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Who Says People Don't Respond to Long E-mail Copy?

  |  August 6, 2008   |  Comments

Testing with some clients turned up an intriguing trend. Learn more.

I've been hearing for a long time from all the industry pundits that e-mail copy has to be short to work.

I've never really bought it because my client-tested experience is that long copy does very well.

Most of the high-performance e-mails I write tend to fall in the 350-word range -- which when printed, come to about a page and a half.

However, I think this "people don't read e-mail" was starting to permeate my thinking.

In response, I've been top loading my e-mails -- to make sure banners had call-to-action links and that the most powerful information appeared in the initial screen. That has definitely increased response rates even further.

But recently, some testing showed me the people actually read all the way down to the bottom of the e-mail. Not every reader, of course, but those who respond -- and those are the readers we all want.

As part of some testing, I asked my clients to let me know where they got most of their clicks. Was it:

  • The banner?

  • Sidebar hotbox with the big call-to-action button?

  • Body copy? And if so, which links?

Well, the banner got almost a negligible number clicks -- which isn't surprising because people regard e-mail banners like letterhead.

The sidebar hotbox button got the most clicks by a large margin -- which makes sense because it includes a photo and a caption that draws the eye toward it.

What intrigued me most was the response to the links in the body copy. It wasn't the first link that brought in the most revenue -- it was the second link all the way near the end. And that means that action-takers kept reading a long time before they were motivated to click.

I've seen this trend with two different clients, so I think it bears more testing.

Here is what I'm suggesting to my clients: Put at least two action links in your body copy and track results. If you find that you, too, get a significantly higher response to the second link, try some other tests:

  • Add a third link in the body copy and see if that brings your overall response even higher.

  • Add a P.S. with a link at the end of your copy. I had been slipping on using this tried-and-true direct response booster, thinking no one was reading that far in e-mail. Now I'm adding it back on every e-mail to capture the reader who either read the e-mail all the way down -- or skipped to the end.

  • Test the placement of your secondary call-to-action links in the body copy. Do they work best in the very last paragraph, a few paragraphs above or squarely in the middle?

But most importantly, don't write short copy because everyone tells you it's the only way to go. Instead, try testing long copy vs. short copy in a head-to-head test to find out what your audience responds to best.

And be sure that the end of your message is as powerful as your lead-in. It turns out your best prospects are reading both.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Karen Gedney

Karen Gedney, an award-winning creative director and copywriter, shared her insights as a ClickZ Experts contributor from 2000 through 2009. She was known for her successful track record of achieving high e-mail response rates for Fortune 1000 companies and leading organizations. She died Nov. 16, 2010.

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