I always just want to get THROUGH it to find the price or "buy now" button, already!

Rinaldi Syahran February 17, 2010

I think the placement of long copy and short copy must be in accordance with their role functioning.

gini maddocks February 18, 2010

I absolutely hate "long copy"… I don't even read them anymore.

Thanks for bringing this up–I have long put off writing them for my own products and I think that eventually, we'll all have had enough and they will disappear from our radar (computer) screens.

Danny Thompson February 18, 2010

As a copywriter, the long-vs.-short debate has always annoyed me. What's better, a compact car or an eighteen-wheeler? It depends on the job at hand.

That said, long copy works because no one reads it. Not all of it anyway. They start with the intro, and then skim the rest to find answers for their questions. That's why most long-form copy has subheads…it's not just to break up the huge chunks of copy, but to help the reader find the answer to their question.

I've never heard anyone say they LIKE reading long copy, but it works because it provides all the info needed to overcome objections.

Of course, any good copy should give you the option to skip ahead and "buy now" if you're already sold. Especially if your pitch is audio or video which is typically more time-consuming than reading it for yourself.

@karriflatla September 24, 2010

Your experience seems to be a common one, Patti. People often say they jump to the end and even if they do buy, they spent more time scoping out the actual OFFER than reading the rest of the page. So the page converts but was all the copy "in between" the headline and the meat of the offer necessary?

This is the part that I don't believe existing testing really speaks to. What are people ACTUALLY doing on these pages before they buy? We assume that because they converted they NEEDED all that copy to get them there. I'd argue this is a pretty weak assumption.

Besides, there is increasing evidence to show that long copy isn't the only option for a successful campaign.

Just because something "works" doesn't mean it's THE best way or what people desire to see more of.

Thanks for opening up the conversation in an open and honest way.

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