We have all seen them - the web pages that seem to go on and on and on. One big, long, ugly page of copy - full of bright red headlines and lots and lots of dot points. If you print the page - you end up with anywhere from 8-20 A4 pages.
They are massive ... and they sell like gangbusters!
But what are they? These types of pages are called in the industry "long copy" as compared to "short copy" that you see on most web pages. Long copy originated in the direct mail industry and if you have ever found yourself on the Readers Digest mailing list you will have experienced long copy in paper form (at least a few times every month).
Direct mail is the one industry that can tell you the exact percentages of how many people open their letters and how many people actually buy the product based on their letter. They spend millions testing every possible combination as their financial results depend on getting it right.
And putting it simply - long copy has been proven over and over again to outperform short copy when it comes to getting sales.
Why? Well to answer that comment you have to first remember the psychology behind it.
If you go to a shop to buy a washing machine, the salesperson will talk to you about the machines, why one is better than the other, show you all of the great features on the machine you are most keen on.
They then generally talk about other people who have bought the machine and how happy they are with it, and they talk with you about easy payment plans or price discounts. Finally they discuss the warranty and extended warranty options and then take your money.
In a nutshell - that is what long copy does. It acts the same way that a regular salesperson does, covering all of the same points, but just in written form.
When people buy on-line, or from a direct mail mail-out, they don't have a person to talk them through their purchase. There is no-one to ask questions. If they email you and then wait for the answers, chances are they will not buy your product.
People want answers the moment they want to buy something - and they want the answers now. All you are doing with long copy is helping the person easily answer all of their potential questions.
The funny thing is the comment as a copywriter I most often hear is "surely no one will read it all - it is so long!"
You have to remember in terms of how people absorb information there are people who love detail and others who just want the key facts. If we look at many psychological profiles such as Myers Briggs Type Indicators, there are big picture thinkers (N's) and more detailed/practical thinkers (S's).
Each of these different types of people uses information in different ways. Many big picture thinkers just scan through headlines and when they find something interesting, they stop, scan a few lines and then go on to the next headline. Detailed readers often read every word and analyze every concept.
As copywriters, we work on making sure that each reader can have their personal information preferences met. So we use lots of bold, attention grabbing headlines and sub-headlines for the scanners, and give lots of juicy detail for those for love the facts.
The other thing we do is work very carefully on ensuring each paragraph leads carefully into the next one, using things called "copy joiners". We ensure each paragraph builds on the one before and leads into the one following. It becomes like a great story, leading the reader through the different concepts until they reach their conclusion.
I mean, who would have thought before Harry Potter that kids would queue for hours to buy books as thick as they were - and avidly read each word and each line. If the story is interesting and flows well, people will read the content no matter how long it is.
The interesting fact is that long copy over the years has developed almost a set format or recipe in terms of how to take readers on the story or journey with you. This format has come about through millions of dollars spent on testing every permutation and combination of colours, fonts, flow and language.
At the moment, this format is the one proven to get the best results with current readers. Of course this may change in years to come with the increase in Gen Y's coming onto the market, but from all the research at this moment, long copy is a great sales tool for most businesses.
So, if you follow the standard long copy format and flow, and remember to keep the story interesting, then people will read every word and your sales will increase as a result.