The benefits of long copy

‘Brief is beautiful’, we’re often told when it comes to writing web copy these days. Or words to that effect, anyway. But this isn’t always the case, even in today’s world where most Internet users have the attention span of a 5 year-old child. Again, so we’re told.

The truth is somewhat different. There are occasions where long copy is perfectly acceptable, and even necessary, if you are to convert words into customers. It may well pay to be snappy and witty with your succinct prose but there are plenty of instances when a customer will want to know more before making a purchase.

When selling your product or service, the decision to go for long or short copy really depends on a number of factors, including:

1)    Price
The more expensive your product, the more information people will want to know about it before they’re confident enough to buy. Even impulse buyers need assurance they know enough to make a sound decision.

2)   Number of customer benefits and features
If your product isn’t just a ‘one-trick pony’, then you’ll need to go into some detail in order to sell it fully. The more benefits we see, the more likely we are to be interested, and this needs to come across effectively in your copy. There are different ways you can do this. If you have ten features, you can list 10 bullet points, which would qualify as ‘short’ copy. But that sometimes isn’t enough to really get the point across.

3)   Complexity
Some products or services are simply too complex to be described in a pithy sentence or two. A piece of industrial machinery, for example, isn’t going to fair well with just a short tagline and a whimsical paragraph, so your reader will need quite a few details in order to fully grasp exactly how your product works. And, don’t worry; people will take the time to browse through this if it is written well.

Your audience will also be a key factor in deciding to go for long copy. If you’re approaching a professional or mature audience, they’re more likely to stay engaged with longer copy, but that doesn’t exclude others. If your product or service warrants it, then you should always go for longer copy to make the most impact.

One other benefit of long copy is that it’s search-engine friendly. Although this factor is one that is steadily losing its pull, it’s still something worth considering.

There are no hard definitive rules for using long copy over short. Sometimes, it pays to experiment – if your analytics suggest that short copy isn’t grabbing your audience, perhaps it’s time to draft in some detail.

An important point to make here; long copy may well be beneficial, but only if it is written well. Check out Copyblogger’s authoritative guide on how to write long copy effectively.

As you’ll see, choosing long copy is not a luxury that affords you the opportunity to waffle on. It still has to be engaging and focused, in much the same way as short copy. It’s just that there’s more of it!


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