Direct Response Copywriter on Why Long Copy Beats Short Copy

EVERYONE in direct marketing knows the following …


And …

Long copy, provided it’s thoroughly salient and written by a professional direct response copywriter, ALWAYS outperforms short copy. We base the above on decades of actual sales data. In the world of branding advertising, copywriters believe that a couple of photos with a few words of copy will create a flood of new customers. They’re wrong. We know that longer copy will always outperform short copy.

Let me explain why …

• When a prospect is reading copy and they’re genuinely interested in the product or service, they’re often looking for that one benefit or feature they really, really want. Long copy gives me the opportunity to include EVERYTHING … including that one sentence that will motivate the reader to buy. • For each promotion, I like to try to include 40 proof elements. Longer copy provides room for as many proof elements as possible. • When a prospect sees long copy, they subconsciously think, “there must be something to this.” But when they see short copy, they quickly move to the next product or service. • For each promotion, here’s how readership works.

o One third will glance at the copy and make a decision. o One third will look at the headline, the subheads, the photos, the captions, and some of the body copy … then buy. o One third will read every word three times … then buy.

• So … with long copy, you gain sales from all three types of reader. With short copy, you lose the 2/3rds of prospects who are looking for more information. • When someone is genuinely interested in the product or service, you cannot provide them with enough information. It’s especially true when the product or service is expensive. With short copy, the reader will soon leave your message and start to find information elsewhere. Who knows what they will find. There could be a lot of negative reviews on nefarious websites. But with long form copy, it’s much, much easier to control the message and keep the prospect from wandering off. • If you’re competing against another company and you have more information than your competitors, you’re ALWAYS going to win. • Long form copy gives you the ability to charge higher prices more often and get out of the “race to the bottom” price battle. It’s because long-form copy means you can justify the higher price for the superior product you’re offering. • You can overcome objections and this instantly means you will generate more revenue. • I can overcome skepticism in long-form copy. I can’t in short copy.

People who believe copy is too long forget two things.

• People still read … a lot … when they’re genuinely interested in something. • The only metric that really counts … revenue … shows that long-form copy generates more MONEY than short-form copy.

The most successful companies in direct response use long-form copy. It’s a huge part of their success.

Famous copywriter Gary Bencivenga sells a series of DVDs from his retirement seminar. The cost? $5,000. The length of the copy? 30,000 words. When Boardroom sold subscriptions to a newsletter for $39 a year, the copy was 36 pages long.

When I sell a golf training aid that costs around $50, I write at least 4,000 words of copy and the copy generates tens of thousands of dollars … out of thin air. The tactic that always worked the best was … long-form copy written by an experienced direct response copywriter.

How Long is Long Enough?

Famous copywriter Clayton Makepeace says, “the copy needs to be long enough to sell the product.”

In some cases, short copy can get the job done. But in most cases, long copy is going to smash short copy when it comes to actual money generated, short-term and long-term.

In a perfect world, you can test enough to the point where you can determine the perfect length to sell what you’re trying to sell. In almost all cases, the copy that will give you the most revenue will be longer.

When There Isn’t Much Space

There’s only so much I can write in a 2-page letter. There’s only so much I can write on a post card. There’s only so much I can write on a Facebook ad.

So there are plenty of times when I have to write short copy. The fundamentals of direct response copywriting apply. It’s actually more difficult to write short copy because I have to choose what to leave out. In longer copy on a web page, which has no length limit, I can include everything I believe is relevant … everything that will motivate the prospect to try your product or service.

I’ve had plenty of success with shorter copy but when I can write a ton, I’m always the happiest. Why? Because my client is on the road to being very wealthy.

Direct Response Copywriter asks, "Long or Short Copy?"

Should direct response copy be long or short? To begin to answer this question, it's vital to understand skepticism...especially Internet skepticism.

If you’ve seen the work of the excellent Herschell Gordon Lewis, a direct response copywriter, then you’ve read something along the lines of “we live in the age of skepticism.”

He’s right, of course.

But potential buyers have always been skeptical. It’s always “the age of skepticism.” And with the pullulation of information, readers, somewhat ironically, have become more skeptical: they have more information and more access to more information but they're still skeptical.

According to the official Google blog, there are more than 1 trillion unique URLs but even the engineers at Google are stumped when it comes to estimating the total number of pages. From the blog...


So how many unique pages does the web really contain? We don't know; we don't have time to look at them all! :-) Strictly speaking, the number of pages out there is infinite…


Marketers are partly to blame for the information avalanche. Sadly, many of these Internet marketers tell blatant lies. Once a reader falls prey to an Internet scammer they are less likely to buy a product that’s sold online. It’s understandable and the lies fuel the fire of skepticism.

Due to this skepticism, it’s even more important to provide potential buyers with plenty of information backed by solid proof. In other words, you’d better have long copy versus short copy and the copy must include all the proven elements of long form direct response copy.

(You can use my handy direct response checklist to make sure you have all the elements).

Direct response marketing has never died and it never will but it’s enjoying a renaissance—or a ‘trendification’ if you prefer.

The most successful twenty-something online marketers, the mega-geeks, are more interested in the technology than the tactics. At their core, these kids who grew up spending hours gaming are video-tanned mathematicians who correctly base all their marketing decisions on raw data—as translated by tools like Google Website Optimizer.

For a direct response copywriter, it’s exciting to see these quiet millionaires discover the beauty of direct response marketing. Now they’ve found it and got over the “that must be tacky” hurdle their appetite for direct response knowledge is voracious.

Well guess what? The data is pushing them toward the foundational veracities of direct response marketing.

  • Copy is really, really important.
  • You’d better have a direct response copywriter on your team.
  • There’s no way to measure the impact of branding but you can measure the impact of a new headline...or offer...or price.
  • Black type on a white background converts better than black type on white copy.
  • Always be testing.
  • Feed the testing beast with fresh copy.
  • Long form copy sells more than short form copy.

And so on…

A veteran of direct response marketing could have told the online marketers all this but people in their 20s rarely listen to the sagacity of the now graying direct marketers who relied primarily on mail, radio, and TV to sell what they sold. That’s changing as the geeks download the work of Lewis, Schwartz, Hatch, Ogilvy, and other direct marketers onto their Kindles.

"Guess what?" they say to each other. "This direct marketing stuff KICKS ASS!"

A company called Conversion Rate Experts recently helped a client, Crazy Egg, improve revenue by a staggering 510%.

The tactic? A long form sales page.

Here’s the case study.

Here’s the copy.

The challenger increased revenue by 510%. 


Yes—long form is more expensive and yes, it takes a little longer to develop and create but the numbers tell the truth: 510% increase in revenue. The ROI must have been jaw-dropping.

If you’re selling an expensive product or if you’re selling something that’s innovative or new or if the product’s value proposition isn’t instantly obvious, then long form copy is mandatory. How long is long enough? The copy needs to be long enough to sell what’s being sold.

As David Ogilvy said:

The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.


In the age of a trillion website pages, one direct response truth ironically remains rock-solid: when someone is genuinely interested in what you provide, you cannot provide them with enough information...and proof…and bullets…and attention grabbing headlines…and Johnson boxes…and embedded video…and irresistible offers…and every direct response tactic in the book.

With so much information available so quickly, it’s tempting to believe that readers don’t have the capacity to concentrate.


If the copy is enticing, salient, and relevant, the reader will read—then buy. If you’re skeptical about this, the data proves it.

Long form copy, written by a competent and experiened direct response copywriter, sells more than short form copy.

If you’re skeptical about this, the data proves it. 


I'm a direct response copywriter. I specialize in providing content and copy for the direct marketing environment for clients around the planet. I specialize in sales page copy, landing page copy and copy that just plain persuades readers to pull out their credit card and buy. Enter your info to the right for my free series: Seven Steps to High Converting Copy. Or contact me here if you have a project you'd like me to quote.