Does Long Copy Convert Better Than Short Copy?

I’m sure you’ve seen those long, long pages with copy that goes on forever. Those pages you need to scroll through screen after screen of copy to even find the price of the item for sale and the form to fill out in order to buy it. Pages with half of the words highlighted in yellow and the more you see them the more they look like spam. Could it be though, that those pages with the long copy actually convert better than pages with shorter copy?

A study I found not to long ago, Long Copy vs. Short Copy Tested would indicate those endless pages do indeed convert better. You might notice the study is almost two years old, but about a week ago I found the authors of this study reiterating the claims of the test in a magazine, having found similar results in studies beyond this one. I’ve also noticed many very legitimate sites who’s copy seems to grow on pages directly selling a product. Take a look at the length of the page where Aaron Wall sells his SEO Book. If Aaron’s using long copy I’m confident it works.

I found this test particularly interesting given that conventional wisdom and the advice from every online copywriter I’ve ever read has always been to make text online short and sweet. People tend to read less online they all say, while skimming more so pages of long copy have generally been advised against.

The long vs short copy test does show a clear indication that longer copy outperforms it’s short brethren, though the testers do advise testing for yourself as all sites are different. Especially interesting was the result that shortening the checkout process actually decreased conversions. In this case though the page removed was a product page which I would think would be valuable in selling that product.

As the authors point out quality copy that is short will still convert better than long copy that is poor. This isn’t about just adding words to a page so it’s longer. You need to have a good reason for all those words, but long copy does give you the ability to answer more questions that a visitor might have and need an answer for in order to make a purchasing decision. And all that highlighting does allow visitors to skim the page, so in a sense you can have shorter copy within your long copy page for anyone who just wants the info quick.

One of the guidelines at the end of the study points out that in general higher priced products tend to require longer copy to convert. That makes sense as people will typically want more information before spending more money. You don’t need to convince me much that your $5 product will improve my life. Worst case I’m out $5. But your $1000 product better do a little more convincing and assure me it’s worth spending my hard earned dollars.

The study, along with the rest of the Marketing Experiments site, is worth checking out. It hasn’t convinced me to arbitrarily increase the length of my copy, but it will make me feel more confident about leaving the copy I write at whatever length it happens to be and not think it needs to be broken up over several pages because it’s too long. In then end I’ll still go with leaving pages at whatever length they need to be to get the information across.

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  1. Interesting steve, I hadn’t read that article before. I’m tempted to set up a test myself to have a look at this.

    If google were to prefer long copies over short ones i wonder what the reasoning behind that would be. I know it would mean there is more information, but does it mean that information is better?

  2. It was interesting to me too since I would have thought the shorter copy would have converted better prior to the article. I can see the reasoning though why the long copy works. I don’t know if it means you should arbitrarily make your copy longer. I still think well written short copy will outperform poorly written long copy, but I will consider the article whenever I’m writing copy.

    I think Google leans toward informational sites in general. That’s what they prefer to return. Longer copy should mean more information and thus might see a benefit in Google just for being seemingly more informational. The longer copy probably also increases the number of long tail phrases a page can become associated with.

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