If you really MUST use long copy, do it right

Now and again someone involved in a get rich quick scheme asks me to write a 22 page sales letter, or a 40 page sales letter to put on a one page website. I always say no. It might work better in the USA than it does here, but as a rule over-egging it is a marketing no-no. You can be much cleverer than that.

Formatting long copy so people can read it easily

If you’re hell bent on using long copy – online or offline – make the best of  a bad job by formatting it so people can read it easily.  Why? Because people find it hard to read onscreen, they tend to scan. They’ll ignore dense chunks of copy and you’ll risk not getting your main messages across. Unsatisfied, your visitors will soon leave.

When people read web copy they unconsciously search for visual clues, or ‘landmarks’, that tell them whether they’re in the right place. In much the same way as we scan newspaper headlines to decide which articles to read. We like to avoid having to read the detail until we’re sure it contains stuff we want to know.

So, what do you to do to maximise the effectiveness of long (or short) web page layout? The trick is to make it easy for your readers to scan, understand and read your text, taking all the hard work out of it.

Four top tips about long copy

  • Keep your copy to a single column in a vertical block like a book – no need to reinvent the wheel, books are very comfortable to read
  • Keep an eye on your column width. It should be reasonably narrow… again, book page width is ideal. Wide columns make it hard for our eyes to track from the end of one the line to beginning of another, giving us a lumpy ride. On the other hand, too-thin columns make your copy feel jerky and restless
  • Make sure you use plenty of subheads so visitors can easily scan a page before they commit to reading it
  • Craft the subheads so they give a clear outline of what you’re talking about in each section. Subheads should guide the reader through your story’s key points, emphasising the benefits of buying your stuff
  • Indent important bits of copy. Or use bullet points and lists. This lets you emphasise key points and break up what might otherwise be a fat, unfriendly block of text. The longer your copy on a page, the more important it is to use subheads and indents. This way you convey visually that your content is going to be easy to read and understand
    before they even start reading