[Update: this related post by Carsten Cumbrowski puts my analysis here to shame. Very worthy of a read if you want to learn how black-hat affiliate marketing works.]
Just about everyone knows that spam is part and parcel of life. We just live with it and try to do our best to minimise the impact it has on our daily lives. Unfortunately spam is a particular issue for the SEO industry, as unscrupulous search marketers often turn to spamming techniques to make a quick dollar.
I get my share of spam at Red Cardinal. Generally I just delete the crap left by ‘kind’ spammers (like Cork Web Design Spammers), but occasionally I do a little digging to see what some of the particularly nasty spammers are at. More about spammers a little later – but first, let me tell you what I think of ‘Long Copy’.
I like to include screen shots of pages in my posts. I have a nifty little app that lets me grab entire screen shots from within the browser, not just the visible area.
I wanted to include the sales pages for two SEO tools, both of which use ‘long copy’. Here’s the screen shot of the two pages:
These pages are so ‘long’ that I had to reduce them by a factor of ~14 just to get them that small. Maybe they’re ‘Really Long Copy’, if there is such a thing. (If you want to view those pages in all their glory I’ve ‘published’ the URLs a little further down the page. In case you’re wondering what this is all about I’ll come clean in a second.)
These pages appear to be affiliate sites for two well known SEO tools. I’m not 100% sure what’s going on with these pages as they don’t appear to have affiliate IDs appended to the outgoing URLs. Perhaps the affiliate program uses HTTP referrers for identification. Perhaps these pages are actually proprietary sales pages. I’m don’t know for sure.
So what’s the problem with those sales pages? Purely my opinion, but they look and feel like ‘get-rich-quick’ pitches to me. The message I hear sounds like ‘I’ll sell you this great benefit. But wait, there’s more. Buy now and I’ll include x and y’. Yes, lots of marketers defend this technique. And I know it’s true that ‘long copy’ can be effective, but only when the content is compelling and does not feel like I’m being ‘sold’.
When I see long copy pages like these I just turn off completely. As I mentioned, I just think ‘get rich quick’.
I’ve stuck my neck out on this issue once or twice (hello Copyblogger). I sometimes wonder if perhaps long copy is a peculiar American technique that we just don’t fall for this side of the pond? (And if you’re interested Brian Clarke, a.k.a. Copyblogger, has written a post about the death of long copy.)
So taking a step backward for a moment. Why am I highlighting those two affiliate pages? Keyword Elite and SEO Elite are marketed and sold by Bryxen Software (a firm owned by Brad Callen I believe). As with so much of the US on-line marketing industry, Bryxen uses ‘Long Page’ techniques to sell there software. They also make heavy use of affiliate programs to multiply their sales. A couple of weeks ago Red Cardinal received multiple comment spam like the following:
SEO Elite | +http://SEOElite.gurubuddy.com | IP: 188.8.131.52seo firm…Automate your link building efforts and rank high in the search engines easily….
SEO Elite | +http://SEOElite.gurubuddy.com | IP: 184.108.40.206
Automate your link building efforts and rank high in the search engines easily….
Killer Keyword Tool | +http://Keywordelite.find-your-stuff.com | IP: 220.127.116.11keyword lists…Generate huge laser-targeted low competition, high demand keyword lists in minutes….
Killer Keyword Tool | +http://Keywordelite.find-your-stuff.com | IP: 18.104.22.168
Generate huge laser-targeted low competition, high demand keyword lists in minutes….
These comments were dropped on multiple posts, and, as you can see above, were left by the same IP. Odd? I think not. Probably the same bot. Checking the WHOIS shows find-your-stuff.com registered to someone in Singapore, while gurubuddy.com is privately registered.
Both of the tools being promoted are from Bryxen Software (Brad Callens company +http://www.bryxensoftware.com/), and the linked sites appear to be affiliates.
I am sure of one thing – spamming blog comments with links to long copy pages, such as those pictured above in miniature, is one of the main reasons the SEO industry has such serious reputation problems. It is very, very hard to blame people for viewing the SEO industry with suspicion. After all, every day the results of spammers litter our websites and pollute our on-line experience.
The reputation problem is only compounded given that the products marketed by the above spammers are well-known SEO tools: comment spam + SEO tools = SEO spammers. And how can we blame people for making that connection.
I’m very interested in your thoughts on ‘long copy’, and whether you have been converted by a ‘long copy’ page like the ones above.
I neither own nor use either of these tools. They may well be excellent tools, and perform their respective task extremely well – I don’t know. But if you want to do the world a favour, don’t buy products that are marketed by spammers.
Of all the long copy pages I have been forced to endure, I usually end up about 1/4 of the way down the page when I stop reading it and start looking for the end. It’s too much like watching an infomercial for a real estate guru where they parade person after person in front of you but never actually tell you anything. Nothing yells “SCAM!!” like long copy.
Comment by Justin — February 26, 2007 @ 3:20 pm
Interesting view. I’m presuming from your site that your State-side?
Comment by Richard Hearne — February 26, 2007 @ 3:33 pm
I was also getting a lot of the same spam from the crowd you’ve mentioned.
As for the long copy, not into it myself as scrolling takes effort.
Comment by Gavin — February 26, 2007 @ 9:25 pm
The objective of long copy is to reach as many potential buyers as possible while also telling a credible story.
The credible story normally looks at:
1. What is the Problem? 2. Why hasn’t the problem been solved? 3. What is possible? 4. What is different now? 5. What should you do now?
Reaching as many people as possible usually means approaching the ‘conversion’ from as many different angles as possible.
A spontaneous type personality may just read the first paragraph and buy, whilst a methodical personality type will want to read the whole page and maybe even more before they buy.
I agree that sometimes its gets a bit OTT, but there is value in long copy if you follow a tried and trusted blue print.
Comment by Peter Cullen — February 27, 2007 @ 11:12 am
@Gavin – I like your style.
@Peter – It’s nice to get a copy writers perspective on this. I just feel that a fair proportion of all the long copy I see borders on spam. I also wonder what type of customer does long copy attract? My feeling is that long copy is quite well suited to ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes?
Have you done much long copy for the Irish market by any chance? Or do you have any figures for its effectiveness? It’s something I’v wondered about for a long time.
Comment by Richard Hearne — February 27, 2007 @ 11:37 am
Yes, I have recently created copy directed at the UK and Irish market. It takes a while after launch to see how visitors are using the pages, but so far this month we are seeing between 4-6.5% of visitors going to the ‘order page’.
Its a medical product that we’re selling and long copy suits it to explain the advantages of it and how it solves a problem.
Comment by Peter Cullen — February 27, 2007 @ 1:54 pm
I personally hate long copy; again it yells scam. I’ve read long copy from people that I know are not scammers, and all it serves to do is to make me start to question whether they really are legitimate, and to get annoyed that they are wasting my time! I prefer a brief statement of what a product / service is about, along with a link to a website that has lots of information about the product so that I can conduct my own research if I am interested, without being sold to. This also allows those that are ready to buy to avoid the long read, and can get on with buying. I’ve not met anyone in Australia (on the receiving end) who does like long copy, but I guess there must be some out there.
Comment by Heather Maloney — February 27, 2007 @ 9:05 pm
Do you have the full urls for the spam? Those which you posted are not the redirect urls used by the spammer. To make them not linkable wrap them in the PRE HTML Tag and exclude the HTTP ://
Comment by Carsten Cumbrowski — March 2, 2007 @ 8:59 pm
Some of the negative reaction to long copy might be explained by the fact that you are not the ideal customer for the product, and maybe wouldn’t have bought with shorter copy anyway. So you’re blaming the length of the copy and not the fact that it’s not the best fit for you.
I’ve heard that long copy generally outperforms short copy, but the country differences would be interesting to analyze.
Comment by Peter Koning — March 2, 2007 @ 10:57 pm
It was actually comment spam, and those were the URLs left in the website field. Appears to be the same basic behaviour – no HTTP referrer and you get ‘Website Under Construction’. Although right now I cant get this to redirect at all. I should have taken a look at the server headers when I first saw this
Comment by Richard Hearne — March 3, 2007 @ 10:59 am
It’s very true that I am the worst test case for this experiment, but I’ll be honest and tell you that in most cases it doesn’t matter what the product is – I simply wont read a page like thisregardless of whether it’s selling me SEO software or gardening tools.
I’d love to find someone outside the States who would convert from this form of copy. I’ve also heard that long copy converts, but I’m sceptical that this would be confirmed outside the US.
Best rgds Richard
Comment by Richard Hearne — March 3, 2007 @ 11:03 am
Richard, too bad.. anyhow.. regarding copy length. How did Anne Holland put it. The debate if longer or short copy is better is like the debate if people prefer the ocean or the mountains.
There is no general right and wrong. It depends on the product or service offered and the targeted audience.
US Case Studies show that a longer copy usually performs better for high priced items, $500 and more. The opposite is true for freebies where you want to get the visitor to signup with his email address to get something for free to. In those cases is shorter better.
Another interesting fact is that women tend to read more of the copy than men. So if you want to generalize it, the copy can be a bit longer if you target women. Cut it down a bit, if you target men.
If you are serious into this topic, I recommend to get the Landing Page Handbook from Marketing Sherpa. I know, it’s almost $250, but it’s worth it. I bought it myself. It’s compact, straight forward, no bs and no clutter. As I said, only if you are serious about it, does it make sense to spend that much money. p.s. and yes I get commission if you use the link on my website. I linked to it on plenty occasions without affiliate link because I honestly recommend it, but I also have to pay bills soo.. take it as that.
p.s. The Email marketing benchmark guide is also good read and I am certain that you already have an account at e-consultancy and access to the UK benchmarks and stats (which are a bargain compared to the Sherpa stuff )
[ Owner’s edit I removed those links – if anyone is interested in the material they can be found on Carsten’s site which is linked from his name. Sorry Carsten ]
Comment by Carsten Cumbrowski — March 3, 2007 @ 12:26 pm
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