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Web Copy Argument: Short or Long?

Opposite Sides of the Fence
How many times have you visited a web site and found the text to be long winded? There is a fine line between long winded copy and compelling copy.  This subject area is one place where direct marketing principals and usability somewhat conflict with one another.  Each discipline has its advantages and you can use both to your advantage. 

The Web Usability Argument
From a usability standpoint you should try to keep your copy as short and concise as possible.  Make sure that the copy is easy to get through for the user.  Use bullet points and short simple sentences.  That’s always been good standards from the web usability world.  Years ago, when I first came across some of the long copy web sites it was easy to point out all the usability issues.  A few years later I’m left questioning some of my own standards.

The Direct Marketing Argument
As a result of first hand experience, I've seen the virtues of long copy.  It goes against some usability standards, specifically those that call upon web site owners to keep their copy short and to the point.
It’s difficult to argue against results.  One person I know has a long copy web site and he’s doing tremendously well.  He is one of many whom I’ve studied.  How can you argue against long copy if helps you build an email database of over 40,000 opt-in email addresses and over a hundred thousand dollars in revenue in a few short years?

Another fun Dan Kennedy example to drive home the point …
”I was once having lunch with a client of mine and with a guy who was trying to sell my client on joining a new advertising co-op. The co-op guy spent ten minutes criticizing my client’s current ad, telling him it was too cluttered, had too much copy, and so on. When he finally shut up, my client innocently responded: Well, maybe you’re right. It only pulls an eight-times return on investment.”

Source: Kennedy, The Ultimate Marketing Plan

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