This has to be one of the most frequent questions I get asked about writing website copy. I can understand why. It seems everywhere you look there is different advice about how many words/pages it takes to sell a widget. When you lay out all the different pieces to the puzzle, however, it gets easier to make a decision.
People First… Everything Else Second
The primary goal of any piece of copy is to persuade the reader/watcher to take the action you want them to take. Everything else – including search engine optimization – comes second (or third or fourth). After all, there are dozens of ways to drive traffic to a website. There is, however, only one way that site will be successful: if people buy, subscribe, interact or otherwise do what you want them to do.
That means that the #1 criteria for copy length is that it is suitable to the target audience to which you’re writing. In fact, I have a F.A.C.E. formula I created to guide copy length decisions that includes “audience” for the “A” in the acronym.
If your audience responds to short copy, use that. If you get higher conversions from longer copy, go that route. How do you know what they will respond to? Constant testing is the only way to know for sure because each target audience is different.
Stereotypically, audiences filled with CEOs, high-ranking military and other power players will most often respond better to short copy or long copy broken into short segments.
“Don’t I Know You from Somewhere?”
The “F” in the F.A.C.E. formula stands for “familiar.” Just how familiar is the audience with your company/brand/product? If you’re Coca Cola, you won’t have any trouble with this element whatsoever. The rest of us will probably have to build a little trust with our prospects to make them comfortable enough to buy from us.
The vast majority of us will need some way to familiarize prospects with our business/product/service. That usually means offering proof of performance and/or social proof to reinforce prospects’ sense of trust. Testimonials, endorsements, videos, accolades and others can serve that purpose.
“It Costs How Much?!”
As price increases so does the sales process and the hesitation of your buyers. Cost (the “C” in the F.A.C.E. formula) is one of the primary sources of friction in the sales funnel. The higher the price goes, the more it will take to convert a looker into a paying customer. That means more copy.
If all else is equal, lower prices mean shorter copy and higher prices mean longer copy.
If They Don’t Understand it, They Won’t Buy it
The “E” in F.A.C.E. stands for “education.” If customers don’t know what your product/service is or fully understand how it will benefit them, sales won’t happen. Depending on just how complicated or innovative your product/service is, you’ll have to go further to educate your prospects on why this item is just what they need.
Whether it’s written copy on a page or narration in a video, education always takes more words.
Never arbitrarily follow the crowd. Just because one person/business uses long copy doesn’t mean they tested it or that it is pulling well for them. Making the mistake of guessing or doing what you think you should be doing with regard to copy length usually ends in failure.
In the end, the only way to know for sure is to analyze and test your copy length. This will show you what brings about the highest conversion rates for your products or services.