Making Your Long Copy Work

Effective long copyYes, the age old debate rages on – is long copy better than short?

The simple answer is ‘it depends’. Your market, product and method of selling will all have an impact on the decision as to which is right for you.

Many people will argue against long copy saying that it doesn’t work because people just don’t have the time or inclination to read swathes of copy.

But the truth is long copy does work – quite often much better than short copy – but only if it is right for your product and it is written well.

The secret to effective long copy

Before I launch into how to write it, you first have to determine whether you actually need long copy.

The length of your copy is largely determined by:

  • Your product
  • Your audience
  • Your context

Let’s take a look at your product first.

What is it that you want to sell through your copy?

If it’s expensive you will probably sell more through long copy. It’s not going to be an impulse purchase so your copy will have to carry a lot of benefits and persuasive, emotive language to convince your potential buyer they really need your product.

Perhaps you’re selling an information product. You’ve probably come across sites that sell the latest-get-rich-quick-without-putting-any-effort-in scheme. Your copy has to be stacked with benefits to make your reader believe it’s for them and, the more benefits you have, the longer your copy needs to be.

If you’re selling something that’s packed to the rafters with features you’re going to need a lot of copy to list them all and give the direct benefit of each of them. This could be a new type of computer, the latest TV or some other technologically advanced gadget. The more complex the product the more copy you will need to convince the reader they really need it.

Getting your long copy to work

It’s all well and good when the experts shout ‘long copy is better than short’ but unless you know how to write it you may struggle to make that adage work.

This is where your audience comes in to play.

Understanding who you are selling to is vital in any sales process but especially here.

Your audience will determine how you put across your information.

Now we’ve all seen those incredibly long websites that sell the aforementioned latest-get-rich-quick-without-putting-any-effort-in scheme. Just about all of them include red, bold, underlined and highlighted words.

Personally, if I see one of those I run for the hills.


Because I’m not interested in it – it could be the best copy known to man but I won’t read it.

Your presentation has to match the market you are aiming for. People who are looking for the next get rich quick idea will be used to seeing this type of format – it sold them on the last idea so it’s highly likely to sell them on the next.

But if you’re a major online retailer selling the latest high tech 3D TV and you use that format, you won’t sell a bean. In this case your language, copy and visual style must fit in with your brand and image. If it’s in your familiar style your readers’ are more likely to trust the information you are providing them with.

Don’t forget the context

So far we’ve seen that your product and your audience will have a huge effect on your copy. But, as alluded above, so will its context.

If you’re a high end retailer your copy has to fit with your image.

If the 3D TV retailer above decided to use garish colours and highlighted text their potential customers will be heading for the hills.

Your copy and its visual elements (images, diagrams etc.) have to fit with what your audience expects to see.

The final word

Of course, even if you produce some stonking long copy not everyone will read it word for word.

Some will skim it (so make sure you use descriptive sub headings), some won’t read it at all whilst others will hang on every word.

The only way to find out what works best for you is test your copy and refine it until you reach the optimum format for you.

Oh and if you don’t think long copy works on the web – it does.

Granted, not everyone likes reading from a screen (me included) but long copy works here because they can’t see or touch your products. Because there is no physical experience your words have to show all features and benefits.  Give it a try and see if it works for you.

Over to you

What has your experience been of long copy?

Have you have any particular successes or failures? Perhaps you have some other tips you can share?

If so please leave a comment below.

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#1 Gemma Thompson on 08.24.11 at 1:27 pm

Thanks for this Sally, I totally agree with you about copy filled with red bold underlined and highlighted words – especially when they are all used at once!

Writing long copy is a real struggle for me as I always assume the reader knows as much as I do about a particular subject so I tend to miss out the basic info at the start – I am getting better though!

#2 Brian Birnbaum on 08.25.11 at 2:37 pm

Interesting post. I’ve written loooong copy and if done well, it can certainly get a great response. Totally agree with descriptive sub-heads, as Kennedy says, many people just skim so you better be telling a story outside of the body copy…

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