The long-copy sales page. We’ve all seen them: the one-page website that scrolls on forever, telling you all about a product (usually a single product), full of testimonials, bullet points about features and benefits, and interspersed with BUY NOW buttons. The infamous long-copy sales page. Count me among the majority of  web, marketing, and design professionals who usually find these sites to be unbearably tacky and unprofessional-looking. But despite this response, the fact remains: these pages tend to be pretty successful in meeting their one goal: to sell the product!

Selling products online brings with it an information-balancing challenge: how do you tell a prospect everything he needs to know about your product without overwhelming him? If you have overview text,  technical specs, feature/benefit bullets, testimonials, photos, and a video or two — how do you put all that on a website in a way that you know the user will look at it all, AND look at it in the order that you know is most effective?

Some sites do this by distributing the information about all their products across several pages, and then assuming the potential customer drills down to a product page or PDF that is essentially a product data sheet. But the long-copy sales page does this by placing all the information a person could possibly want about the product right there on a single scrolling page.

What’s the big deal?

The problem with most long-copy sales pages is not that it scrolls on forever and a day. I know we have all been told that copy on a web page should be “above the fold,” but eye-tracking studies are showing that this is simply not necessary. Yes, your logo and quick at-a-glance value proposition should be at the top of your page where it will be front and center as soon as the page is opened. But the details about your product can be as low down on that scrollable page as you want — as long as your page is visually compelling enough and your copy is good enough to get users to actually keep scrolling.

So once again, good writing and design are key. When I see a typical long-copy sales page, it looks like it was done by someone using a preset template in a preset tool and there is no skill or real attention to formatting or quality. These pages make me wonder if the same lack of care and professionalism and quality went into the products that I am being asked to buy. I want something that is polished and professional, not something that was just easy for the person to slap together. (I don’t care that it was easy, I just care that it is quality.)

Five Steps

The trick to a successful long-copy page is to:

  1. Organize the information: Take your huge pile of information about the product and organize it so that it is presented in the right order. Each inch of page must succeed in motivating your user to read the next inch.  For the really technical details, offer PDF downloads or put that in sidebars that the user can see without interrupting the flow of your text.
  2. Apply standards of good writing: Now that you information is organized, rewrite it all. Hire a pro to do your writing if you need to. Your copy should flow, have an active voice, and be compelling. Crisp and to-the-point is important, but give the reader all the information he needs.
  3. Apply standards of good formatting and layout: Make your compelling text more attractive (and readable!) to your readers by providing the visual cues they need. There should be plenty of white space around the text. Lines of text should not be crowded or dense. Use subheads or other forms of hierarchy-demarcation to “chunk” and organize the content for your reader, use sidebars, graphics, pull-quotes, and other tidbits that will add interest without interrupting the flow.
  4. Apply standards of good design: Just because this is a long-copy sales page instead of a glossy brochure, that doesn’t mean you can just slap text up there and call it done. The page must be targeted to your audience–what you design to appeal to consumers will look different from what you design to appeal to corporate VPs.
  5. Provide multiple off-ramps. Not all your readers need to see the whole page. Insert links or buttons at each point where your reader might be ready to buy.

Of course, even if you have the world’s best long-copy sales page, be sure to think through what will happen after you get the user to click the “Buy” button. See my post: Don’t Stop With a Call to Action.  Also, don’t be afraid to think outside of the box. Here’s an example of a site where the content scrolls sideways instead of vertically.

The moral of the story

They’re not for everyone, and they’re not for every type of product, but long-copy sales pages can be an effective way to sell your product IF you take care in the writing and design.

Links you might find interesting

Advertising giants comment on copy length:
http://www.realityassociates.com/Articles/Art-LongCopy.htm

Designing for “above the fold” doesn’t matter any more:
http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/blasting-the-myth-of
http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html

Packing lots of content onto a single page:
http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/851/why-hate-long-sales-pages/
http://www.heartofbusiness.com/organize-sales-pages/
http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/scrolling-tips/

The Long-Copy Sales Page in 5 Steps

We’ve all seen them: the one-page website that scrolls on forever, telling you all about a product (usually a single product), full of testimonials, bullet points about features and benefits, and interspersed with BUY NOW buttons. The infamous long-copy sales page. Count me among the majority ofweb, marketing, and design professionals who find these sites to be unbearably tacky and unprofessional-looking. But despite this response, the fact remains: these pages tend to be pretty successful in meeting their one goal: to sell the product!

Selling products online brings with it an information-balancing challenge: how do you tell a prospect everything he needs to know about your product without overwhelming him? If you have overview text,technical specs, feature/benefit bullets, testimonials, photos, and a video or two — how do you put all that on a website in a way that you know the user will look at it all, AND look at it in the order that you know is most effective?

Some sites do this by distributing the information about all their products across several pages, and then assuming the potential customer drills down to a product page or PDF that is essentially a product data sheet. But the long-copy sales page does this by slapping all the information a person could possibly want about the product right there on a single scrolling page.

The problem with most long-copy sales pages isn’t that there is so much content and that it scrolls on forever and a day. I know we have all been told that copy on a web page should be “above the fold,” but eye-tracking studies are showing that this is simply not necessary. Yes, your logo and quick at-a-glance value proposition should be at the top of your page where it will be front and center as soon as the page is opened. But the details about your product can be as low down on that scrollable page as you want — as long as your page is visually compelling enough and your copy is good enough to get users to actually keep scrolling.

So once again, good writing and design are key. When I see a typical long-copy sales page, it looks like it was done by an someone using a preset template in a preset tool and there is no skill or real attention to formatting or quality. These pages make me wonder if the same lack of care and professionalism and quality went into the products that I am being asked to buy. I want something that is polished and professional, not something that was just easy for the person to slap together. (I don’t care that it was easy, I just care that it is quality.)

The trick to a successful long-copy page is to:

(1) Organize the information: Take your huge pile of information about the product and organize it so that it is presented in the right order. Each inch of page must succeed in motivating your user to read the next inch.For the really technical details, offer PDFs, or put that in sidebars that the user can see without interrupting the flow of your text.

(2) Apply standards of good writing: Now that you information is organized, rewrite it all. Hire a pro to do your writing if you need to. Your copy should flow, have an active voice, and be compelling. Crisp and to-the-point is important, but give the reader all the information he needs.

(3) Apply standards of good formatting and layout: Make your compelling text more attractive (and readable!) to your readers by providing the visual cues they need. There should be plenty of white space around the text. Lines of text should not be crowded or dense. Use subheads or other forms of hierarchy-demarcation to “chunk”: and organize the content for your reader, use sidebars, graphics, pull-quotes, and other tidbits that will add interest without interrupting the flow.

(4) Apply standards of good design: Just because this is a long-copy sales page instead of a glossy brochure, that doesn’t mean you can just slap text up there and call it done. The page must be targeted to your audience–what you design to appeal to consumers will look different from what you design to appeal to corporate VPs.

(5) Provide multiple off-ramps. Not all your readers need to see the whole page. Insert links or buttons at each point where your reader might be ready to buy.

Of course, even if you have the world’s best long-copy sales page, be sure to think through what will happen after you get the user to click BUY. See my post: Don’t Stop With a Call to Actionhttp://www.millermattson.com/blog/don%E2%80%99t-stop-with-a-call-to-action/

The moral of the story

They’re not for everyone, and they’re not for every type of product, but long-copy sales pages can be an effective way to sell your product IF you take care in the writing and design.

Here are some more links you might find interesting:

Advertising giants comment on copy length:

http://www.realityassociates.com/Articles/Art-LongCopy.htm

Designing for “above the fold” doesn’t matter any more: http://www.boxesandarrows.com/view/blasting-the-myth-of

http://www.useit.com/alertbox/scrolling-attention.html

Here are some pages that discuss packing lots of content onto a single page, and also some pages that are examples of long-copy pages:

http://www.entrepreneurs-journey.com/851/why-hate-long-sales-pages/

http://www.heartofbusiness.com/organize-sales-pages/

http://www.conversion-rate-experts.com/scrolling-tips/

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