Short vs Long Landing Page Copy – An Age-old Question Answered!
Today I’m stirring up a hornet’s nest and will try to answer a long standing marketer’s question: what length of a landing page works better? There are tons of articles on the Internet about it, and you might think there’s nothing more that can be said. But in fact, for many, the whole question is still as misty and woolly as ever.
Now let me introduce you to the top answer to this important question on the Internet: “it depends”. And that’s absolutely right.
But if your copywriter asks you what kind of copy they should prepare for your landing page, will you tell them: “it depends”? What on earth are they supposed to do with a guideline like that? Will they write copy based on their own intuition? Or maybe you should just toss a coin and randomly decide whether today you want longer or shorter copy?
But in a data-driven world, of course, there is no room for this kind of guessing.
So in this article I’m going to provide you with 3 techniques that you can apply to decide whether your landing page copy should be longer or shorter. If you do your homework properly you will be rewarded with a simple answer: “short copy is better” or “long copy is better”, with the important addition of “for my business”. And that’s all you need to know.
But for the moment, let’s get back to that hot topic in marketing and UX circles. Allow me to go very briefly through the main points.
Short landing page copy is good, because people don’t read anymore
“People don’t read anymore” – that’s the core argument of short copy fans.
And it’s a fact: year-on-year people are reading less. They’re more likely to skim or scan than to read an article word for word. The Nielsen Norman Group Research have proved that users treat content placed above the fold around 84% better than the content placed below it. The reason is that exploring the content below the fold requires additional effort – scrolling. And the longer the copy, the less likely the skimmers are to look for interesting paragraphs among the thousands of words.
There’s a great article by Farhad Manjoo which shows how people are (not) reading long text. The author makes you aware in every paragraph how many users have bounced at this point (some of them even share the page without reading). Which is really impressive!
So you can see how easy it is to just come up with the idea that if people don’t read, then give them what they want. A short, easy-to-scan text works well. Because people won’t read more anyway.
I have to say, “TL DR” (Too Long Didn’t Read) is a phrase which personally resonates with me. I don’t mind confessing that I’m a little bit overwhelmed by 10 pages of long copy about a dishwasher, and I’m probably the first to bounce seeing any kind of product description that stretches that long. In fact, no way am I going to buy anything like that. Maybe it’s because I’m more of a competitive persona type, someone who likes to make decisions quickly based on the main advantages of using a product or service, rather than on the tiny details. And I’m sure I’m not alone in my preferences.
But in general, short, condensed copy is considered to be better and there are many A/B tests that can confirm it (including our own projects). However, there are also cases when going with short landing page copy might be a terrible mistake.
Long landing page copy is bad, because people don’t scroll
It’s one of the biggest myths in the UX world: people don’t scroll. So you bend over backwards not to break the ‘rule’ and end up stuffing everything at the top!
UX research has supposedly proven that “people don’t scroll”? Well – I’m afraid to say it’s a bunch of crap straight out of the mid-nineties. Of course people scroll: the Internet is evolving and so are we. But there’s one catch: people will scroll when they want to scroll.
If the content is interesting and your website is well-designed (for example you haven’t made the mistake of leaving white space on the fold telling people “there is nothing more below”), then users will scroll. And they’ll continue scrolling as long as your content keeps them engaged.
If you’ve got any doubts about this, check out these great, scientific resources on uxmyths – demystifying the “People don’t scroll” myth.
So, if we are done with the scrolling dilemma, we can move forward to the advantages of long landing page copy.
Long copy has the advantage of being able to answer more objections. There are a lot of FUDs (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubts) in your users’ minds regarding your product and your company. A longer landing page can dispel them paragraph by paragraph – showing testimonials, logos, USP, features, detailed descriptions, photos and so on.
Another great place to use long copy is a landing page for a complicated product or service. For example, take a service such as analytics consulting. How can we describe what we do with data in a few sentences? And how on Earth can we expect anyone to buy our services if we don’t explain fully what we do? There’s no way around this. Without detailed descriptions, a complicated service will not be understood and your conversion rates will drop.
But of course you’re still thinking: I know all that, but what’s the real point here?
There are a few indisputable rules of thumb no matter how long your content is:
- Write as much as you need to write. But no more.
- Place the most catchy, important content at the top, to encourage users to scroll down the page
- Put any clear Call to Action above the fold, so users know what to do at the very beginning
- Make your copy easy-to-scan and easy-to-skim: use clear headlines and relevant images
- Write good copy that will get your users interested. Put simply: if your copy is crap, it won’t work.
The above list is just a starting point. You will need more detailed information relevant to your business to determine how long your landing page copy should be. The methods outlined below will help you to gather this information.
1. Heuristics evaluation
You know your customers; you know your business (at least you should). Spend a whole day – or even longer – naming every possible objection a potential customer might have.
Have a brainstorm in your company and dig out the answers to every possible client question that comes to mind. And don’t let the copywriter decide what to write. It’s your job to assure your customers that your product is the best for them.
Include your Unique Selling Proposition – this must be communicated in your copy. Remember to include testimonials and trust-builders, consider adding some downloadable resources that can explain your product further.
Consider how much commitment you expect from your users. If you are only asking for an e-mail address – you don’t need to go into as much detail in your copy as if you want someone to pay a pretty penny for your sophisticated SaaS service (for example).
With this set of must-be points in your copy, write (or have someone write for you) the shortest one possible. It might only be five sentences or it could be a few pages. Writing shorter copy actually requires more time. You could start with a longer draft and then just cut out all the words that are not necessary. As the famous mathematician Blaise Pascal once said: “I would have written a shorter letter, but I didn’t have time” – which is totally true for landing page copywriting as well.
2. Buying Personas
Are you using Buyer Personas in your marketing? If not, you should. Immediately!
Because Buyer Personas will tell you how and why people buy your product. It’s a reflection of your real customer. And if you are in touch with your clients, you will be able to prepare a perfect copy personalized to every buyer type that lands on your page.
We differentiate between four distinct personality types: methodical, spontaneous, competitive and humanistic. These different personas approach the buying process differently – and they need different copy to make them buy.
If you know the way your customers are making their decisions (and finally buying), you will be able to provide the perfect copy length for them.
For example, the competitive persona needs short, exact answers to important questions right away. The humanistic persona likes to read a little bit more about other people who use that product or see the pictures of your team. Try to combine these approaches in your copy, for example by placing short bullet points above the fold and longer copy below the fold.
The most important thing, though, is to provide every persona with the information and the type of copy they need, so you can target all of your potential customers. If you are not able to differentiate between your personas at the traffic generation stage, you will need to squeeze all of the information onto the same landing page.
3. Quantitative data
If the two points above seem to be a little bit too general for you (they shouldn’t be, it’s really important to gather this information and write it all down as a guideline for your copywriter), here comes quantitative data.
If you already have the content, then the only way you can check if it’s right is to analyze it. The first step to doing that is to set up a detailed configuration of Google Analytics. You will be able to track user engagement by measuring scrolling, average time on page and bounce rate. If the conversion funnel has a couple of steps, mark all of the actions with proper events in order to measure where the users are dropping off the site.
Scroll event tracking lets you see how far people have scrolled. You can track your user engagement and decide what works best for your users. Use scroll event tracking (you can find a script on the Cutroni blog. Using this information you will be able to decide if your users are finding your longer content interesting. But there’s more: you can also try to cross reference these metrics with the conversion rate to find out if people who read more are converting better as well.
There are also other great tools to show you where people are looking and which content is interesting for them. You can use heatmapping software (CrazyEgg, LuckyOrange, Hotjar) to discover which paragraphs work well and which don’t.
If you notice that users aren’t scrolling, it could mean you should go for shorter copy or improve the content you have placed above the fold. But before you do that, check if your design is fine with In-Page Analytics. Maybe users aren’t scrolling because they don’t realise there’s something more further down the page. This is a common mistake; that the above-fold content ends with whitespace – suggesting there isn’t anything else further down the landing page.
Users have different browser sizes. Make sure you don’t leave white space where the lines (showing the bottom of the page) culminate. This will give the misleading impression that there is nothing more below, and you could be missing chances for users to scroll down further. And you should blame the page design for that, not the copy length.
You don’t know until you test it
The point is that the length of your landing page copy depends on the scale of effort you require from your users and the specifics of your product or service. The only way to discover the perfect length of landing page copy – one that will be perfect for your business – is to test different approaches.
There are a lot of A/B test examples on the Internet, but don’t just copy ideas that are shown to work there. Your target group and offers are unique, so you should be testing your own landing page length and copywriting. Existing A/B testing case studies may be a good place for finding testing ideas though.
Have you already tested your copy? I’d love to hear in your comments what works better for you (and why!).
If you want to gain a competitive advantage by increasing your conversion rate and grow your revenue and profits without spending an additional dime on advertising, contact Mavenec today to learn more about our approach to conversion rate optimization. You can also learn our conversion rate optimization secrets by downloading our Free Ultimate Conversion Rate Optimization Toolkit.
Author: Damian Rams
I apply conversion rate optimization techniques to make sure that our clients get more sales and leads without spending an additional dime on traffic acquisition. I combine analytical and UX skills with experience in psychology to substantially grow digital businesses. I am a lecturer at Warsaw School of Economics.