COPE-ing with Copy 201: Does Size Matter?

Last week, I gave you the intro. Now, let’s get into the nitty gritty on how to COPE with content!

So how much copy is too much? It all depends on the content you’re providing. For most businesses, you’re offering your clients content on one of three types of pages: a product/program sell page, a product/program info page, and a news section or blog.

So let’s start with the latter first.

Blogs & News: When I got my start writing, my newspaper ran articles of about 500 words/2,500 characters. Today, on Web sites, I still think that’s a pretty fair number for most “news” content types.

Those 500 words are flexible enough to allow you enough space to provide your reader with a solid understanding, whilst being rigid enough to ensure that writers have only enough space to stick to the topic at hand.

But some clearly don’t agree. Recently, a colleague of mine told me that an editor suggested to him that 300 words is the ideal length for a column. My friend explained that 300 words would barely allow him to sum up the subject and certainly leave no room for any context or examination. For an opinion piece or column, that’s a self-defeating restriction. For a news item, though, it may be doable.

So how do you view your news site/blog? Is it a strict repurposing of news items culled from other sources or are you actually sharing content that you create yourself? Is it all text or a combination of visuals (images, video) and words?

I think the definition of blogging is changing. Back in the day, blogs were much shorter, bite-sized (250-300 word) opinion pieces. I considered (and still do) myself an opinion columnist – creating longer-form opinion pieces that run anywhere from 600 to 1,000 words (and sometimes more). The Facebooks, Twitters, Pinterests, and Tumblrs of the word have taken over that market initially served by early blogs, increasing tolerance for corporate blogs to run longer content.

Again, there’s no right or wrong – it’s all up to your readers’ tolerance.

And you can cater to varying degrees of tolerance and formatting requirements by creating defined content blocks. Obviously, you’ll have the title field (which we’ll talk about in the next blog) and the body content, but the other components can be just as important.

A character-limited summary may be of value. Not only can it be used for quick scanning of multiple articles on a mobile device, but you could repurpose that summary on a Facebook page or in an HTML newsletter – always driving your customers back to your primary site to read the rest of the content.

Don’t forget pull-out quotes, photo captions, sub-heads, bylines, dates, sidebar content, and graphics. All of these can be defined in your CMS, making it easy for even the most non-techy back-end users to create content-rich, dynamic pages that draw people into the what truly matters -- the message..

And while you can incorporate many of the aforementioned content blocks on your most important page – your product/program pages – you may want to consider content length.

Product Pages: There are two schools of thought on the Web: one is that people don’t read on the Web, have no attention span, and can’t consume any more than 2,000 characters in a single sitting; the other is that the Web provides you with virtually unlimited space, so why not use it?

I fall somewhere in between. My experience is that no matter how long or short your copy is, people will read it if it's good quality. Conversely, if the copy is terrible, no committment to brevity will compensate.

So why not take a "best-of-all worlds" approach and use multiple options to reinforce your message.

You have a product or program that you want to sell? Start with a concise “intro”-type page that provides your customers (both existing and potential) with punchy, informative sales copy rich with clear call to actions (contact us, get more information, buy now!).

And are there those of you out there going into apoplectic twitching at the thought because, "We have so much more content! People want to read it! We need to put everything out there."

A) No. ALL People don't want that. B) Some people are actively turned off by reams of copy. C) You have options.

Keep your primary site landing areas brief, marketing-friendly, and easily scannable, but use that aforementioned call to action to direct people to a "more information" page to share the rest of your content. 

There are those who search and know exactly what they want and they’re looking for a quick conversion; then there are those who want to thoroughly research a purchase, have their questions answered, and infer confidence in your business from the copy you provide. There’s an argument that suggests the higher the price point, the more information people require to justify the purchase. Again, if your copy’s terrible, no volume of text is going to convert into sales.

And don’t underestimate the value of your mobile users -- an increasingly important (and growing) segment. How easy will it be for them to quickly scan your content and get the most relevant information?

There is no one-size-fits-all type of customer, so why treat your copy that way? Define your key messages, make sure they're addressed up front in an easily scannable, digestible format, then bolster your message with links to supportive copy. 

Remember, quality will always trump quantity – no matter how much or how little you choose to create.

Next up... putting all of this into practical application. How to define content areas, make it easier for people to create content, and increase the return on your investment of time and resources by making your content work for you by Creating it Once and Publishing it Everywhere.

Questions Answered

How long should my Web page copy be

Do I need to put all the product information on one page?

How long should my blogs be?

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