One of the biggest questions in landing page research today is how much content should the landing page have?
There are two main schools of thought. There are those who insist upon a short landing page that is light on content and high on CTA power. And then there are those whose testing and analysis have led them to adopt a long-form landing page with lots of content.
What’s the right amount of content?
To answer this question, I’m going to back up and look at the whole idea behind a landing page, and then show you some examples of successful landing pages and their word counts.
By the time you finish reading this article, you should have a strong sense of how many words your landing page should have.
What’s a landing page for?
A landing page is for conversions, plain and simple. But in order to get to the conversion, you have to ramp up using other elements — words being the primary tool in this pursuit.
A landing page needs to capture the user’s attention instantly. After that, you can focus on engaging the user’s interest. Finally, you try to attract the visitor’s purchase.
Thus, each landing page has a three-fold cognitive task — to 1) get attention, 2) turn that attention into interest, and 3) translate that interest into action.
It goes in that order …
- Capture attention. The best blog headlines should fulfill this function.
- Engage interest. The bulk of the content carries out this task. It could include videos, images, etc.
- Persuade to action. Here is where you use your CTA to drive the visitor to a conversion.
Let’s take a look, then, at the process of carrying a user through this three-fold cognitive process, and how many words each section should contain.
Landing Page Requirements and Word Count
Now that we have a framework for the goal of a landing page, we need to chart out how many words a landing page should have, based on the requirements of a landing page.
1. Use a powerful summary headline: 15 words (max.)
The headline is your most important landing page feature. And you need one.
Oli Gardner of Unbounce writes, “There are 5 must-have core elements on any landing page.”
His first element is “The main headline” under the rubric of the “unique selling proposition.” This isn’t an optional feature of a landing page. It is indispensable.
So how long should a headline be? … Simply put, it should be brief.
As legions of marketers have opined over the ages, “you have seconds to gain a user’s attention.” Once this attention is captured by means of a headline, you get that visitor to stay longer.
Nielsen called this the “hazard function,” which is basically “the likelihood of leaving” as statistically plotted on the axis of time spent on the page so far.
As you can see, the longer a visitor is on the page, the less likely he or she is to leave.
Nielsen pegged the magic number at 10 seconds.
As the first 10 seconds tick away, the user is at her highest likelihood of bouncing off the page. This is where the power of headline length becomes obvious.
How long does it take the average reader to read your headline? As long as you’re within the 10-word guideline, it takes around two seconds for a visitor to read your headline. (Based on the average adult reading rate of 250 words per minute.) The remainder of their 10-second acclimation period is spent analyzing the design and UX of your site.
Here’s how Morgan Brown at Digital-Telepathy says it:
“If you can’t summarize what the user will get from you in five words or less, keep iterating until you can. In most cases, cute or clever wording doesn’t convert. People won’t work that hard to figure out what you’re trying to say. Be specific, be brief, and be compelling.”
To clarify, Morgan explains that “The headline itself can be longer than five words and should be tested — but if what you’re selling/offering can’t be distilled to that level, it’s probably too complex or lacks focus.”
Basically, don’t make your headline too long.
But what is too long?
To answer this question, I analyzed a random sampling of successful PPC landing pages, performed a test on headline length, and summarized my results:
|Landing Page||Headline Word count|
|Super Stock Jockey||6|
|Brokers for Life||6|
|Mines Press Pens||7|
|Ganxy Ebook Sales||11|
|Grab a Coffee with the Brendans||5|
|Do You Have Asthma?||8|
|Bounding Box Boxing||7|
|Tap for Tap||5|
2. You should fully inform your users about the product or service. (100-1,000 words)
The second main function of a landing page is to provide information.
Don’t miss this.
Your word count should contain as many words as it takes to provide information about the product. There is no such thing as too much information. Users can stop scrolling and start converting whenever they want to.
In 2013, eBay dropped a research bomb on the PCC community, which essentially stated that PPC is ineffective.
The title was bland enough: “Consumer Heterogeneity and Paid Search Effectiveness: A Large Scale Field Experiment.” But the content itself was anything but bland.
In the research, they tore down every perceived advantage of PPC, and showed that it was useless.
Though much of their research was misguided or myopic, they did have some good things to say about PPC, which suggested correctives to some of the mistaken notions of PPC landing pages. One of these had to do with information:
To interpret our results in light of the economics literature, consider the informative view of advertising, which suggests that advertising informs consumers of the characteristics, location and prices of products and services that they may otherwise be ignorant about. This will promote competition among producers, and allow consumers to find better and/or cheaper products for purchase. Intuitively, SEM is an advertising medium that affects the information that people have, and is unlikely to play a persuasive role. It is possible that display ads, which appear on pages without direct consumer queries, may play more of a persuasive role, affecting the demand of people who are interested in certain topics.
Their point was that advertising is for information. And PPC (which they refer to as SEM) is effective as an information platform, and not as a persuasive platform.
I differ from eBay, because I believe that every good PPC landing page should be and can be persuasive, I agree, however, with their insistence upon the information value of advertising, even paid search advertising.
As you conduct a PPC campaign, never assume a user’s knowledge level unless you are using a highly specific longtail keyword. Design a landing page to deliver information, regardless of how much information that requires. Don’t assume that they know about your product and are ready to convert. Remember the buy cycle?
As the user cycles through “recognition of needs,” “evaluation of options,” and “resolution of concerns,” he or she needs information.
Information is persuasive.
So to creep back to the original question: How many words should you use?
The cop-out answer is as many as it takes. But this is also a very good answer.
Why? Because, at this point, we need to suspend our interest in word count to focus on the overarching cognitive fulfillment for every landing page — to engage interest.
Remember Nielsen’s chart on the enduring visitor dwell time as the seconds tick away? The longer a user stays, the more likely they are to stay even longer.
So, here’s what you need to do: dish out information.
Remember, not all information is in word form. Videos work, too. Images are a must-have. And diagrams, infographics and interactive elements are all equally compelling and informative.
By way of example, here is the landing page for the VW Jetta:
When people consider buying a car, they want information: What does it look like? How much does it cost? What features does it have? What is its MPG?
3. Write persuasive copy (up to 1,000 words)
Finally, you turn up the persuasive power. This can come in two forms:
Obviously, all along the landing page has been using information as its own persuasive technique. This persuasive copy is extra.
More words mean more information. And more information means higher persuasive power.
ExpressWriterTeam remarks, “landing pages that rank well … are 500-1,000 words of original well-written content in length,” and “your minimum word count should be no less than 700-800 words.”
Another source, SEODesignSolutions, looks for a lower count: “I typically suggest 500-750 words on a page for clients (for their preferred landing pages).”
That’s a lot of words. You can choose to pour a lot of additional content into actual persuasive techniques (beyond the information), or simply go straight for the CTA.
The CTA itself is a work of gleaming persuasive power, but it’s not long. In fact, it could be just a few words.
Here are some examples:
1. Unbounce: 9 words, plus eight persuasive words.
2. Impact: 2 words
3. Basecamp: 6 words
4. Bills.com: 3 words
5. SweetIQ: 10 words
… and 3 words
Whether you choose to juice up the landing page with persuasive stuff is up to you. But whatever you do, you need a good, strong, obvious CTA.
Great Landing Pages and Word Count: A Study
To conduct this study, I analyzed the landing pages in HubSpot’s 2014 report of A+ landing pages. These pages were selected based on a variety of factors, including UX, visual appeal, inclusion of important elements, and overall success. I performed a full-page copy (CTRL+C) and word paste (CTRL+V) into http://wordcounter.net/. Thus, my word count analysis does not account for words that are part of images.
Unbounce Landing Page Course: 607 words
Unbounce is one of the best landing page creators on the planet. Their landing page has “fluid design” and an intuitive flow. The content capture form is short and simple. A large red button gives a compelling CTA boost.
Impact’s Guide to Inbound Marketing: 207 words
This landing page is heavy on the testimonials. It also has a strong visual interface with dark tones. The “free download” CTA is large, obvious and above the fold. There is no capture form. All the necessary elements for a conversion are positioned above the fold, but sufficient information is contained below the fold to make it persuasive. It’s a bit heavy on the information requested, unfortunately.
Basecamp: 499 words
Basecamp always creates some of the most brilliant landing pages. Although the visual design may not be hip or snazzy, the landing pages themselves are models of success and best practice. This landing page is compelling, quick and heavy on persuasion techniques of all variety.
Bills.com: 246 words.
Bills.com uses a strategic interactive landing page form. While their content is slim, their interactivity is its own form of information, which is the whole idea behind having additional content. Most of the content is in the legal disclaimer.
SweetIQ: 142 words
SweetIQ lands on HubSpot’s list with a disclaimer as to its ho-hum design. Despite this flaw, it has a great layout and nice icon elements with clear benefits and features. I would suggest that the wide spaces between the capture forms add an illusion of too-much information, but that’s a small complaint.
Kindle: 4,914 words.
I added the Kindle landing page, because I think it does a great job of providing information and giving persuasive power. This landing page is huge. It’s almost book length. The screenshot below only contains the above-the-fold portion.
Remember, it’s not all about the word count. It’s about a lot of things. But word count is a factor, and it’s probably bigger than you think.
Words are the tools behind every cognitive purpose that a landing page must fulfill:
- Words capture attention. A brief headline.
- Words engage interest. A lot of informational copy.
- Words persuade to action. Persuasive copy and a compelling CTA.
How many words is the grand total?
As you can see, great landing pages run the gamut from a few hundreds to several thousands. I wouldn’t go much lower … or higher.