13 Surprising Reasons Why You Should Embrace Long Copy in Your Sales Letters
Whether you’re writing a book description for your book on Amazon, or you’re writing advertising copy for your new product to be sold everywhere, you should embrace long copy and not be afraid that no one will read it.
Here are 13 pieces of evidence that long copy still works in our instant video era:
1) Blogs are a popular form of long copy
If there is one proof out there that should convince you that long copy works it’s blogs. Blogs started out as web logs or weblogs, which were essentially ordinary people just pontificating about life’s anomalies.
And then they discovered AdSense, where they can put ads on their blogs and make a little money on the side. And they soon realized they had a real publication on their hands with content that people really wanted to read.
And people do read those blogs. And read, and read. The blogs made money, and they haven’t gone away. There is an old saying that goes like this:
“People don’t like to read.”
It’s a pretty apt saying in our Internet and TV world. With video and podcasts at our finger tips, why would anyone read? I’ll give you the answer in just a moment. But first, you should know that big advertisers as far back as the early twenties complained that no one read.
They uttered those words at a time where the only thing to do for entertainment was read. There was no Internet. There were no videos, there were no podcasts. There was no TV back then. And get this, radio hadn’t even been invented when those words uttered by the advertisers to their agencies.
The trick to getting people to read your blog is to format it properly—which will be mentioned later.
2) The longer the comments on blogs, the more replies
Another area where you can see proof that people don’t mind reading is in the comments area of a blog post.
This can be broken down into two areas. One, more people comment on a blog post (including Linked In posts) if it is long (aside from the fact that it is from an influencer).
But on average, the longer the blog post is, the more comments you can expect.
The second area to look at is how long the comments are. If someone writes an exceptionally long comment, the comment will be up-voted by others (as being helpful).
This is seen as being more helpful and more valuable—as we will discuss below.
3) Amazon reviews with the most words get the most attention
Now, I’ve talked about how blogs are undeniable proof that people like to read. There is another proof element that shows that people like to read.
That proof is Amazon reviews. If you ever look at the reviews, you will see that they are ranked by the most helpful to the least helpful.
The most helpful are usually very long reviews written by someone who has more time on their hands than others.
The least helpful reviews are usually rather short.
So if you want to be seen as not being very helpful, don’t write much. This goes with sales letters, Amazon book descriptions, postcards, etc.
4) Long copy gets shared more
Longer blog posts get shared more.
Legendary marketer Neil Patel had this to say about long posts getting shared more
“Another brilliant example is Wait But Why – a blog that publishes long insightful content (1500+ words) once per week…Their articles go crazy viral earning hundreds of thousands of shares compared to similar short form content.” –Neil Patel, Why 3000+ Word Blog Posts Get More Traffic
There are countless other statistics that show long content gets shared more. Why? Because there is usually something in there for everyone.
This works the same with long copy in sales letters. The more information you provide, the more likely it will be shared.
Let’s not forget that a sales letter isn’t just sell, sell, sell.
Many long sales letters provide lots of valuable information that readers can use and will share with others just like any other article.
In fact, long sales copy in magazines are known as advertorials. They are part advertisement and part editorial content. While it is clearly an advertisement purchases by the advertiser, it is seen as editorial because there is valuable information provided.
So, the share-ability of long form articles is proof that people like to read.
Now, you may be wondering, why would people like to read when we have all this wonderful video at our finger tips?
5) “Skim and Scan” makes it easy to read long copy
People like to read, so they can skim and scan the document before deciding if it is worth it to them to read the whole thing.
While a written document appears in a linear format, it can easily be consumed in a non-linear way.
Any person can start reading a written document in the middle, skip to the top and then jump down to the bottom. With TV and radio, that was impossible.
You had to watch and listen to everything all the way through. You couldn’t skip around.
With the advent of VCRs and DVD players, you could skip around to your heart’s content. But here’s an interesting factoid: Nearly 90% of those videos players’ features were never used by the consumers.
Even when people had the ability to skip around they chose not to. Now, granted we are talking about movies and fun entertainment; not sales pitches. But it is something to think about.
You could have a very long document like a 1,500 words and people will read it on their computer if—and this is a big if—you make it interesting and format it properly.
Many sales letters on the internet can be very long. It is up to a skilled sales copywriter to make it interesting and to advise the visual designers on how to format it properly for maximum selling effect.
Now with videos and audios on the internet, the ability to skip around is becoming more widespread and easier. I do this often when I watch a video on You Tube. But it’s not clear where I am skipping to.
One day, someone will come up with the technology to make it easy to skip around to different parts of the video. Some enterprising people on YouTube have provided a table of contents of their video in the extra content section, so you can skip around to different parts of the video. But here again, a table of contents is written for ease of use.
This doesn’t negate having long form copy. You just have to keep it interesting.
A skilled direct response copywriter can make this work for you. Unlike an ordinary writer, a direct response copywriter knows the proper format and type of content to put into a sales letter for it to get read. More about that later.
So remember, long copy allows people to skim and scan for the good parts. If your copy is really short, your audience will have nothing to skim and scan.
6) Long copy is seen as more valuable
Long form sales letters and blog posts get shared more because they are seen as more valuable.
This was touched upon a little bit above, but it is important to understand that just the visual nature of a long blog post triggers off the “Is this worth reading?” part of the brain known as the amygdala or the hippocampus or some other part that I will just make up and probably spell incorrectly.
But seriously, there is a spot in the brain somewhere that gets triggered when someone sees a long blog post or sales letter.
Just having the visual nature of a long post will stop people in their tracks. This is pretty powerful. I’m sure you experienced this yourself.
You come across an article that’s three measly paragraphs and think, “There’s just not enough meat on here to be worth my time,” even though you could read that article in less than one minute.
But if you came across a big article that is 3,000 words, you would skim and scan it to see if it was worth your time.
And after a while and reading a few intriguing subheads, you would get sucked into the article. And maybe you don’t read the whole thing. You read just enough to satisfy you. And that’s okay. Some articles aren’t meant to read all the way through.
Of course, the format needs to right in order to give people the ability to skim and scan your copy.
7) Long copy allows you to tell your whole story
In a long form sales letter you have the ability to tell your whole story.
There is a very famous ad that sold billions of dollars in subscriptions for The Wall Street Journal. The story was about two men who graduated from college and they were similar in every way, except one worked as an office employee and the other worked as the president of the company. It’s a captivating story, but it couldn’t have been written in a short formatted letter, but the two page letter sold thousands upon thousands of subscriptions.
People want to get to know you, and they want to know whom they are buying from.
Long form—whether it’s for a mail order product or a book you’re selling on Amazon—allows you to tell everything you need to tell. With long copy, you are not likely to leave anything out.
World famous Claude Hopkins wrote long form advertisements about Schlitz Beer. Just like Coke, there is not much you can say about beer, but Hopkins, the skilled copywriter that he was, managed to get people to read his long copy.
He was able to tell his whole story of how Schlitz Beer was “pure” through long copy.
8) Provides for Credibility (person writing it)
Long form copy gives credibility to the person writing it. Long form copy won’t look like you just slapped something together and are looking to make a quick buck. The long form shows you have gone all the way, and you are serious about what you are selling.
The impression you give off is that you thought long and hard about you wanted to say. You believe in what you’re saying. People who have something to hide don’t say a lot. They hope no one will confront them if they just stay quite.
Interesting fact: people who are more boisterous and wear their thoughts on their sleeves are seen to be more honest and more genuine than people who are more quiet.
You will look more like a real, genuine author—whether you are writing a sales letter, a book or a blog post. Many doctors who are selling supplements by direct mail send out magalogs that are 16 pages long just to sell one product! Their authority is seen as genuine because they wrote so much about that one product. He doesn’t look like he’s running some kind of fly-by-night operation.
You will develop a trusting relationships with your customer if you use long copy. How many times have you judged someone or a business before you got to them? We are all too busy analyzing everyone and everything, so we make snap judgments based on past experiences. Your long copy is your opportunity to dispel any ill will that your prospect may have about your industry.
For example, your business may be real estate investing, and the whole industry may have gotten a bad rap since 2008, so it is your job to shake those negative feelings that people have. And you can only do with that with long copy. You won’t’ be able to overcome their objections with just a few words.
9) You can answer all objections in your long form sales copy
Every direct response copywriter is trained to write as much as needed in order to answer any and all objections a consumer may have. These objections may include but are not limited to:
- Why should I buy this product?
- What’s in it for me?
- Why should I buy from you?
- Why should I buy right now?
- Why can’t I find a better price somewhere else?
- It won’t work for me / my business is different.
- Are you qualified?
- What if I don’t like it?
These are just a few objections that a customer may have rolling around in his head. An ad with short copy is will never come close to answering any or all of these objections.
And there is no doubt people will have objections to your product. That’s the mistake many businesses and entrepreneurs make. They think:
“My product is great. How can anyone NOT like my product? It’s simply the best, and it sells itself!”
If you want to get a glimpse of this type of thinking from entrepreneurs and business owners, just watch a few episodes of Shark Tank. While there are many good entrepreneurs with good products and services on that show, many more of them think that their product is a cure-all for everyone, and there is no reason no one would NOT want to buy their product. But sadly, the Sharks have to set them straight with the realities of the world.
Open your eyes wide and look at all the reasons why someone won’t buy your product and service. Be very honest with yourself. And if you let that honestly show a little bit in your ads, you will gain the trust of your potential customers.
If you were a salesman making a house call, you would have plenty of opportunities to answer those objections that your prospect may bring up. Using that as an example, how likely are you to buy a vacuum from a door-to-door vacuum salesman if he said something catch like:
“Hoover vacuums. They suck the life outta, ya.”
“Green’s Landscaping. We know lawns.”
Not much happening there, is there? That’s the way to think of your sales letter—as a salesman who cannot be there. Here are two versions of a phrase about sales copy that was coined by advertising copywriters nearly one hundred years ago:
Both are relevant today. A direct mail piece sent to your prospects does the work of thousands of salesmen, so you need to anticipate every objection, because you won’t be there to answer them.
The longer your sales copy, the more you can answer those objections.
10) Long copy will be seen as something valuable
Your long copy will be seen as something worth reading, because after all it was something worth writing about.
People want to solve problems. Something that is long and addresses a common problem will be seen as more valuable. When you see your doctor for all of 15minutes, do you think you got valuable information? What if your doctor spent an hour with you? Would that increase the value of your experience with the doctor. Would you see her as more credible?
People will value what you have to say that much more if they invest more time into reading it.
World famous Dr. Cialdini mentions in his book, Influence, about the concept of commitment. He states that if people engage in a small task, they will have inadvertently influenced themselves to engage in a larger and more time consuming task.
Using his concept, we can say that if people spend more time looking at your advertisement or sales letter and are getting value out of it, they will feel more of an obligation (to themselves) to move forward with a transaction because they committed themselves to reading your letter.
11) Long copy will be more memorable
Your long form sales letter is going to be much more memorable than a short pithy postcard. Many ads on TV don’t mention the name of the product until the last five seconds.
How long after will you remember their product? My guess is five seconds. But if the product was an infomercial, you’re probably going to remember it all day—and can’t get it out of your head.
Think Snuggie or “Help, I can’t get up.”
So, if you write a long book description on Amazon, you can be sure people will remember it. They may not buy right away. They may have several reasons why they didn’t buy right away. Maybe they don’t have their credit card with them, or they are at work, or they are on the subway looking at their iPhone.
There are many reasons why they won’t buy your book at that moment, but if your long book description was detailed enough, they will remember it and then decide later to buy your book or product. I know this to be true because it’s happened to me dozens of times.
12) Selling Format
A sales letter (and many other sales messages in other media) have a proven format and formula that works most of the time. An ad with short copy will not be able to use this time-tested and proven formula. Here is one such formula:
- Get attention
- Identify the problem
- Provide the solution
- Present your credentials
- Show the benefits
- Give social proof
- Make your offer
- Inject scarcity
- Give a guarantee
- Call to action
- Give a warning
- Close with a reminder
With a short advertisement, you’re not going to get all those components into your ad. Variations of this selling format has worked for years, and there is plenty of evidence to show that it does.
This is in contrast to blanket branding advertising that cannot be measured. Sure, it works on some level with the big brands like Sears and Huggies, but for your small business, you don’t want to attempt to make your sale with just a few words and an improper selling format.
You want to employ a proper sales format that has worked for years. Long copy allows you to do just that.
13) Long copy makes for better SEO
Everybody wants traffic, so a long sales letter or a long blog post will help you get found on the search engines. SEO expert, Brian Dean, writes about his Sky Scraper Technique that helped him increase traffic by 110% in 14 days. That’s very impressive, and I’ve seen similar results throughout my career.
His Sky Scraper Technique basically says to write a very long blog post that is informative and has lots of statistics and references. (And no, this is not the goal of this blog post—although it is coming close to being one of those sky scraper blog posts).
And for the sake of SEO and your audience, you will want to keep your message focused on ONE main idea. People are more adept at focusing on one main idea versus several ideas.
To see this for yourself, look at top ten lists versus blog posts that focus on one main idea. The post with the one main idea will have many more comments because there is only one idea to talk about.
For example, if you look at Listverse.com, you will see that most of the comments devolve into complete nonsense very quickly because there is not one main idea in each of those top ten lists in which to have a meaningful discussion around.
Books and magazines:
Further proof that people “do read.” If you only pick up a magazine “just for the articles,” then you’ll know what I mean when I say that people still do read.
Even Noah Kagan says articles longer than 1,900 do better. I can’t say it better than that.
If there is any doubt about whether you should write long copy or not, let me just say, “Read this post again!”
Long copy is clearly the winner, and people on this planet still do read. Why? Because they want information. They want to solve their problems.
Ash Waechter is a direct response copywriter who helps small businesses sell more products and services online. He also writes SEO copy for attracting readers from around the web.