View Full Version : Long copy versus short copy debate
01-20-2006, 03:25 PM
Since long before the web a debate has raged. One camp stands for long copy, the other is convinced long copy is better.
Of course, they're both wrong.
The correct length depends of the format and the writer. And on the web, certain other factors come into play. With bad copy, the longer it is the worse your results are going to be. When you have nothing to say, you can never be short enough.
That's not writing, in many cases web content is typing ...with attitude.
Everybody has a story. Every business has a story. I've talked with business owners for as little as five minutes and gotten a compelling story. A story which was never mentioned on the web site. And even when we're just writing a blog, the tendency is a kind of chit-chat you could never get anyone to listen to face-to-face. Forums start up that don't have a clue as to how to come up with interesting topics ...except to post here and hope the content fairy will visit.
It doesn't work that way folks. Get interested to be interesting. Discover the inherent drama in a product story. Often this will mean going out and talking to the product users. If the forum sections and general subject doesn't inspire you to write a flurry or articles, then don't start the forum.
Successful Forums Tip #1: Whatís The Point? (http://channels.lockergnome.com/net/archives/20040806_successful_forums_tip_1_whats_the_point.p html)
Successful Forums Tip #2: Got personality? (http://channels.lockergnome.com/net/archives/20040807_successful_forums_tip_2_got_personality.p html)
Resurrect Your Writing, Redeem Your Soul (http://www.digital-web.com/articles/resurrect_your_writing_redeem_your_soul/)
A List Apart: How to Write a Better Weblog (http://www.alistapart.com/articles/writebetter/)
Long Versus Short Copy On Websites (http://www.online-learning.com/news/news1.html)
The Long And Short Of It Is That These Two Sales Techniques Are The Same (http://www.conversionchronicles.com/The_Long_And_Short_Of_It_Is_That_These_Two_Sales_T echniques-Are_The_Same.html)
01-24-2006, 07:36 PM
First it wants me to have technical skills. Now it wants me to have writing skills. Next it'll want me to have a uterus. Is it just me or is the Internet getting a little too demanding for it's own good?
I say we picket!
01-24-2006, 08:31 PM
There are some good articles there.
Most of our customers seem to want little to no text on the page. I like text. If I'm researching a product, I want to know all about it.
Seems to me that good page layout, white space, and a good use of headlines helps turn "too much text" into a good amount of text.
I really liked the line from A List Apart:
Great writing canít be taught, but atrocious writing is entirely preventable.
01-24-2006, 10:00 PM
One of the greatest joys I've had in developing our websites has been the copy. The length of a given article, just as you see above, depends on the topic.
It's more a discussion of good, readable copy for the particular audience. More than anything else I question WHO am I addressing? What's their education? I don't want to or can't talk down to or otherwise intimidate a potential customer.
Since my wife doesn't work directly with me, I oftentimes have her read various articles to make sure I'm not rambling on or using too much "industrial" jargon.
Writing good copy is essential for a great website if it wants to grow and become profitable.
01-25-2006, 12:22 AM
I used to like long copy but decided lately just to be short, sweet and down to the point.
I found in general that people just do not read - no matter how long or short the copy. At one stage I thought the copy was bad but then I had it checked and the critics made some suggestions which were fixed.
Still, people contact me with questions with answers on the sites so lately I just redirect them to the particular URL.
I am talking in particular about the SMS business. I think everybody sees it as a "quick money making scheme" and want to get involved without doing any homework not knowing what they let themselves in for.
So when they come to the site they have no idea what they are looking for and do not know the difference between bulk and streaming SMS, http and SMPP etc. (even though the first sentence on the page renders an explanation)
In stead of reading what is in front of them, they contact us. Just to be sent back to the page with the definition which they need to read.
Maybe in other industries that are not so technical it is easier to decide between long and short copy. I found screen captures with explanations to work pretty well in the industry I am in.
01-25-2006, 02:52 AM
I wrote copy for print, radio and television for 28 years. You can write per a formula and get quantifiable, predictable results. You can write way too much copy then cut it down. You can write copy points into a story or humorous scenario and you might even write a master's thesis with well formed .xml and any of these may succeed or fail. The key with good copy is writing directly to your best customers, answering their needs and providing a cure. Exhaustive research over many decades and costing many millions of dollars have proven repeatedly that a cure outsells every other approach.
Now, with regard to copy for the internet you use your keywords in the same way that you would the sponsor's name in commercial copy. You have to find a way to get those keywords worked into the copy as many times and ways as is truthful. I have two websites that follow a very particular approach that came out of my experience. One of those websites occupies 5 of the top 10 spots for my keywords irrespective of the newest update on Google. The second site can't get into the top 100,000.
So, rule number one would have to remain, "There are no rules." You try some things, see what works, and keep messing with it until you run out of things that don't work. Writing well is a process of developing your imagination (by reading, mostly) and practice expressing yourself clearly.
Subject/verb/object, subject/verb/object ... that's enough. Write that way and when you've said it all then stop.
01-25-2006, 08:26 AM
This topic is like "how long should your legs be?" Long enough to reach the ground is a good rule of thumb. The point: testing.
MarketingExperiments (http://marketingexperiments.com/ult.asp?404;http://marketingexperiments.com:80/see/1085) (you'll need a registration) has produced a report "Long Copy vs. Short Copy ó How our micro-testing increased conversion rate by more than 100%"
Of course, when your one site is way down on serps, it's a little easier to justify testing. Keep in mind, if you're getting half the visits, it's good to try something which might double conversions.
Also, websites are interactive. This means you can give the user control over the length they want. One example is where you see a product in a catalog and click the thumbnail. Clearly, the user has signaled they want more. Many times web designers miss out by not really engaging the user and providing progressive disclosure.
01-25-2006, 04:02 PM
I find the difficulty that most people have writing for the Internet is that they don't know who they are writing for.
I'll always request clients send me any of their commercial advertising and sales copy. They [the copy] are written mostly for the customer. We'll then take that copy and, attempting to keep it true to message, will rewrite it for the Web.
Internet copy has two viewers: 1) The search engines, which require the copy to be rich in keywords and phrases; 2) The customer, (site visitor) for which the content needs to be written for a call to action.
If a site is ranking well, and getting a decent number of site visitors, but the sales aren't happening, it usually points to one of two areas a) Your site isn't in the correct category (the keywords you are getting your visitors for are not the right ones for your ideal customers) and/or b) The copy itself isn't written to the customer, providing enough explanation, education (about the product) and a call to action.
No matter how you write your copy, once it's written for the search engines you need to ensure that is still answers the following:
1. What is it (product or service)?
2. Why should I (the customer) buy your product (what benefit will it provide me?
3. Where do I get it (call to action)
4. Who is providing the product? (you or another supplier), can I trust them? etc.
5. How do you use it (support faq's for purchasers etc.)
Selling on or off the web really doesn't differ, it's the same thing. Website owners are only just starting to realize this. It kills me that someone will spend a $1000 to develop an ad for the yellow pages then want a $500 website, lol (there's a rant for another post eh!)
As a few of the other replies said, once you have the basics it's test test test. Every site, every industry, every search engine category is slightly different. What works for one may or may not work for another, but the basics always remain.
... another 2cents worth.. =o)
01-25-2006, 05:01 PM
Why not have both a long version and a revised shorter version?
Best of both worlds!
01-25-2006, 05:17 PM
Hey Ron! I didnt realize that was you who had just posted. LoL!
This is Paul, with www.StableWebHosting.com
Hope all is well with you dude. I liked your reply. Very informative.
01-25-2006, 05:47 PM
Another great topic Dcrux. I think that people on the net generally have short attention spans and short text generally works best - however, I tend to write long copy because A) I prefer it. B) Search engines prefer it. C) I believe my writing skills are good enough to keep the reader's attention that little bit longer.
01-25-2006, 08:00 PM
One of the things which force short copy are layouts, specifically those done by graphic artists. Despite typography, there is scant appreciation for text.
This last post brings up the issue of keeping user attention. Another way to accomodate both readers and 'scanners' is the subhead. Here's a nice piece I found about writing subheads (http://www.writing-world.com/basics/subheads.shtml).