Does long copy work on the internet? With twitter’s 140 characters, do we even have the patience anymore to read more than a paragraph? Earlier in January, I read an old article about long copy in marketing and advertising. The article quoted some of the most notable advertising professionals in the 20th century. Including quotes from Ogilvy, Caples and 10 other advertising masters. We’re talking about real industry geniuses.
As I was reading this article, I noticed that all of the quotes came from the Mad Men’s time frame. A time when advertising happened in newspapers and magazines. Not the time of the internet. In fact the most recent quote in the article came from a book published in 1998. The entire time I was reading this I was thinking, “do these words make sense in the day of the internet? Are they applicable in today’s advertising world?”
I couldn’t help but think quick advertising, smart lines, and attention grabbing graphics were necessary today. The internet has forced us to have short attention spans. We can barely read 140 characters of someone’s ramblings before being pulled away by someone else’s 140 characters. We have graphics, photography, memes, interactive websites, and videos at our finger tips constantly distracting us. We can’t help but jump from page to page as fast as our ISP can take us … or can we?
Wise Words Spoken Then, Still Apply Today
As I was reading and thinking that these words couldn’t apply today, they started to seem rather timeless. Here are a couple quotes that got my brain athinkin’. (Make sure to read the whole article here)
“The more facts you tell, the more you sell. An advertisement’s chance for success invariably increases as the number of pertinent merchandise facts included in the advertisement increases.”
Roughly six times as many people read the average article as the average advertisement. Very few advertisements are read by more than one reader in twenty. I conclude that editors communicate better than admen.
I believe, without any research to support me, that advertisements with long copy convey the impression that you have something important to say, whether people read the copy or not.
“Long copy is such a tested and proven success that the four-page direct mail letter has become a rule rather than an option. Where the instruction used to be “Say whatever you must say, then stop,” it now is, “Say it in four pages and make it worth reading.
“This does not mean that long copy should be used merely for the sake of filling space. Long copy should be used in order to crowd in as many sales arguments as possible.”
“Advocates of short copy say, “I don’t think anybody will read all that small print. Let’s cut the copy down to a couple of paragraphs and set it in 18-point type.
“What the advocates of short copy should say, if they want to be accurate, is this: “I don’t think everybody will read all that small print.” This is perfectly true. Everybody will not read it. But the fact is that the very people you are most interested in will read your ad. These are the prospects who will buy your product or service if you tell them sufficient reasons for doing so.”
There are so many other quotes but these convey the main points I want to discuss.
- I love the saying “The more facts you tell, the more you sell.” I’ve always considered my self to be a savvy shopper. You often hear ‘selling is an emotional experience,’ and it may be. Buying candy is often emotional. Buying a TV can be emotional. However buying a TV can also be a very educated purchase. If you have an educated audience give them the facts so they can sell themselves.
- Editors are better communicators than admen. How true is that? Coming from an SEO background, I have spent many hours trying to get guest blog posts accepted. And it’s more then just a quality link, it’s because the editorial type conversation leaves a more lasting impression.
- Make it worth reading. I love Caples quote of “Say it in four pages and make it worth reading.” You can’t write for a word count. And you can’t write to fill space. You write it down to be read. If it’s not worth reading it might as well have not been written (Unless it’s search engine fodder… ok I didn’t really mean that). Make it worth reading.
- Not everyone will read it. But those who are true prospects will. Long copy has a way of separating the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
Good lessons, but how does it apply to the Internet?
The internet has forced us to put more information down in less words, there is no question. But there is still the appropriate place for long copy on the internet.
First and foremost, your website – your website is your place to sell your product. Nothing bugs me more, than a website where I have no clue what is being offered.
Blogs should be a given, and it’s not just your company blogs, but guest blog posts, and paid blog posts, advertorials are areas where you can really lay out your expertise. I know blogs are tough (pay no attention to my posting frequency here), but a blog is your chance to become a thought leader and a proven authority. Not all posts have to be long. Short posts are great to get a thought out there, but long posts are great to educate.
Third, consider your email campaigns. Email is a place to get a message out to people who are interested in what you have to say, that’s why they signed up for your emails. You may not want to put 1000 words into an email, but consider grabbing their attention and leading them to a place where you do have your 1000 words written.
Fourth,video – video is not written content, but it is content nonetheless. The quotes above I think really apply well to video. Make it worth watching. The more you tell the more you sell, etc.
Finally, in social media. Even with the length limitations in certain social channels, some channels allow you to put out a sizable message in a status update. In an experiment by my friend Dan Bischoff, he discovered that engagement rates doubled on Facebook when he started putting in a couple paragraphs within the status updates.
I’ll end on a great quote from Bob Stone:
“Do people read long copy?” The answer is yes! People will read something for as long as it interests them. An uninteresting one-page letter can be too long. A skillfully woven four-pager can hold the reader until the end. Thus, a letter should be long enough to cover the subject adequately and short enough to retain interest. Don’t be afraid of long copy. If you have something to say and can say it well, it will probably do better than short copy. After all, the longer you hold a prospect’s interest, the more sales points you can get across and the more likely you are to win an order.
Long copy belongs on the internet, of that I’m sure of. But mastering the catchy phrases, the witty tag-lines and smart headlines are also equally important in attracting visitors to read your longer content.
If you think there are other areas long copy is applicable in online marketing post your thoughts. Keep the conversation going below.