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How Long Should Your Copy Be? Long Vs. Short Content Results

As a Toronto freelance copywriter, I've heard a lot of different opinions about how long copy should be. A large group of people strongly believe content should be short or people won't read it.

So what are the facts - does short copy beat long copy?

I'm going to set this up in a question and answer format to help you decide which route to take.

But first - I think it's important to get rid of a common misconception that short copy is always best using some examples of long copy killing it.

  • The Wall Street Journal direct mail piece known as the 'two young men' letter was two full pages long and then had an order form. It was used for 21 years and estimated to have sold over $2,000,000,000 in subscriptions. Over two billion dollars in sales! (for a masterclass in killer copy google 'Wall Street Journal Two Young Men')

  • Information products often use landing pages that are 5, 10, 20 pages or even longer to convince people to buy. These are some of the savviest marketers on the planet - they test constantly to make sure every element is working at peak effectiveness. If short copy always worked as well as long copy they would use it.

  • An example from my own experience. I was hired to write a landing page for a product that routinely sells for $125,000 - $200,000+. The old landing page was short copy, I wrote long copy and in the first day alone got six shiny new leads. Ultimately, the landing page led to an EXTRA $2,000,000+ in sales. Full disclosure: we used a short form landing page for customers already educated about the product and it worked well too.

I could point to a huge number of examples where long copy beat short copy and using the examples above I wanted to highlight that fact.


I could also show you many times where short copy was king.

So what should you do?

Short Copy Vs. Long Copy Q & A

Question #1 - How long should my copy be?

As long as it needs to in order to share a compelling sales story.

You have to present all the relevant points that will convince a prospect to become a lead or a lead to become a customer. This may require a paragraph or it may need four pages to detail.

If it's long, guess who will read it all? The same people who will buy!

If it's short that's fine but if you don't offer a full sales story you will lose out on new customers - fact.

People read about what they are interested in - so if they are interested in a product or service like yours they will want to learn about it. And here's the best part - some people won't even need to read it all to become customers, you will get those people AND the people who read it all.

Bottom Line: Whether your copy is long or short it has to present a complete sales story.

Question #2 - How educated is your market?

To explain this, I will use a topic near and dear to my heart: beer.

If your market knows about beer, you might simply have to say, "Hey, this is a small batch Ale we brewed, it's good. You will like it. Buy it."

That might be enough for a beer person to give your brew a shot.

But if they aren't knowledgeable about beer you will have to go into more detail. You will have to explain what your ale tastes like, is it bitter or smooth, what sort of an aftertaste there is, the consistency, the ingredients, perhaps how it is brewed, how it compares to a lager or pilsner. And so on.

As I said above, the benefit of this second approach is you will get the experienced ale drinkers to give it a try and scoop up a number of uneducated beer drinkers as well with a good explanation.

Bottom Line: If your audience is educated, you can often sell them with shorter copy.

Question #3 - What is the competition doing?

A good way to figure out if you should use long or short copy is to sneak a peek at what the competition is doing. This assumes you know they are competent marketers! I'm sure you'll agree copying dummies is a mistake.

If smart marketers in your field are using short copy you can use that approach and see if it works. Same for long.

Bottom Line: Don't guess, copy what works.

Question #4 - Are you testing?

Fact is, until you launch there's no way of knowing what's going to work for you.

So the smart play is to go and and test a long copy version of your marketing against a short copy version.

Send half of your prospects to one version and half to the other. This will give you concrete results and you'll KNOW what method to use.

Bottom Line: Take guessing out of your marketing and test!

Question #5 - Are you in doubt?

There are times where testing isn't possible and you can't be certain about how educated your audience is. I suggest at this point you default to longer copy as a hedge.

You can always cut copy but adding it on to an existing marketing piece is much more challenging.

You start with long copy, send it into the market and examine results, then you can edit until your copy is as short as possible while remaining effective.

Bottom Line: When in doubt - go long!


If you want to get better results from your marketing than you are right now - or you have a new project you NEED to succeed in your market get in touch with me today. I can practically guarantee to help you get the ROI you want from your marketing spend.

Reach out by clicking here and we can discuss your project and goals.

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