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Long Copy vs. Short Copy – Opinion vs. Real Life Case Study

December 23, 2006 by  

I just got my email newsletter from Perry Marshall, the writer of one of the most popular Google AdWords guide.

In this newsletter, Perry answers one of the most asked questions by Internet marketers, should I use long or short copy?

I find the case point using Ebay is an interesting one as it gives some indication of how the number of bid is influenced by the length of your copy or sales letter.

Anyway, below is an extract of the email newsletter for your reference:

Perry,

I appreciate your articles on the value of long copy. I’ve written long
copy that generated $30 million in purchase orders from one ad that
ran once in a magazine.
However, if I am to believe Jakob Nielsen, people don’t read long copy
on the Internet. They may download it (as I do) and read the printed
page. I wonder if you or any of your guests would address this issue.

-Jim Stevenson

Jim,

The average web visitor on the average day visiting
the average website does not, on average, read long
copy.

He or she stays a minute or two and then leaves. Even
fewer people print it out and read it.

However… the non-buyers are not the people who count.
Because many of those who BUY from you will read every
word. Or they’ll skim most of it and read the sections that
are most important to them, until their questions are
answered.

Ebay is a case in point: On Ebay you can see the exact
contents of every auction page. After the auctions are
finished you can see how many bidders there were and
the closing price. If you wanted to, you could conduct
scientific comparisons of the same product sold a dozen
different ways by a dozen different people.

You quickly see that long copy almost always gets more
bids than short copy; the more you tell the more you sell,
as long as the ‘telling’ is highly relevant information. You’ll
also notice this is just as true of antique chairs and flat-screen
televisions and automotive parts as it is for info products and
other traditional ‘direct marketing’ items. People appreciate
every bit of description and photography that might help them
make an informed decision.

Even a simple comparison on Ebay would be 100% scientific,
certainly as scientific as anything Nielsen might tell you.

On the other hand, consider a Google ad, which is 120
characters max. Overture and MSN ads are a similar size.
Why that size? Because billions of clicks worth of experiments
have shown that this size is the right size ad to generate one
little click. No more, no less.

So what’s the real deal?

The right amount of copy is whatever amount of copy that gets
your visitor to take the next step, whatever that step is.

If it’s a small step, it doesn’t take much, maybe 150 words.
(Or maybe only 120 characters!) If it’s a big step, a major
purchase, it usually takes a lot. If it’s a huge step it might
require somebody to get on a plane and go see the customer.

But whatever you do, don’t cheat your customer of any
information she needs to make an informed decision.
Answer her every question and tell the whole story.

Perry Marshall

http://www.perrymarshall.com/copywriting

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