13 reasons your landing page copywriting is too short (whatever your designer says)
Your landing page copywriting has a job to do, and you need enough copy on the landing page to do that job.
The more you want that copywriting to do, the longer the copy on your landing page is going to need to be.
If you’re spending money on running traffic to a landing page, and you want a conversion rate that delivers a return on your ad spend (ROAS), you need to do more than invest wisely in SEO or search engine marketing (SEM) like Google Ads.
That will get you the right traffic, but if you want that traffic to convert…
… You need to think about long form copywriting. Yes, long-form copywriting even in this age of (allegedly) short attention spans. Really?
Bear with me and you’ll be convinced…
What the Mad Men knew about landing pages even if they hadn’t been invented yet
Whatever you think about today’s attention spans and the internet generation, nothing has changed since at least 1962, the year legendary ad man Victor Schwab wrote How to Write a Good Advertisement.
Even back in 1962, the Mad Men were being told that nobody read anything anymore. And time and again, they proved those naysayers wrong with long-form advertising.
What follows is a list of arguments for long-form copy on a landing page. These arguments are teased from chapter 6 of Schwab’s book, which he called “How Long Should Copy Be?”
He called the chapter “How Long Should Copy Be?” because there’s absolutely nothing new about the argument for short copy.
Even so, I get it. You’re thinking, What the hell would an ad man from the 60s know about pay-per-click advertising, SEO and landing pages when none of those things was even invented in his lifetime?
That’s true, but Victor Schwab was writing about everybody’s favourite term — “conversion rates” — back when Tim Berners-Lee, inventor of the web, was just 7 years old.
Schwab knew a thing or two about what you’re facing today because not everything is new, especially not the psychology of spending money…
1. The greater your aspirations, the more copywriting you’ll need to get you there
If you just want to get a prospect’s attention, you can do it in the headline of your landing page — “$10,000 free to the first 100 readers of this headline”.
If you want your prospect to sign up for surgery, you’re going to need more copy to get you there.
As a rule of thumb, you’ll need as many words to persuade someone in writing as you would need to persuade them in person.
Want to give someone a free test drive of a Ferrari, you won’t need many words. Want someone to buy one and you’d better start writing — and make sure it’s tight and full of benefits.
(Hat tip for that rule of thumb to Making Websites Win.)
Our experience is that no one runs traffic to a landing page to grab attention. They always want the reader to take action.
2. People are varied
However tightly you’ve narrowed the avatar for your landing page, it’s going to include people of varied backgrounds, brainpower and levels of concentration
Some of them will be easy to convince; some hard. Some will be inclined to act quickly; some will be tougher to move to action.
And you might be asking some of your prospects to do something counter to their existing habits or prejudices, which is going to take some convincing.
3. Interest pays off
Some of your prospects might be hyper interested in what you’re offering. Others have a passing interest that you’re trying to catch on the fly, amplify and turn into action.
Maybe your readers will be “very easy” to sell to right now because they’re:
- “in the market” at this instant
- not primarily concerned about price
- not already in love with a competitor
But that will be very few of your readers. Most of your readers will be casual, price shopping, already into a competitor or slow to act.
“The LONGER your copy can hold the interest of the greatest number of readers, the likelier you are to induce more of them to act… And the more interesting your copy is, the longer you will hold them.” — Victor Schwab
If you hand too little copy to reader who aren’t ready for it and the best you can hope for is that they’ll leave nodding their heads, agreeing what you’re offering is good.
Sure, that’s an achievement, but it’s not what you really want. What you want is to move them to act now.
And short copy rarely gets that immediate action. You need to build desire and that takes time, which in this case is more words.
4. What do people most like to read about?
Your reader will never lose interest in themselves. They’ll stay interested in your copy for a long time if it’s all about them and what you can do for them.
Find all the advantages to the reader and lay them all out.
Again, if your copy is short, you’ve probably not given the reader enough information about how you’ll fit into their lives to persuade them to get off the fence.
5. Readers — not paying attention since 1932
You hear it all the time today — website visitors have one eye on your website, one eye on the TV… And if they had a third eye, it would be on something else.
But inattention isn’t a new thing.
“People are thinking about other things when they see your ad. Your ad does not get their full attention or intelligence… So you have to make your ads simple.” — John Caples, copywriter — writing in 1932
“Simple” in this context means the copywriting on your landing page might need room for repetition of important points, spelling things out, leading the reader by the nose.
That’s hard to do in 75 words. You need time and space on the page.
It doesn’t matter how big and juicy you make the contact form if they’re not ready to contact you.
On that note…
6. Design isn’t going to do it for you
We work with some fantastic designers but even they sometimes suck their breath through their teeth when we hand them a 4,000-word landing page to design.
Designers who don’t specialise in conversion rate optimisation (CRO) have pretty much all been schooled in this “new” insight into the supposed attention deficit disorder running through the human population. There’s just one problem with that…
… There’s no deficit of attention in things that interest us. There never has been.
“Do not lose faith in the eternal effectiveness of advertising copy. Nothing can take the place of copy for persuasion, for downright selling. Fashions in advertising may come and go, but they never lessen the power of the printed word.” — copywriter G. Lynn Summer, quoted in How to Write a Good Advertisement (1962)
I’d argue that the current fashion in design for giant images and tweet-sized bites of text is just that, a fashion.
Your audience can be attracted, diverted and entertained by colour and movement, but they won’t be persuaded by it.
7. “Delay is the enemy of sale”
Schwab’s axiom about delay being the enemy of sale applies just as much today as it did in 1962.
Every reader you don’t persuade to act NOW could be lost forever.
It’s fine to tickle and tease — to make “brand aware” — but there’s no substitute for a sale, and to make a sale you need enough copy to convince someone to act now.
Remarketing is great, but why not sell now if you can?
8. Tell once, repeat twice
You’ve probably been told the presentation secret that you’ll best embed your messages if you tell your audience what you’re going to tell them, tell them then tell them what you’ve told them.
It certainly does help a presentation but it’s actually a maxim from direct response copywriting.
No one needs to slam messages harder into a distracted brain more than the copywriter who has sent an unsolicited offer in the post. Who is more likely to be paying minimal attention than the person walking between their mailbox and the hall table?
So direct mail copywriters have known for a long time about the rule of telling once and repeating twice to make sure their message gets through.
But you can guess what I’m going to say…
You need more words to do that.
9. It takes emotion and facts
If you want to get action from as many different types of people as possible, you’re going to need copy that appeals to emotion and you’re going to need facts. And laying out both things takes…
You guessed it…
10. If ain’t there, it can’t persuade
“No reader can be influenced by good sales angles which don’t appear in the advertisement at all.” — Victor Schwab
The angles you include in your copywriting have a chance to convince all your readers. The angles you leave out of your landing page don’t have a chance to convince anyone.
You might leave a sales angle in but choke it off so it doesn’t have room to do it’s job. Not giving an idea enough space can also undermine the efficacy of your copy.
Making sure you’ve captured and detailed all possible sales angles in your landing page is a strong argument for research. When we interview our clients’ customers about why they buy from our clients, we often find they have reasons our clients didn’t know about.
11. Your product isn’t cheap or an impulse buy
You don’t need many words to sell something that’s cheap or that’s bought on impulse. But the more expensive your product or service, the more words you’re going to need to persuade someone to part with the money.
12. Your product is complicated
We’ve been copywriting landing pages for an Australian company that supplies solar panels and batteries. These are complicated products requiring a substantial investment that won’t pay off in less than 10 years.
Understandably, readers have question and we’ve made it our business to work out what they are and to answer them.
You’re not going to brutalise your potential customer into choosing you by refusing to answer their questions unless they call your 1800 number.
Your prospect is going to keep searching until they find the information they need to make them comfortable enough to speak to you.
You can build trust by answering their questions (and objections) right there on your landing page.
13. Your competition is stiff
You can be as economical with your copywriting as you like if your product is essential and your competition is limited.
But if you’ve got competition, you need to put your shoulder to the wheel of persuasion.
Just reminding the public that your product exists is probably inadequate when your competition are wooing them with better information and offers.
Who cares how long your landing page is?
If you’re spending money on sending traffic to a webpage, copy length is something you should care about enormously.
Your ad people might tell you that “no one reads any more”.
Your designer might roll their eyes that the persuasion can all be done with bright images, well-chosen fonts and a couple of hundred choice words.
But they would be wrong.
In test after test, longform copywriting outperforms short copy every time. Longer landing pages simply work better because they work for more prospective customers.
If you’re spending money on getting the eyeballs, you want to douse them in as much persuasion as you can.
To invest in quality traffic without investing in the copywriting that will convert that traffic to sales makes as much sense as going running with your shoelaces tied together… You’ll get some movement, but it’s going to be a lot harder than it needs to be.