Perhaps no debate has been greater – or gone on longer – than the one about writing for websites. And usually people fall into one of two camps:
- Team Short Copy: People only want to look at pictures. They don’t read anything. They skim until they find what they want.
- Team Long Copy: The more words you use, the better chance you have of getting that reader to take action. And long copy is better for search engine optimization (SEO)
So who wins? Who’s right? What’s the best way to go?
Well, that just happens to be the focus of this month’s edition of Money-Making Monday Tuesday.
It used to be about the keywords
In the early days of SEO (the mid-1990s), the primary method for getting people to visit a particular webpage was to stick keywords all over it.
That’s why websites were written like this (see if you can identify the keyword):
At the time, there weren’t many businesses with websites. And search engines like Google (1998) and Yahoo! (1995) were relatively new
So the keywords you chose to use – and how often they appeared on your website – were the driving force behind favourable search engine rankings.
You didn’t really need anything else.
Google and web users smarten up
Eventually, search engines and people realized a page stuffed with keywords isn’t really about anything at all.
There’s no real information or value being provided. It was just a page with the same phrase repeated over and over again.
Google took steps to fix this by changing its algorithm. Now, a webpage needs CONTEXT as well as keywords to achieve a high ranking.
Some good elements to include on any webpage include:
- Resources and tips people can actually use
- Images to support the words
- A logical, easy-to-read flow
- Calls-to-action (CTAs) telling people what to do next
And most importantly, it needs to have length.
Imagine you’re a building or landscape supplier and have a 100 word page on your website about topsoil.
To Google, that page isn’t really about topsoil because it’s not long enough to be. There isn’t enough information on that page to benefit anyone reading it.
That means the page won’t get ranked high and people won’t find it or read it.
In short: It needs to be longer.
How many words do I need to use?
Minimum: 300 words per page on your site.
At that length, Google can tell whether a webpage is really about the topic it’s supposed to be and if there’s anything of value on it.
(Oh, and it has to be well-written too. Slapping 300 words of nonsense with some keywords sprinkled in won’t cut it. Google AND people will skip right over it).
Remember, Google is a service. Its job is to serve up the best result based upon what a person is looking for.
Because the page on the left is longer, it has:
- More helpful information (check out the “tips to stay calm” chart that’s on it)
- More images (another way people can instantly identify what the page is about)
- More CTAs (so people have options on what to do next)
Google will serve up the page on the left because it works. It’s also the page which has the best chance of connecting with people.
But I thought people don’t read on the web?
That’s always been a bit of a myth.
People will read long web pages if it’s interesting and provides value.
On the other hand, people won’t read if the text is useless or is written in a way that’s hard to understand.
And as these test results indicate, they certainly won’t act on it either:
- SEOMoz.org ran a test comparing a short-text offer page vs. a long-text offer page. The long-text page received almost 52% more paid memberships vs. the short page.*
- Speedwinds Nutrition tested a page of copy and bullet points against a longer, story-focused webpage. The longer page performed 85% better than the short page.*
- MarketingExperiments.com tested a short copy vs. long copy page. Not only did the long copy page do better by 41%, the short copy page actually lost money for them.*
Take a look at the blog you’re reading right now, for instance. At this point, you are 776 words in.
But it doesn’t feel that way. Here’s why:
- You’re finding it interesting to read (otherwise you wouldn’t be here)
- The sentences are short
- The blog is broken up into various sections
- There are pictures to guide you along
If you write something cool and present it in a way that’s easy-to-follow, people will read it and Google will rank it.
And that’s how you end up getting more business than your competitors.
What if I don’t have much to say?
“I work in a boring industry. It’s impossible to write 300+ words about my products or services.” – Quoted by many of our B2B clients.
If your website doesn’t have long, interesting and SEO optimized content, your competitor’s will.
That could mean the difference between you or them getting the big sale.
If you have product detail pages, be sure to include helpful information such as
- Features and benefits
- Customer testimonials
- Helpful how-to tips
Not only should that get you to the minimum 300 word threshold, but that also includes the rich, informative content search engines and people are looking for.
Blogging for your business is another way to keep your website fresh (which is a very good thing).
In fact, Google actually tests and rewards websites which are updated regularly with well-written, helpful information.
These WEB ROI B2B clients jumped into the world of blogging with impressive results:
- Bond Tech Industries blog The Best Rubber-to-Rubber Adhesives for B2B Companies has had over 10,000 visitors and is responsible for approximately 25% of content conversions.*
- Elreg’s blog What Impacts the Lifespan of an Alternator (and What to Do About It) turns visitors into leads at an 8% clip (2% is considered good).*
*Date range: Jan 1, 2017-Aug 1, 2017
Remember earlier when we wrote that in the mid-1990s, there weren’t many businesses online?
That’s obviously changed. There are tons of company websites all competing for attention.
And what can make your business stand out in a crowded market is content that’s smart; keyword optimized and actually helps people (as opposed to just trying to make a sale).
More things you can do
Once the words draw people into your website, you can keep them there longer or provide more value with things like:
- An introductory video on your about us page
- Helpful infographics
- Offering a free guide or complimentary service
Don’t forget, though: It all starts with the first words people read when learning about your business.
While 300 words sounds like a lot to write, it really isn’t.
And if there are plenty of interesting things you can share about the products or services you offer, you can hit that number easily.
- Score one point for Team Short Copy
On the other hand, long copy has a better chance of converting because it simply has more information to share.
It’s easier to rank on Google and it has more insights which will appeal to more people.
- Score one point for Team Long Copy
It looks like both teams are tied. How can we break this deadlock?
By introducing a third team: Team Well-Written Copy
It doesn’t matter if your webpage has 300 words or 3000 words on it.
If they aren’t thoroughly researched, properly organized and keyword optimized, Team Short Copy or Team Long Copy simply cannot win.
So the correct answer is Team Short Copy and Team Long Copy can win if they have Team Well-Written Copy in their corner.
Not sure what to say on your website? Contact us
Writing copy for your website is tricky. You want to say the right things, but don’t want to appear cheesy or fake.
At the same time, you now have to worry about ensuring your copy is well-written for search engines like Google and humans.
It’s a tough balance, especially if writing really isn’t your thing.
Need help coming up with the right words?
- CONTACT US for a FREE consultation
- BOOK A FREE COMPETITIVE WEBSITE ANALYSIS and have us compare the words (and other elements) of your website against your top competitors