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Optimizing PPC Campaigns: Simple copy changes that increased clickthrough rate by 289% (and more)

Wednesday, Sept. 10, 2014
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Home arrow Site Optimization arrow Long Copy vs. Short Copy Tested
Long Copy vs. Short Copy Tested
Friday, 10 September 2004

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Synopsis

Topic: Long Copy vs. Short Copy — How our micro-testing increased conversion rate by more than 100%

We recently released the recording of our Long Copy vs. Short Copy clinic. You can listen to a recording of this clinic here:

Windows Media Audio:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?cxw

RealMedia:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?cxr

This research brief will answer the following questions:

  1. What impact can the length of your sales copy have upon your website's conversion ratio?
  2. What are the advantages of long copy and short copy?
  3. What are the ten key guidelines to keep in mind when evaluating your site copy?

::Top Of Page::

Findings

1. What impact can the length of your sales copy have upon your website's conversion ratio?

We devised a series of tests in order to determine whether long copy or short copy would be better at selling products for one of our research partners. Our test site sells a specialized product in the health retail sector.

In the first test, we sent traffic to two landing pages using Google AdWords. The first page was the home page, which contained short copy describing the product. The second page was similar, but featured a much longer article about the product. Both pages prompted visitors to click through to the order page, from which point they would be taken to the shopping cart.

Our initial results were gathered after a five-day period:

Test 1 – Short Copy
AdGroup Clicks Cost CPC Revenue ROI * Conversion
#1 59 $4.72 $0.08 $0 -100% 0.00%
#2 225 $24.75 $0.11 $95.90 16% 0.44%
#3 225 $24.75 $0.11 $0 -100% 0.00%
#4 266 $37.24 $0.14 $175.85 42% 0.75%
#5 8 $0.40 $0.05 $0 -100% 0.00%
#6 27 $2.43 $0.09 $0 -100% 0.00%
Total 810 $94.29 $0.10 $271.75 -14% 0.37%

 

Test 1 – Long Copy
AdGroup Clicks Cost CPC Revenue ROI * Conversion
#1 40 $3.20 $0.08 $0 -100% 0.00%
#2 468 $51.48 $0.11 $311.70 82% 0.64%
#3 232 $25.52 $0.11 $59.95 -30% 0.43%
#4 354 $49.56 $0.14 $175.85 6% 0.56%
#5 9 $0.45 $0.05 $0 -100% 0.00%
#6 60 $5.40 $0.09 $0 -100% 0.00%
Total 1163 $135.61 $0.10 $547.50 21% 0.52%

Check box What You Need To UNDERSTAND: In our initial micro-test, long copy outperformed short copy by 40.54%. Click-through traffic sent to the short copy page was unprofitable (-14% ROI), while traffic sent to the long copy page produced an ROI of 21%.

* The profit margin used to calculate ROI was 30%.

In this first micro-test, it appears that the long copy page performed much better than the short copy page. However, a five-day period is not enough to account for statistical fluctuations that may skew our real results. So we continued to test.

We maintained the same test, expanded our keyword bidding slightly, and gathered additional results over the subsequent five days:

Test 2 – Short Copy
AdGroup Clicks Cost CPC Revenue ROI * Conversion
#1 21 $2.10 $0.10 $0 -100% 0.00%
#2 649 $103.84 $0.16 $175.85 -49% 0.31%
#3 330 $42.90 $0.13 $0 -100% 0.00%
#4 301 $39.13 $0.13 $59.95 -54% 0.33%
#5 11 $1.21 $0.11 $0 -100% 0.00%
#6 13 $1.04 $0.08 $0 -100% 0.00%
#7 265 $53.00 $0.20 $59.95 -66% 0.38%
#8 110 $15.40 $0.14 $0 -100% 0.00%
Total 1,700 $258.62 $0.15 $295.75 -66% 0.18%

 

Test 2 – Long Copy
AdGroup Clicks Cost CPC Revenue ROI * Conversion
#1 32 $3.20 $0.10 $0 -100% 0.00%
#2 523 $83.68 $0.16 $0 -100% 0.00%
#3 243 $31.59 $0.13 $0 -43% 0.41%
#4 314 $40.82 $0.13 $59.95 -56% 0.32%
#5 14 $1.54 $0.11 $0 -100% 0.00%
#6 15 $1.20 $0.08 $0 -100% 0.00%
#7 249 $49.80 $0.20 $974.25 487% 3.21%
#8 50 $7.00 $0.14 $0 -100% 0.00%
Total 1,440 $218.83 $0.15 $1,094.15 50% 0.69%

Check box What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Again, long copy outperformed short copy, this time by an even greater factor of nearly four to one. Our ROI was a dismal -66% for the short copy page and a very respectable 50% for the long copy page.

* The profit margin used to calculate ROI was 30%.

In our first ten days of testing, long copy significantly outperformed short copy. In subsequent testing, we revised our test slightly:

  1. We shortened the short copy even further to a simple product description.
  2. We removed a page in the order process, allowing visitors to go from the long/short copy pages directly to the shopping cart.

Here are the results, collected over an eight-day period:

Test 3 – Short Copy
AdGroup Clicks Cost CPC Revenue ROI * Conversion
#1 51 $4.08 $0.08 $0 -100% 0.00%
#2 1,356 $244.08 $0.18 $175.85 -78% 0.37%
#3 247 $37.05 $0.15 $0 -100% 0.00%
#4 752 $105.28 $0.14 $115.90 -67% 0.13%
#5 34 $4.08 $0.12 $0 -100% 0.00%
#6 19 $1.33 $0.07 $0 -100% 0.00%
#7 661 $145.42 $0.22 $355.77 -17% 0.15%
#8 162 $29.16 $0.18 $0 -100% 0.00%
Total 3,282 $570.48 $0.14 $647.52 -66% 0.21%

 

Test 3 – Long Copy
AdGroup Clicks Cost CPC Revenue ROI * Conversion
#1 41 $3.28 $0.08 $0 -100% 0.00%
#2 1,458 $233.28 $0.16 $179.85 -77% 0.21%
#3 804 $120.60 $0.15 $115.90 -71% 0.12%
#4 694 $97.16 $0.14 $215.80 -33% 0.29%
#5 24 $2.88 $0.12 $0 -100% 0.00%
#6 26 $1.82 $0.07 $0 -100% 0.00%
#7 572 $125.84 $0.22 $595.10 61% 1.05%
#8 182 $32.76 $0.18 $0 -100% 0.00%
Total 3,801 $617.62 $0.14 $1,106.65 -46% 0.32%

Check box What You Need To UNDERSTAND: Long copy still significantly outperformed short copy. However, in this test, both pages were unprofitable. Neither page produced a positive return on investment.

* The profit margin used to calculate ROI was 30%.

Although the results from Test 3 were puzzling at first glance, we did learn two important lessons:

  1. On the first day of this test, the short copy page actually outperformed the long copy page. However, as the test continued, the long copy made a recovery and proved once again to be the superior page.

    KEY POINT: Make sure the periods of your micro-tests are long enough to generate results you can trust. Had we paid attention to the first day only, we might have assumed that this shorter copy was superior to our (already-proven) long copy.

  2. Conversion on the long copy page dropped significantly when we removed the product page from the order sequence.

    KEY POINT: Our assumption – that shortening the order process overall would increase conversion – proved to be nearsighted. Sending visitors from the long copy page directly to the cart was too abrupt. Many of them abandoned the order process before finishing their orders.

    Instead, we were better off sending them from the long copy page to a product page with product specifics and an "Order Here" button. After clicking this order button, visitors were taken into the cart.

KEY POINT: Although long copy clearly outperformed short copy in all three tests above, your own results may vary. We recommend setting up micro-tests similar to those above. In the sections below, we offer a number of guidelines to help you implement these tests.

2. What are the advantages of long copy and short copy?

Both short- and long-copy pages offer some advantages to the website owner. Depending on your product or service, you may find that one serves you better than the other. Or you may find that some areas of your site warrant long copy while others require more brevity.

In general, long copy offers the following advantages:

  1. Your visitors will have most of their questions answered and will have less anxiety about ordering from you.
  2. Long copy can reduce customer service by qualifying your customers to a greater degree.
  3. Long copy with bolded or emphasized points can allow some of your visitors to skim, while others more interested in specifics can find all the information they want. In this sense, long copy gives visitors more options.
  4. Long (and interesting) keyword-rich copy often performs well in natural search engines. For more on natural search, see our recent research brief on this topic:
    http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mns

Short copy offers another set of advantages:

  1. Short copy does not risk losing the interest of your website visitors. The received wisdom on the Web is that short and sweet is always better. You may very well find this to be true for your own site.
  2. Short copy allows for sleeker page presentation that doesn't go on and on. And you always have the option of providing links to additional pages with more information about your products.
  3. Short copy minimizes the risk that your pages will be perceived as hype-ridden sales letters. (Of course, it's certainly possible that carefully designed long-copy pages can avoid this perception as well.)

3. What are the ten key guidelines to keep in mind when evaluating your site copy?

  1. Testing is vital. There are no universal rules regarding the ideal length of a marketing message. Without testing and revising your offer copy, you risk leaving significant revenue on the table.
  2. In general (and we cannot stress that enough), higher-priced products tend to warrant longer copy. It takes longer for a customer to commit to spending $500 than to spend $20, and your copy should take that into consideration.
  3. Information-based products often benefit from longer copy. This will grant you ample opportunity to show your potential customers the QUALITY of your information.
  4. KEY POINT: The long vs. short debate often overlooks the most important factor when it comes to website copy: quality. High-quality short copy will outperform poorly written long copy every time. The best possible copy should be developed and tested before you even begin to worry about the long vs. short debate.
  5. When testing site copy, control your other variables. Page design, layout, graphics, and so on can all affect the performance of a page. So when testing copy, make sure the other page elements remain the same.
  6. Utilize an A-B split test. This will ensure that other factors (such as time, traffic source, and so on) do not skew your results.

    Here are a few software solutions that will enable you to run A-B split tests:

    http://www.splittestgenerator.com/
    http://splithit.com/
    http://profitinfo.com/catalog/v4/

  7. Copy should be long enough to do its job effectively, and not a word longer. Long copy for the sake of long copy is not to your benefit. Always keep in mind the primary goal of your website's copy (to sell your product or service, to solicit subscriptions, etc.).
  8. Utilize bullets and/or numbered lists where appropriate. These make it easier for visitors to digest your information and prevent your pages from becoming one long block of gray.
  9. Utilize testimonials. Praise from your satisfied customers is much more effective than self-praise.
  10. Review our report on Transparent Marketing, how to earn the trust of a skeptical consumer:
    http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mtm

While our initial Long Copy vs. Short Copy micro-tests returned results clearly in favor of long copy, true optimization of your own website's copy will only come through your own testing. However, the guidelines above should give you a good place to start. We will continue to revise our own testing and share our results.

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RELATED MEC REPORTS:

Landing Pages Tested:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mlp

Site Design Tested, Part 1:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?ms1

Site Design Tested, Part 2:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?ms2

Ideal Subscription Path Tested:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mis

Offer Pricing Tested:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mop

Order Process Tested:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mdr

Transparent Marketing:

http://meclabs.com/cgi-bin/pl/pl.cgi?mtm

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Literature Review

As part of our research on this topic, we have prepared a review of the best Internet resources on this topic.

Rating System

These sites were rated for usefulness and clarity, but alas, the rating is purely subjective.

* = Decent ** = Good *** = Excellent **** = Indispensable

Long Versus Short Copy on Websites ***
http://www.online-learning.com/news/news1.html

Info-Profits Talk - Long Versus Short Copy ***
http://www.infoprofitstalk.com/t-328.html

Long or Short Copy – The Endless Debate ***
http://adcopywriting.com/digest/109.htm

The Long and Short of It ***
http://clickz.com/experts/em_mkt/em_mkt/article.php/3067491

How to Use Split-Run Testing to Raise Conversion Rates ***
http://www.addme.com/issue307.htm

The Better to Tease You With ***
http://clickz.com/experts/design/cont_dev/article.php/3329361

Content Consultation for Consultants ***
http://clickz.com/experts/design/cont_dev/article.php/3303931

WebmasterWorld Forums - Content, Writing, and Copyright ***
http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum44/page12.htm

Better Content Starts Today **
http://clickz.com/experts/design/cont_dev/article.php/1564661

Sometimes, It's What You Don't Say That Counts **
http://clickz.com/experts/design/cont_dev/article.php/1547771

Listen Up for Content **
http://clickz.com/experts/design/cont_dev/article.php/972211

Helping a Copywriter Get Your Message Across **
http://clickz.com/experts/design/cont_dev/article.php/830761

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About This Brief

    Credits:

  1. Editor — Flint McGlaughlin
  2. Writer — Brian Alt
  3. Contributor — Aaron Rosenthal
  4. HTML Designer — Cliff Rainer

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