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What Business Owners Should Know about Long vs Short Copy

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The Copy Cartel | Long vs short copy

“What’s better? Long or short copy?” This question comes up a lot and it’s turned into a tired debate among copywriters and business owners. Long copy dudes swear it’s better because it outperforms short copy. Short copy fans prefer it because it’s more concise and memorable. The truth is… the long vs short copy debate just needs to die. And I’m here to kill it with extreme prejudice.

The Truth about Long vs Short Copy

The truth is experts haven’t done enough to educate new copywriters and business owners about the nuance of long vs short copy.

There’s no clear winner when it comes to long or short copy. The answer you’re looking for comes straight from legendary copywriter, Joe Sugarman:

“Copy should be long enough to cause the reader to take the action you request.” 

Think of short and long form copy as tools in your copywriting toolkit. You wouldn’t discount one or the other because they each serve a special function and complete the set. 

So use the right form of copy for the right job. How long or short copy needs to be depends on several factors.

We’ll get to those factors but first…

What’s The Point of Long-Form Copy?

Long form is any piece of content that has over a 1000 words or more. Examples can include:

  • landing pages
  • Sales letters
  • Video sales letters (VSLs)
  • Infomericials

The main point is to get the customer to read one sentence after another; starting with the headline.

Long copy is more about answering questions and objections, explaining the complex, and even demonstrating how a product or service works.

It’s also used to reaffirm or relate to your readers’ thoughts and desires.

The way you do that effectively is to use: 

  • A relevant headline
  • FAQs
  • Testimonials or social proof
  • Subheads (for easy scanning)
  • Research to create relevant content that answers questions and objections

Essentially, you’re just trying to slide them all the way down to the sale so make it a fun and valuable ride.

Can Copy Be Too Long?

New business owners worry that readers won’t read all those long scrolls of text or watch that 45-minute VSL. 

Nobody has time for that, right? So does anyone actually read long-form copy or content?

The answer is both no and yes.

Most readers will skim or scan your copy until they find something that interests them. According to Chartbeat, more than 54 percent of readers spend less than 15 seconds on a page. 

CoSchedule and Uberflip found that only 10-20% of readers actually make it to the bottom of their posts.

On the other hand, articles with over 2000 words earn the most organic traffic according to HubSpot. 

Pew research also indicates that readers will spend more than twice as much time with articles over 1000 words than short articles.

With the saturation of information at our fingertips, attention is more crucial than ever for marketers. 

Some research even suggests that the human attention span is now eight seconds. Less than a goldfish with nine.

That is a myth or fabricated.

Goldfish aren’t even aware of the concept of attention spans. They don’t have a nine-second attention span. They just have nine second memories.

If you forgot you were trapped in a glass bowl swimming aimlessly every nine seconds, it wouldn’t be such a horrible fate would it?

Anyway, what I’m getting at is…

We should stop comparing ourselves to goldfish. Secondly, people just have a shorter window for conserving their attention because they have a lot going on. 

But that doesn’t mean they won’t consume long-form copy or content.

If something doesn’t capture your reader’s attention in the first eight seconds, then your content is either not interesting or relevant to them. 

Or it just may not be the best time for them now. Don’t take it personally.

Regardless, people will always make time for or pay attention to whatever addresses their desires and offers value. 

It’s all about capturing relevance and striking the right emotion with lightning in your reader’s heart. Therefore, you have to write and style your copy in a way that caters to their interests and desires.

A great headline, use of subheads, and a relevant body of text always helps with retention.

Using long copy makes a lot of sense

What’s the Point of Short Sales Copy?

Short copy is any promotional content or CTA that generates interest, reinforces a brand or gets conversions with as few words as possible.

The point is to be… well, short and sweet. You want something that’s concise and memorable.

Think “Just Do It” by Nike. 

Or something that’s simple and tells people exactly what to do like “sign up” or “buy now.”

That’s why our unique selling proposition at The Copy Cartel says…

“Your Arsenal for More Clicks, Sales, & Profits.”

Short copy can also be accompanied by visual storytelling or compelling images. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Just check out this Febreze ad below. The image solidifies and justifies the use of short copy. In fact this campaign was so successful that it gave rise to the term “noseblind”

Because, holy woof… there are a lot of dog owners that are definitely noseblind. The ad nails that sentiment with 100% accuracy.

This technique of short copy is all about striking a core emotion with lightning and getting people to take action. It’s simple and effective but it’s not easy to master.

You have to be very creative and come up with “big ideas” that resonate with your audience.

When to Go Long or Short Copy

There are several factors for why and when you would use long or short form copy for your business. Let’s get into it:

Price Point and Rarity 

The higher the price point, the longer the copy; which makes sense. On a psychological level, it’s easier to part with $1 than a 1000 bucks.

The rarity of the item factors in as well. The more unusual the item, the longer the copy needs to be. 

For example, you don’t need a lot of copy to sell someone on a chicken sandwich:

Chicken Sandwich w/ Large Fries and Soda | $7.99

Simple enough. It’s food, nothing but a copious commodity and you know what to expect for a fairly cheap and reasonable price.

Now if the copy read:

Chicken Sandwich w/ Large Fries and Soda | $7999

You are DEFINITELY going to need a lot more copy to justify that price point. Because you will raise a lot of objections. Hell, I’d probably ask you:

  • Why is it $7999?
  • Does this chicken sandwich taste like heaven?
  • Are the ingredients sourced from the 4th dimension?
  • Was the chicken seasoned with vegan tears?

Market Positioning and Awareness

Another factor that’s going to affect the length of copy or how much you need to sell is your market positioning and awareness.

The higher your perceived positioning in the marketplace, the less selling or convincing you need to do.

The more people are aware of the value behind your product or service in the marketplace, the less selling you have to do.

If your business has been operating for 3 years or less, you’ll need longer copy to get people to take the action you want.

Apple, on the other hand, really don’t need as much copy to sell their products because their perceived positioning and market awareness is ridiculously high.

Same goes for Idris Elba, his perceived positioning and market awareness is so high that he wouldn’t have to do much convincing for a woman to date him or book acting gigs. 

He’s freaking Idris Elba. He can do it all.

If you also want to learn more about positioning and market awareness, check out these 5 marketing keys for converting your audience.


Idris Elba can do it all

Space

If you don’t have a lot of ad space or deal with character constraints, then you’re obviously going to write shorter copy. Be creative and work to your constraints

Complexity

If your product is complex or has an intricate way of working, you are going to need more copy.

In fact, demonstrating exactly how your product works and how it will benefit your customer is a good angle to use.

FAQs or Objections

If you get a lot of frequently asked questions or objections, you will have to write longer copy and address them. If you’re writing a sales letter, check out these 10 questions you need to answer before your customers buy.

Testing

If you’re still unsure whether you need long or short copy for a certain landing page, then you need to implement A/B testing.

In fact, The amount of copy you want to write should be tested before you make a decision about going long or short.

Use A/B split testing to ensure a winner as a result of two competing headlines. (short vs long, headline A vs headline B, color 1 vs color 2, etc.)

Short and Long Copy Have Their Place

Remember, short and long copy each have their rightful place in copywriting. You need them both. It’s fine if you have a preference but if you blindly and always try to tote one form of copy over another without proper context, The Copy Cartel will find you and…

Make you write the right amount of copy that gets the job done. We’ll even do it for you if we have to.

Until then, stay blessed

~K

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Kweku Duncan

Kweku Duncan

I'm a copywriter and Editor for The Copy Cartel. I love to write and help people promote their value with the power of words. When I'm not working, I like to play video games and enjoy life.

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