How to Avoid Losing Your Readers
Along the Long Copy Path

The Long Copy Path

It’s true that in many cases, the more you tell the more you sell. But are there ways to make sure you’re providing the right sales path for various types of prospects?

Sonia’s excellent post about the ruthless sales machine that is long copy sparked an idea for a post I’ve wanted to write for awhile. That is, how do you avoid having your readers simply “fall off the path” when they’re reading your long sales copy?

While you’re online, there are a dozen things that are competing for your attention at any one time. Despite copy that implores you to “unplug the phone, grab a cup of coffee and settle in for the most important letter you will ever read…” – you still can’t help but check your email, glance at Twitter, or think about what you’ll be making for dinner later, right?

The fact is, no matter how great the offer, we’re all looking for something – anything that will distract us from whatever task we’re doing. Preferably something that’s more fun or more interesting. As a writer, it becomes your job to make your long copy as interesting and captivating as possible. There are several ways to keep your readers hooked – such as:

Minimizing Distractions and Links

It never ceases to amaze me how many perfectly good and compelling sales letters are ruined by outbound links. Contextual advertising is the worst offender here. Where else but the internet do we have such a fixation on making money from clicks that we’ll shuttle our readers off to a competitor’s site just for a few extra cents? The same goes for navigation links. Much like the same narrow focus you need for your landing pages, you’ll want to strip out all unnecessary navigation that prevents your visitors from focusing on your sales letter as well.

Place Your Call to Action in Several Spots

I may be a reader who sees the first few paragraphs and instantly knows — this is what I want. That’s why it’s worth testing putting your call-to-action “above the fold” (in the first third of the screen area) for those impulsive buyers, especially if you’ve warmed them up with launch or pre-sell content. Not only there, but after every major statement you make showcasing your product as the solution. I may not need to read all of the case studies, testimonials or bonuses to decide I want to buy – and yet many sales letters drag you through these obligatory segments before they even ask for the order!

Add a Splash of Color with Photos and Charts

It’s been proven that our eyes tire quicker reading text on screen than on a page, which is why direct mail copywriters can get away with 9 page sales letters! Since screen real estate is much smaller – we’ve got a lot less space to work with. Break up your long copy with photos, charts or details that add to the message rather than detract away from it. Consider adding bullets, boxes and other embellishments to break up the monotony of black and white.

Offer a Quick Fix for Those that are Short on Time

One of the best options I’ve tested in sales letters for clients has been the “tour” option. If it’s a long sales letter and you just don’t have the time, there’s a “quick 1-minute tour” that will lead you through the major selling points of the offer. I’ve found that having both options appeals to the skimmers and scanners who want relevancy NOW, as well as the information-gatherers who will study the page more fully to make sure it meets their needs.

So if you’re convinced that long copy is the way to go, and you want to avoid losing customers, test out your copy with some of these suggestions and measure the response. You may discover that when you make it easy for your customers to act, they in turn make it easy for you to do more business!

About the Author: Sherice Jacob is a web designer, copywriter, and author of Get Niche Quick. Don’t forget to follow Sherice on Twitter.

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  1. That’s a great point – Place Your Call to Action in Several Spots
    Usually when I read a sales letter, sometime the story just get too long and I think the writer might had miss out this part, making the sales copy more like a story book, which in my opinion is not really right.

    I’m not saying story are no good, but keeping it short and to the point and start placing the Call to Action immediately might just be more effective then writing the story for too long.

  2. Good post Sherice. For me the telling phrase was “…….if you’re convinced that long copy is the way to go……”

    I’m not sure it is any more. I’m fed up with with it, and with all the cliches used.

    Interested to know what others think? Is long copy dying? What would happen if we put away our highlight pens, ditched our strike throughs, got rid of our guarantee seals, stopped the countdowns and simply presented a compelling case, using features and benefits, with the price at the top of the page?

  3. Excellent article.

    Brian suggested I comment, so here I am.

    I want to add a few extra points.

    One thing about placing the call to action above the fold is that it may be counterproductive. The problem is that it’s an invitation for people to skip the long copy (and miss out on the persuasive argument the copy is trying to make, let alone the value buildup throughout the long copy that supports the asking price).

    Often, people will see how long the copy is, see the first call to action, and decide to simply skip the long copy — often clicking on the call-to-action link just to find out the price/cost. They do so to justify not buying the product but going back to read the copy in the first place.

    If they failed to read the copy, then the problem is, they’re seeing the price without understanding the value behind it — such as the benefits, the bonuses, the elements of the offer, the social proof, the guarantee, and more importantly, the scarcity element (if there is one).

    Just as you would minimize and avoid obtrusiveness and distractions, such as external links and ads, you would also want to minimize anything that might invite them to procrastinate. As my motto has always been, which I blogged about myself, give people a chance to procrastinate, and they will.

    This ties in neatly with your final point, “Offering a quick tour.” Instead of an immediate call to action, or before pushing them to an order form with a early call to action, instead lead them to a tour of sorts, if not at least a summary.

    Thus, I try to add early calls to action as you said, but instead of leading to the order form, I prefer them to jump to the order area — often found at the end of the salesletter — and/or to an order summary restating the main benefits, the guarantee, the bonuses, etc.

    I agree with adding photos, graphics, and charts. After all, they provide eye gravity. Scientific eye-tracking split-tests have proven that eyes, the moment you hit a web page, are drawn to pictures first.

    However, the key here is to be judicious. Too many pictures, graphs, charts, and the like can be overwhelming. It may distract and cause the eyes to jump all over the page to view them, forcing them away from reading the text.

    A couple of final points.

    1) One of the most important elements to keep readers glued to the copy is, without question, the ability to tell a good story. To keep them interested throughout. And even to use mini-cliffhangers (such as with nested loops and the Ziegarnik Effect) to keep them riveted to the copy.

    Which ultimately means, being interesting.

    Famed copywriter, the late Gary Halbert, once said that your copy needs to be like a greased chute. It’s a slippery slope, and people can’t fall off until the read the whole thing. So being able to write compelling, mouthwatering, can’t-leave copy is more important than avoiding distractions and the like.

    Very often, people who didn’t read long copy will react with, “It’s too long,” when it’s not true. The fact is, length has nothing to do with it. It was because it was boring, period. People often use this excuse because objecting with length is obvious, easy, and universal — that is, something everyone else can understand and relate to.

    If you object with something as subjective as boredom, it’s harder to justify, easier to argue, and personal. But EVERYONE can see, and understand, length. Length is always the prima facie excuse to justify one’s unwillingness to read long copy. Especially if the copy wasn’t meant for them in the first place, which leads me to my next point…

    2) Finally, although this might be the last, this is surely THE most important element to keep readers glued to long copy. And that is to make sure you have targeted the right people in the first place, and your copy connects with them.

    Copy will always be too long if the reader is not meant for the copy — or vice versa.

    If you’re a Stephen King fanatic, and King puts out his newest 800-page tome, will you NOT buy his book just because it seems too long? No. If you’re a fanatic, you will buy it and possibly read it one sitting, even wish it was longer once you’ve read it.

    But to those who are indifferent or, worse yet, despise King as an author, any book from King will always be too long, no matter what.

    Get the right people to read your copy is essential to getting them to read it all in the first place. Targeting the right audience, and connecting with that audience with the right appeal in your copy, is more important than avoiding all the distractions and incorporating elements that will help them read the whole thing.

    Sorry for the long post, pun intended. ;)

  4. I always love photos and charts. It definitely makes an article easier on the eyes. Sometimes it gets really boring to just see a whole bunch of letters and nothing else.

  5. I’m not a fan of long sales copy (beyond the IM niche) but if someone MUST use it, these are great tips that could really make a difference! Good stuff!

    Maria Reyes-McDavis

  6. Choosing a good font can also help with long copy. I personally swear by using serif based fonts for extensive type as they help each letter flow into the next and therefpre can keep the reader reading just a little bit longer!

    I would have to say that the best font in the world and wonderful formatting still won’t keep people reading boring copy!

    An early call for action is always a great idea, but I agree with Michael Fortin that it can become quite negative if it diverts the reader to unexpected “surprises”. If the price or key benefits haven’t been discussed then it’s not worth putting a call to action in at that point, or direct to a sales message stating these facts with a link to “read more” which sends the reader back to the long copy.

    Thanks for reading!
    Jen
    Follow me on Twitter

  7. Wow Michael – thank you for your insightful words of wisdom! I love using compelling, convincing stories in copywriting – which probably goes directly against what I stated here, but you’re right – the story MUST help add emotion and more value, otherwise it’s just taking up space.

    I would like to think people would read the entire piece, but I for one like to know the price IMMEDIATELY after the product has piqued my interest. Then I can go on and read more benefits to justify buying it (as opposed to NOT buying). Maybe that’s just me :)

  8. I follow all these rules. However, I’ve never thought to do the quick one minute tour thing. Fantastic suggestion, Sherice. Thanks!

  9. To me, “long copy” means a 140-character tweet.

    I react to traditional long copy like others do to nails dragging along a chalkboard.

    If it takes ya that long to sell it, I don’t want it!

  10. Excellent tips, Sherice. I really like the “quick 1-minute tour” pointer. Thanks!

    Thank you too, Michel, for your sage (and generous) advice.

    Two fantastic posts for the “price” of one. What more could you ask? :-)

  11. Sherice, this is an excellent post. The number of outbound links surprised me as well. Why would companies include so many links that lead them away from the getting the sale? Outbound links are very distracting and if the copy of the sales letter is long enough, almost any outbound link will be more interesting and compelling than finishing the long copy.

    Also, with so many distractions and short attention spans the 1-minute tour idea is fabulous! I appreciate all of the ideas, thanks!

  12. Sherice: This is a great post. I try to keep my copy 300-500 words. Anything more than that and I break it up into 2 or more posts. I also always include at least one photo to illustrate my point. I like the idea of the one minute tour as well.

    I’m not trained as a writer, but I enjoy it and I need to write to sell my services. Thanks to posts like this one I’m becoming a better and more effective writer. Thanks!

  13. If it takes ya that long to sell it, I don’t want it!

    Mark, remember not to confuse your personal preferences with what your market might need to buy from you in greater numbers. Always better to test than assume other people are just like you… they often aren’t.

  14. Brian, I hear ya, and recognize Long Copy can be unsurpassingly effective.

    At some deep level I’ll just never “get it.” More a Social Media kind of guy, I guess. For me, authority comes through accreted (is that even a word?) participation in a community.

    One page-even a divinely inspired one-could never do it.

  15. @Mark V. McDonnell – Mark, you said, “For me, authority comes through accreted (is that even a word?) participation in a community.” How do you know? Did that person write quite a lot on his/her expertise or the social media? What does “participation in the community” translate into?

    Let me submit that “participation” translates into words. Lots of them. Words that move you, inspire you, and prove to you he/she is an authority, let alone is persuading you with their idea (or ideal).

    It’s long, albeit scattered, copy.

    Look at it another way.

    If you come across someone you highly respect and love reading from in the social media industry, and if that person puts out a great, albeit long, article on the topic you’re passionate about, and if you not only highly respect them but also look forward to devouring each and every new piece they put out, each and every word they write down, then…

    … Are you going to avoid reading it because it’s seems too long?

    Just a thought.

  16. @MichelF | One learns after following somebody for a time on Twitter, Facebook et al. how they interact with others. There’s nothing that I can see that is interactive (in the deepest sense) in long-copy sales pages.

    Sure, social media personas (in the older sense) are crafted with words, but I ain’t gonna spring for anything just on your say-so!

    And sorry, testimonials and old-school “Here’s how it worked for Joe Blow” are painfully artificial.

    Isn’t Long Copy mostly about what you might call “preaching to the distinctly *NOT* converted?”

    If I’m right about that, then your reference to the musings of a hypothetical “thought leader” in my theater of interest seems to me off the mark.

  17. @Mark – 1. You said, “I ain’t gonna spring for anything just on your say-so!” Of course, you would. Take elections, for example.

    2. “Testimonials being old school,” yup, agreed. That’s why I prefer case studies rather than testimonials. But old-school or not, testimonials are just part of a bigger, more important element in sales copy: social proof. Testimonials is just one spoke of a larger wheel.

    3. “Preaching to the distinctly *NOT* converted?” No. In some cases, sure. But there are other factors. The economy, the competition, alternate solutions, the level of commoditization of the product (is it brand new? is catering to early adopters, or late majority?), and let’s not forget the level of noise in the marketplace.

    If you need less copy when you do hit the copy, either you are pre-sold, you already know about the product, or you’re not meant (targeted) for it in the first place.

    4. My reference is not off the mark. A thought leader has become such through his/her words. They may be dispersed, but wrapped together they are long copy.

    If you like, say, fishing, and you’re passionate about fishing, and you read up a lot on fishing, and you’re subscribed to a bunch of magazines on fishing, then when you come across a new yet unknown type of lure in the fishing world that might benefit you, you will want more information about it. Not less.

    However, if you know the company putting out the new “fishing lure,” have tried other fishing lures they put out, have read articles about and from the creator, and even interacted with them socially, your need for long copy will be much less.

    But again, that’s because you are presold on a number of levels. And the copy needed to persuade you is much less needed than someone totally new. The difference is, you received the “copy” in various other formats, over time, instead.

  18. @Mark – by the way, I’m not opposed to your viewpoint, because you’re right in what you say to the degree that your motive and due diligence in buying something is unique to you.

    Hence my point, everybody buys differently for different reasons. Also, the length of the copy is usually dependent on the product category (level of commoditization).

    The more specialized the product is, the more copy it will need to educate, interest, and persuade readers.

    Finally, there’s the stage of awareness of the buyer. I use an acronym called “OATH,” that is, “Oblivious,” “Apathetic,” “Thinking,” and “Hurting.”

    In a nutshell, the oblivious don’t know they have a problem. Apathetics know, but they just don’t care in solving it (it’s not important for them). The thinkers know they have a problem and also want to solve it, but the level of immediacy and urgency is lacking. They don’t understand the severity of the problem, and the need or desire to solve it. And finally, the hurting want it and want it now.

    Therefore, it goes to reason that people who are oblivious will need more copy in order to 1) educate them about the problem, 2) the idea that it can be solved, 3) the fact that solving it is important, and 3) the best solution is one’s offering (as opposed to all others).

    The apathetic only need the latter three, and so on and so forth.

    Thus, the more oblivious the market is, the core copy/information/education you will need to give them.

    So to your point, “preaching to the distinctly not converted,” you’re right in the sense that the less they know about the idea they need to convert, much less the fact that conversion is possible, the more copy they will need.

    So if a “thought leader” has already converted you, then the need for long copy to sell you on an idea/ideal, in your specific case, will be less important.

    But, you are NOT everyone else. In the same way, you are not your market. And to think that people won’t need long copy because you don’t doesn’t mean it’s true for everyone else.

    I appreciate you and your comments.

  19. It constantly surprises me how in this time poor day and age long copy works. However, you can never assume how someone is going to buy because everyone has such differing buying patterns. It seems to me, the best way to go is summed up by;

    “I’ve found that having both options appeals to the skimmers and scanners who want relevancy NOW, as well as the information-gatherers who will study the page more fully to make sure it meets their needs.”

    I’m personally a skimmer and scanner kinda girl so I love the idea of the 1 minute tour.

  20. @Sami – “I’m personally a skimmer and scanner kinda girl” true. But you forgot one part of this equation. And that is, the product/offer/copy — what it is — you’re skimming/scanning.

    You’re a skimmer for things you are presold on, and/or for things you may not have an interest in. Yet.

    I’m a scanner, too. I’m a driver (in psychology, they teach you that there are four types of personality styles, that is, the driver, the analytical, the expressive, and the amiable).

    But I digressed.

    As a driver, I may have a tendency to skim more often than not. (Although, I tend to speed-read more.)

    However, I’m a drummer in a rock band. I love drums. And if some newfangled drum hardware comes out, something I’ve never heard of before, which might improve my drumming (which is always one of my goals), chances are, I want long copy — and will read every single word of it, too.

    Even though I’m a scanner.

    Just my 3 cents.

  21. (@Brian, yell at us if we should be taking this “off line.”)

    @Michel, first of all, thanks for the very thoughtful comments.

    Re: “Take elections,” I don’t catch your drift.

    Re: case studies, I meant to include them by way of my “Here’s how it worked for…” remark.

    I’d analogize our different POVs thus: Long Copy is like a lecture. A *long* lecture. Its effectiveness is far more dependent on the charisma of the lecturer than the content (its transcription, say). At its best, a lecture teaches you how a single genius thinks. (That can be transforming, I’ll admit.)

    SMM is a seminar. You gauge its value by how the leader deals with the back-and-forth, the (possibly) unexpected shifts in direction, new inputs generally. When done well, it teaches all receptive participants *how to think for themselves.*

    I loved some of my lecturers at university (Vin Scully comes immediately to mind), but only seminars *engaged* me, and moved me. “Sold” me, if you will.

    A pertinent illustration is immediately at hand: initially, I only skimmed the first 2 grafs of your first comment, and skipped the rest. (I’ve since gone back to read it in full, since I now acknowledge your Thought Leadership!) Only the developing dialogue got me to read your later ones.

    P.S. I concede I’m filtering all this, according to my own needs. I sell specialty expertise to opinionated folks in a small niche. A few in my “industry space” have done it, and maybe it’s gotten them their Right People (@Havi, are you here?), but it either looks really bad, or at least is really badly done.

  22. @Michel, posting this after learning you’re also a drummer.

    Strange, I would have to read 3 reviews and “eavesdrop” on a number of forum threads, etc. before I’d even become curious about a new musician’s widget.

  23. I’m with Mark on this one. If I were interested in some newfangled gadget, the original manufacturer’s sales copy might entice me, but it’s the reviews that would acknowledge that I was correct in making a good decision.

    In the end, I still think it depends (like Michel said) on the OATH factor of the reader. Are they oblivious to it or are they hurting and want it NOW? Why not tailor copy to both?

  24. @Mark – I wasn’t saying how you have come to know about the musician’s widget in the first place. I’m talking about once you hit the website.

    Coming to know about a new musician’s widget may tempt me to visit the website. It might even presell me to some extent. But if I’m targeted, and it’s something I’m passionate about, I’m going to read it… and read it all.

    And I have. ;)

    I know that’s not what you meant to say. But if I were to follow your reasoning, what you’re saying is, if you don’t hear about it on forums/reviews first, you wouldn’t be interested or wouldn’t even consider reading the copy once you stumbled onto their website.

    As for elections, my point was many people will vote for someone based solely on their “say-so.” If *YOU* don’t, then good for you. All I’m saying it’s not true for everyone else.

    Finally, you said, “Its effectiveness is far more dependent on the charisma of the lecturer than the content (its transcription, say).”

    Hmmm, true, but incomplete. Delivery can certainly make a boring lecture a little more interesting. But a good, fascinating lecture (content alone) would incite — and maintain — interest, especially if the audience is targeted for it, regardless of its length.

    The converse is just as true: poor delivery can certainly distract and annoy the reader, regardless of how great the lecture is, how long it is, or how targeted the audience may be.

    And I submit that, by “poor delivery,” online it’s akin to bad web design, poor graphics, garish fonts and colors, mouse-print sized type, obtrusive distractions, etc.

    Which is, I think, the very point of the above article.

    Objectively, the point comes down to something copywriter Dan Kennedy once said: “The biggest mistake marketers make is to think they are their market. They are not. You are NEVER your market.”

    In other words, if you’re trying to sell an idea/ideal to a group of people, don’t assume they absorb and act on the information you give them in the same way you do or would want to.

    Making that assumption can often be the costliest mistake you can ever make in your business.

  25. Sherice, wonderful article! I always love the ‘rassling’ when we debate long vs short copy. Ultimately, though – and someone else pointed this out – we’re not writing for ourselves or our own aesthetic or our own communication styles. We’re writing to our sales prospects for whom longer (or shorter copy) may be preferred, depending on the product/service we’re looking to promote.

    Long or short, it ain’t about us. It’s about them.

  26. Nice article, and comments so far. I defininately agree with placing your call to action in several spots.

    Now there’s some debate in the article about above the fold vs below and which is better.

    I think having calls to action both above and below the fold is important, but they should not be identical.

    The one above the fold should take into account people have not yet read the article, and target a certain message for these ppl. The ones below the fold can contain text or images specific to what has been read until that point to drive home some relevancy.

    Also, I think user comments and reviews are THE MOST useful pieces to back up a call to action, what do you guys think?

  27. R. Edward Vernon :

    Copy needs to be long enough to answer the (majority of the) questions in your prospects’ head and no longer. Period.

    Trying to decide which is better, long or short copy, is an exercise in futility. There are way to many factors to give a yes/no, right/wrong, black/white answer. Each product has it’s own set of features, benefits, audience, complexity, assumptions and so on.

    Let your prospects be the deciding factor of exactly how long your copy should be. How do you do that? By doing a little research. Here’s a couple of suggestions that work for our company every time we launch a product:

    1. The first thing I do is look at the keyword phrases people are typing in. Lets say I’m selling background checks. I’ll see keyword phrases like: complete background checks, detailed background checks, are background checks legal, etc etc..

    The above tells me what’s on my customers’ mind and I start writing accordingly. I order the features and benefits in the number of searches being done. Most popular at the top.

    This simple exercise will put you miles ahead of the competition.

    2. Do some usability testing using a service like UserTesting.com. (Note: in no way am I affiliated with that site) By just doing a minimum of 5 tests you can get feedback that’s invaluable. Actual people reading your copy aloud and telling you what makes sense and what doesn’t. If it doesn’t make sense to 3 out of 5 people and your site gets 10,000 visitors a month that means it doesn’t make sense 6000 of your visitors.

    3. When the product is up and running pay very close attention to the customer service requests you’re getting. If you’re getting the same question over and over (and you will) it’s time to add more copy.

    4. Edit then test using a split testing software like Googles’ Website Optimizer. If you can get away with less copy and keep or better your conversions then great!

    All to often people write for themselves instead of their prospects. Your customer doesn’t want to hear you brag about yourself. They want to hear what you can do for them. Take exactly enough space to do so. No more, no less…

    I’m on Twitter

  28. Sherice,

    I think the point about “offering the quick fix” was most important for me. There are only a handful of web copywriters who are good enough to completly grab my attention and hold it for several minutes (most of them write for Copyblogger) – over 90% of the time I lose patience.

    A shortcut like a tour or early call to action will keep readers like me stick around to find out what’s on offer.

    One thing it took me a while to understand about long copy: it turns off most people and screen outs the vast majority who aren’t burning with desire for what you’re pitching a solution for – but the tiny minority who make it through are most likely to act.

    You offer some great techniques for making that minority bigger.

    Really great post, thanks!

  29. This is a debate that will rage on forever because there isn’t really a right answer. I try and consider what I’m selling. The more involved the purchase is, the more expensive it is the longer the sales copy should be.

    I asked a creative director I worked with early in my career why long copy works better than short copy. He said, “Long copy sells better because it provides an interested prospect with all the information they need to make the purchase decision. If they aren’t interested, then they probably won’t see the piece so it doesn’t matter if the copy is long or short.” I believe this applies to online marketing as well.

    Pictures tell, copy sells. The purpose of design in DR is to support the sales message. If the pictures do that, then use them, if they don’t, well, don’t.

    Repeat the CTA early and often. Couldn’t agree more. Another reason to do this can be taken from DRTV. Readers are often returning to the sales page after giving the proposition some thought. Make it easy for them to convert. I like to tell writer I work with to treat the paragraph after a CTA like an intro paragraph. You need to get the reader engaged again.

  30. I think some people say they hate long copy because they know they’ll be sold when they read it.

  31. I’m with Mike CJ if I have to read a long copy to buy something I’m gone because if it takes that long to sell it I probably don’t need it.

    I vote for fed up with long copy.

  32. @Michael, thanks for your generosity here! It’s fantastic to have you in the conversation.

    Everyone thinks they hate long copy. But usually, they don’t hate long copy, they hate traditionally formatted long copy that looks like it’s selling something. Particularly when they stumble across it but they’re not in the market.

    There’s an art to using blog posts, special reports, email sequences, tweets and forum posts to create a kind of “distributed long copy” (Michael touched on this).

    And if you’ve used this new way to distribute long copy, and you’ve created that kind of rabid desire and done the persuasion work that needs to be done, an above-the-fold call to action can make a lot of sense. Which doesn’t invalidate Michael’s observation at all–the reader still needed to absorb the messages, but she did it before she landed on the page.

  33. These are the things that make me stop reading, whatever is in a blog post:

    399 internal links–a pure distraction

    A long-winded sales pitch that waits until the tail-end to even name the product

    A sales pitch that poses as something other than what it is

    Too many bells, whistles, flashes, or too few

    Anything that drones on and on unbroken

    A great and informative post…thank you!

    Karen

  34. First time I have read this many comments in a long time. And the first time I have been directed to a post because it had a great discussion. (Thx Brian)

    I especially liked what one person said about lectures vs seminars.

    If you are interesting enough, people will keep listening or reading.

  35. Nice one, Sherice! I’m torn on the links issue. I try to provide as much useful info as possible on my blog, so links seem the thing. But maybe my readers are shooting off at the first one. I need to get more detailed metrics! Many thanks. P. :)

  36. Just one off the wall comment. Copyblogger is great reading but in have 1 issue. The font is too small.
    Double the size – or at least make it as large as this ‘comment’ section which is easily readable.
    Keep up the good work.

  37. Paul, keep in mind we’re talking about sales copy here. Links in blog posts are a good thing, unless you’re really trying to avoid sending anyone off early for specific reasons (like a link or action at the end).

  38. That is some great information there from all perspectives. I guess you could say I’m getting a little tired of the long copy sales letters as well, but, at the same time I think sometimes it’s necessary depending on which particular product is being sold. At times I think it’s necessary to really get to the heart of the product being sold.

  39. I think the most important trick not to lose readers when you write a long post is to include photos and use font styles to break the copy a bit.

    I think that Chris right, adding a lot of link will get readers to jump to another site and that will pretty much put a huge damp on your efforts to write a long post in the first place.

  40. A long sales copy most of the times destroys the interest that the reader has. I personally would just scroll down to the bottom of the sale page to see what the price of the product is and that way I can also see a nutshell of the benefits that the product has to offer, because most sales pages have a summary towards the end.
    Having said that, I feel that the only way the interest of a reader can be maintained is by using some power statements in between the long sales page. What these statements would be and how they are to be used will depend upon the product.

  41. Great debate here! The crucial point is what works best.
    A copywriter can’t just recommend the ‘All-American’ one-page behemoth full of big brash promises and web designers can’t just recommend micro-copy so it doesn’t ‘get in the way’ of the design! Both will fail if written only for the writer’s preference not the reader’s.
    In a lot of cases copy that’s too skinny ends-up being little more than filler and hasn’t the room to sell over the facts. But long copy, like you guys say, that doesn’t keep a reader’s interest is equally ineffective.
    Debating it is great and fascinating, but in the end testing is the only way to find what works best for a particular site. Good stuff people!

  42. Great tips. Long copy can often lose readers rather than gain them, so finding techniques that make writing long copy easier to write and less tedious to read is always helpful. Thanks.

  43. I particularly agree with breaking up the copy with visual effects or even grab quotes as reader attention span is short on the web

  44. So many great points there.

    Something that seems to be regularly overlooked is the relationship between writers and designers. I’ve lost count of the designers I’ve worked with who simply treat copy as a graphic ‘patch’ for which a home must be found within their creative landscape.

    Whatever we think about the compelling magnetism of our copy, a good designer – and specifically a good typographer – can help direct the reader, draw them through our prose and make sure that calls to action and other highlights catch the eye. Yes, even with html copy. Despite its limitations, a typographer will make the most them.

    Conversely, we as writers should pay close attention to what the designer believes is the right way to display our words, and therefore dictate, perhaps, at what point we might be getting diminshing returns from long copy.

    It begins, of course, with a designer who is prepared to actually read and understand your copy. The good ones do. The bad ones should be avoided.

    Great post subject.

  45. I’ll second that, Paul. As both a web designer and a copywriter, I get to work with the best (and worst) of both worlds. It’s a challenge because your right and left brains are forever competing against what looks good vs. what’s logical and what sells, but I can’t see myself doing anything else :)

  46. Sherice, Great article and very timely. I’m working on a long copy sales page at this very moment and am really intrigued by the idea of a “1 minute quick tour”. You mentioned that you’ve tested this for some clients (with positive results I’m assuming). Can you point out any sites/pages where it has been done effectively? I’m interested in seeing how it’s set up and how it’s worked into the copy. Thanks!

  47. Here’s a site that does something similar with podcasts (notice how the link is above the fold) :

    Teaching English as a Foreign Language
    http://www.cactustefl.com/get_started/new_to_tefl.php

    I’d personally make it more prominent to catch the wandering eye of the scanner/skimmer

    The results I’ve gotten doing the quick 1-minute tour so far have been very good, but it’s always worth testing for your particular market!

  48. Great info on sales copy. I especially like the ideas of more than one place for “A Call to Action”. It gives those that are ready right away the opportunity to just go for it and by spreading it out and placing it strategically later in the pitch also gives those that are on the fence a little more time to think it through or be convinced. Also, I like the idea of pictures, charts, graphs whatever it gives some visual interest so the reader doesn’t get bored with just words. Sometimes it can help illustrate your point better and get more info across than mere words can.

  49. For lead gen sites, I’ve had great success with several different calls to action on a page. With shorter copy.

    These can be a mixture of:
    * call us
    * enquiry form
    * download a white paper
    * sign up for special deals
    * find your nearest branch
    * price calculators
    * anything else to engage the visitor

    In general my clients’ visitors seem to prefer action to almost everything else including reading copy.

  50. Great advice.

    I must admit that I hate reading so really long copies put me off quickly especially when they don’t get to the point quickly so I know if they’re worth the effort or not.

    Once I know what it is about and I’m interested I will usually ready all the copy to be sure I fully understand everything. Unless it’s actually something I’m looking for – then I will be looking for the “let me out of jail” card so I can buy and check out.

    Pat Bloomfield
    Wedding Photographer Ipswich

  51. Nice! The two points that really stuck out for me are:
    1. Putting the call to action in several places. I tend to write longer copy so this is a good idea for me.
    2. Putting in a shortcut for people short on time. We are all besieged by too much info and too little time. This is a great idea.
    Thanks for the insight!

  52. Excellent article, Sherice, and what a wonderful discussion.

    There are also the “mini” sales pages which you can use on your website/blog when trying to sell something.

    I’ve found it valuable, depending on what you’re selling, to change your menu system to reflect what you’re selling and the buying process.

    For example, if you blog about wellness and have some wellness product you’re selling, you might have a product page. When someone goes to that product page you might find it useful to change your site’s menu system some to reflect buying that product. In other words, remove the sidebar widget, external links, and your blog’s menu system might change to a more simplified menu system geared around your product.

    In my PPC campaigns, I’ve found this helps as it minimizes outbound leaks (like you mentioned in your article).

  53. kim from travel hqr :

    I agree, arts and photos sometimes makes it more interesting and enjoying to read. I don’t mind long stories as longs as it stays to the topic and it’s informative.

    – Kim “””” http://www.travelhqr.com

  54. I’m not a fan of long sales copy (beyond the IM niche) but if someone MUST use it, these are great tips that could really make a difference! Good stuff!