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Friday, Jun. 8, 2007 at 5:38 am

Gr8t Web 2.0 Copy

By Bryan Eisenberg
June 8th, 2007

Everywhere I go, I still hear squabbles over long vs. short copy.

I thought the debate was settled, but apparently not. I must admit, some of these discussions are painful. It’s like watching hunters fighting over an anemic squirrel while the big game strolls by.

If you’re still having the long/short copy argument, you’re confusing the vehicle for the message. Make no mistake; you’re falling further behind the times by the minute.

For years, my stock answer about copy length has been that it’s not about length but its relevance. I’d explain that it’s the lady’s skirt principle: copy needs to be long enough to cover the essentials and short enough to be interesting.

I’d sum up by encouraging each side to focus more on what was actually said rather than word count. Writing great, relevant copy isn’t easy.

And it isn’t getting any easier.

AdWords, Twitter (microblogging), social media, text messaging, and the continual assault of data on our senses is raising the bar. My brother Jeffrey observes, “The skirt just seems to be getting shorter and shorter.”

Before you label me a short copy advocate, let me say that if it were as easy as just writing short copy, then all the Web’s short copy (including all those short AdWords/AdSense ads) would convert like a winning slot machine.

Continue reading my column on ClickZ…

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Comments (12)

  1. “It’s like watching hunters fighting over an anemic squirrel while the big game strolls by.”

    Great mental image. I’ll have to steal that one. You should use that as a slide in your presentations.

  2. [...] Gr8t Web 2.0 Copy by Bryan Eisenberg [...]

  3. Web 2.0 Copy Should be Short as a Lady’s Skirt…

    The lady’s skirt principle: copy needs to be long enough to cover the essentials and short enough to be interesting. AdWords, Twitter, text messaging – the skirt keeps getting shorter and shorter.


  4. Debate: Short or Long Web copy???…

    Anyone that know me knows how much I hate those long hypey ebook sales pages.
    Today’s 5 Star blog had a good article.

    Short copy or long copy? Which converts better? That is the question.

  5. You can have a long conversation with mum over the phone.
    You can have a short conversation with mum.

    Which one works?
    Stupid question, eh?

    Of course, it’s stupid. It’s worse than stupid. The point isn’t the long or short conversation. The question is: Have you said what you wanted to say? If you have, then put the phone down, and go your merry way.

    People read what they want to read.
    They listen to what they want to listen to.
    They view what they want to.

    Because we all make a really stupid assumption when we say we’re writing copy. No one writes copy. Ever. If you’re writing copy, you’re in the wrong business.

    You can only ever have a conversation.
    Yesterday I had a conversation with mum that lasted 45 minutes (I have to call her from New Zealand to India). The last time I spoke to her it was just 15 minutes.

    Which conversation has more impact?
    Which conversation has more conversion?

    Can you not say “Fire” and get enough conversion?
    Can you not explain how a fire takes over a building and hold an audience for 30 minutes?

    Of course you can.
    Both the conversations have their validity.
    The conversion factor (if that’s what’s being debated in the first place) is simply one of ‘what do I have to say, in a way that gets the other person to act.’

    That’s it.
    And if you have any doubts, go and see the copy you have to read for one crappy $12 book at Amazon. And you thought Amazon had short copy, eh?


  6. I have to agree with Sean. Though of late I have found some of the observations comming out of the “Long Copy Vs Short Copy” debate rather unnerving. I have recently extolled the virtues of long copy to one prospect who has since become my client. Wanting to give his lifeless brochure of a website its best chance, I wrote a long sales letter.

    However halfway through I downloaded Michael Fortins new FREE Report “Death of the sales letter.” All of the sudden I felt like a fool for doing so much research on the clients product and having made so many notes, in the anticaption for writing a long sales letter. However I’ve decided to stick with what Ive got and test further.

    Interestingly enough a couple of months ago I did a PO.Box A4 sized post card drop in my local town. Their were 282 business boxes and i recieved only one response! Thats 0.35 percent! The headline on the post card was “I Guarantee You Will Never Run An Advert That Dosen’t Pull You At Least 100% Better Response Than You Get Right Now…Or Else I’ll Refund Every Last Dime You Give And Pay You $100 For Wasting Your Time!” (Phew)

    Well I had 4 Columns of copy plus one column of testimonials. AND I put copy on the other side. And still I only got one response. BUT here’s the kicker – That one lonely soul that responded to my postcard – Ended up being a $10,000 business coaching and copywriting deal. (Which he ended up closing the sale by the way…talk about qualified)

    On top of the “long winded” ( as my wannabe copywriter mate keeps telling me) post card – I offered a free report plus I included a 13 page sales letter in the response kit. Well my client tells me he read the post card, report and sales letter TWO TIMES EACH!

    What the hell? Go figure?

    My advice is – I DONT BLOODY THE ANSWER?

  7. Yeah right: Death to the sales letter. Whatever. :)

    If you wrote sales letters in the first place, then you were following the wrong strategy. People don’t read sales letters. And this hoopla about Web 2.0 is nice. But hey Web 2.0 already existed. It’s called pre-Internet days. All the real life stuff, the feedback, all that stuff. It already existed 2000 years ago.

    Yes, technology allows us to do stuff like we couldn’t do before. Yes, it reaches across boundaries like never before. But yada, yada, yada, and hoopla be praised. Because in reality, most people don’t understand ‘conversation 1.0.

    And if you don’t understand conversation 1.0, then you’ll never understand persuasion 1.0. And in the end, the Internet is indeed a medium, no matter how you spin it.

    My Um Note: Um, that 51 page document is a 51 page salesletter. If you see the ‘subtle links’ in the text, you’ll know exactly what I mean. The report that said that the Internet is all video and interactivity, then took 51 pages to spell out the concept in words. Oh the irony of it all :)

  8. That’s just one thing.
    The second thing is that people don’t buy on reading a salesletter. Advertisers have brainwashed clients into thinking that’s what clients do.

    When was the last time you bought anything the first time you saw it? (Let’s not count chewing gum, ok?;))

  9. [...] while the big game strolls by. If you’re still having the long/short copy argument source: Gr8t Web 2.0 Copy, Conversion Rate Marketing Blog – GrokDotCom by [...]

  10. [...] "Gr8t Web 2.0 Copy" — [...]

  11. sales letters have been replaced by thank you emails

  12. I agree. Short and long copy have their different purposes

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Bryan Eisenberg, founder of FutureNow, is a professional marketing speaker and the co-author of New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestselling books Call to Action and Waiting For Your Cat to Bark and Always Be Testing. You can friend him on Facebook or Twitter.

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