So who’s right? Let’s start with a quick look at both sides of the argument.
Short v. Long: The Arguments
In the red corner, we have Team Short. These guys believe that web users don’t ever really read anything – their time is too precious. They merely skim down the page until they’ve found what they’re looking for.
Those who believe in the power of short copy argue that people are put off by large blocks of text, which they’ll never have time to read. They think it’s better to use images and graphics. Or keep it short and sweet so that people’s attention is drawn to the main point.
Over in the blue corner we have Team Long. They passionately believe that long copy is the route to success. More copy means more chance of a sale. More copy means a greater opportunity to convince people that this product, service or business is what’s missing from their lives.
Plus, longer copy is better for SEO purposes. Webpages need a sufficient amount of text otherwise search engines won’t be able to find or index their site, leaving it to languish in the depths of the internet.
The reality is both sides have a point. Many web users are flighty, fickle creatures. If they land on a webpage that’s cluttered with text and they can’t find what they’re looking for quickly, they will simply leave and try elsewhere. If the amount and density of the text is such that the webpage takes too long to load, they won’t even bother waiting. So too much text can certainly be a problem.
However, too little text also has its faults. A webpage generally needs a minimum of 300 words for SEO purposes. A landing page needs to be optimised for certain keywords in order for search engines to find it, and these words needs to be naturally incorporated into the copy so that it reads well. Plus, it has to be long enough for search engines to find and index the content.
There is also an argument that shorter copy may attract a lower quality of lead. It may be effective if your goal is simply to have more people sign up to your email list, or download a free eBook. But these leads require a lower barrier of entry and may not be as effective in leading to a sale or conversion.
Essentially, the length of your copy should depend more on other factors, such as your target audience, the products and services you’re promoting, your business goals, and your brand and reputation. It should be as long as it needs to be (bearing in mind the 300-word minimum). And no longer.
When you’re writing your copy, only include the points that help to strengthen your argument and make a persuasive presentation. And leave out everything else. Studies have shown there is a 58 percent rise in usability if you halve the words on a page, so make your text concise and keyword optimised. Concentrate purely on the quality of your words, not the quantity. As the popular saying goes:
Don’t worry about your word count. Worry about making your words count.
Organising Your Text
Equally as important as the quality of your words, is the quality of their presentation. You may need more text to guide your visitors around your website and make your main points. Fine. But it has to be presented to your visitors in a manner that’s easy to read and quick to digest.
Studies indicate that we read approximately 28 percent of words on a webpage, so your content needs to be skimmable, with targeted keywords easy to find. Use keyword-optimised headings and sub-headings to help guide your visitors to the points they’re looking for, and always make the first 2 or 3 words of each section count.
Break up your text into manageable chunks, and make use of bulleted lists and formatting (italics and bold) to highlight important words or phrases. Make use of graphics and images to emphasise your message. And remember the importance of whitespace on a page – if your text feels cluttered, it will put people off reading it.
When organising the copy on your page, it’s also worth bearing in mind a concept used by newspaper editors. ‘Above the fold’ refers to the placement of the most important text in the prominent space above the newspaper fold. In web terms, this refers to the part of the page that appears in your browser before you start scrolling down. So organise your text so your key message is the first thing your visitors see.
When writing copy for your website, don’t worry too much about your word count, as long as you hit the important 300-word minimum. Concentrate instead on making sure your writing is concise, keyword optimised, and includes the bare essentials for its purpose. Organise your content into manageable chunks that are easy to navigate and visually interesting. Remember, you only need to include the most important information on your landing page, and you can include links to other pages where people can read more information, should they wish.
What are your thoughts on the length of text that should be on a webpage? Do you have anything to add to the discussion? Join in the conversation in the comments below.