Long Form vs Short Form Copy Part 1

First, a disclaimer, I am not a marketing professional. I do a lot of reading and I try different things but I don’t pretend to understand the detailed psychological reasons why certain marketing approaches work and others do not. One type of marketing I’ve been interested in for a while is the performance of Long Copy on landing pages versus Short Copy on landing pages. Given my somewhat haphazard approach to marketing copy it’s impossible to define what you find on my landing pages as either short form or long form. Most would be defined as short form, but calling it well-crafted short form copy would be a stretch. The closest I’ve ever come to really trying to generate short form copy would be landing pages specifically created for various Adwords campaigns.

Long form copy has its roots in direct mail outs. It is typically (as the name suggests) a lot of text aimed at breaking down objections or barriers that consumers have when making a purchasing decision about a complex or expensive product. Long form will have multiple call to actions (CTA), repetition of benefits and price information, and will encourage the reader to jump around the text as they address their particular concerns. In short, long form copy tells a story, breaks down barriers, and engages the consumer.

Conversely, short form copy is writing that gets right to the point and is targeted in the language, slang, or vernacular that your target market expects or understands. It will provide the basic information the consumer needs to make a decision and usually only have one CTA. Short form copy is intended to capture attention quickly, to not overwhelm with information, and allow a decision to be made. Here’s a (poorly done) short form landing page that I’m currently using for one of my Adwords campaigns. Conversion is rather dismal, around 12%.

Short Form Landing Page

As you can see, there’s a minimal amount of information and one (rather obvious) CTA. The great big red “Get the Free Trial” button. In the interests of not distracting visitors to this page I’ve removed all site navigation apart from some links in the footer at the bottom. I’ve also ensured that the CTA button appears “above the fold”* for most commonly used browser sizes. The copy on this page is (in my opinion) particularly poor. It’s a mish-mash of benefit / feature/ information based copy. Trying to achieve these three things with so few words really ends up telling the user nothing. The key reasons for trying to make three messages on this page are:

  • It’s been drummed into me that features don’t sell software, benefits sell software. So, list some benefits.
  • It’s short form copy. You can’t help but use few words when describing the benefits. So, yes, Time Clock MTS WILL save you money. It’ll save you a bunch of money. But I don’t have the room to tell you exactly WHY it will save you a bunch of money.
  • You can’t NOT mention features. People need to know what my product is, what it does, and some basic feature information so they have some idea that it might be useful.
  • It’s been drummed into me that you MUST tell the visitor the price of the software and whether or not it will work on their computer. Not telling them this is just going to annoy them and make them look elsewhere.

My aim with this series of blog articles is to craft a long form landing page for one of my Adwords campaigns, A/B test it in Google Analytics, and report on the results here. I haven’t quite decided on the landing page yet but the form is similar to the example I’ve linked to above.

* Above the Fold: above the fold means that the button appears on the web page without the visitor needing to scroll down the page. Any page elements that do not appear on a page without the visitor needing to scroll run the risk of not being seen by the visitor. They simply might not know that there’s more of a web-page to see than what they do when they first arrive.

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About markn

Mark is the owner and founder of Timesheets MTS Software, an mISV that develops and markets employee timesheet and time clock software. He's also a mechanical engineer, father of four, and a lifelong lover of gadgets.