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You’re a business. You need a new website. And, as part of that website, you need copywriting to provide content for the pages. How do you determine how much content goes on a page, and therefore what you’re paying for when you include copy as part of your website contract?
This is an important question to resolve when discussing the scope of a contract. Pages on the Internet aren’t the same as pages on a paper. Whereas a document page has space limitations, there is theoretically no end to how long an online page could be. You could fit a whole book’s worth of content, and keep going until someone decides to end it.
But doing that will not only blow the scope of work out of the water, it will do a disservice to your visitors. The truth is that some pages need a lot of copy, some pages need only a minimal amount. The right amount of copy all comes down to the page itself, and what you need it to accomplish.
That said, thinking about the purpose of your page helps. Here are a few common page types and what you should plan for in terms of page content.
As we discussed previously, the homepage tends to get the most attention, but it’s often one of the shortest pages on your site—at least in terms of copy. Homepage copy often runs under 300 words, but what it lacks in length it makes up for in messaging.
Your homepage should communicate your high-level brand messaging, and it should help direct visitors to the pages that will be most useful to them. A good homepage is friendly and welcoming and uses a lot of imagery. Density is bad, so leave the heavy copy work for elsewhere.
A function page is what I’m calling your contact page, your log-in page, or any other page that is used only to direct visitors elsewhere. For instance, from a usability standpoint, it’s good for every top-level navigation menu item to be clickable. But that page is usually just a filler page to help direct people who click there to one of the sub-navigation items. You won’t expect visitors to spend a lot of time on this page, it’s mostly just there to avoid a usability problem.
Function pages are light on copy. Think less than 100 words. They’re not designed for SEO purposes, they’re just there to accomplish a basic task. That doesn’t mean they’re not important (they are!)—they just don’t take a lot of copy.
Again, your about page can be long or short—it’s really up to you. 90% of the time, this is just a vanity section of the site. The person who cares most about your About page is you. Most visitors skip over it, and even when they do land on it, it’s probably not going to be the deciding factor in a purchasing decision.
OK, that’s a little harsh. About pages do serve a purpose, and you should care about how you use it to present your business. But you should also be realistic about who’s reading this page and why. Again: this isn’t going to be your big SEO loadstone, nor is this doing the bulk of your conversions. Mostly you want to use this page to communicate that real people run your company, that you have some history, or lacking any real work history, that you have a clear vision for your organization.
About pages typically run 300–500 words, with another 50–200 words each for employee bios.
These pages are the meat of your site, and they have the power to really draw in SEO traffic. That said, I’m using this term as a catch-all for product pages, services pages, and any other kind of page designed to deliver high-value information to the visitor.
Typically, these are top-level or second-tier navigation pages, and their purpose is to speak to targeted personas and convert them. However, they could also be landing pages, or pages that are a little deeper than your main navigation.
These pages can be anywhere from 500 words and up, depending on how much material you have to cover. If you’re just starting out as a business, then you may be closer to 500 words. If you’ve been around a while, then these pages can easily be in the 1000–1500 word range as you begin to discuss FAQs, product specifications, or the customer experience.
Remember, these pages need to convert. If any one page starts to talk about too many different things, the chances of selling the visitor go down. It’s better to focus a page on one topic and cover it well than to try to use a single page to cover a dozen topics shallowly.
Do you have an amazing customer story to tell? A killer case study that will make the case for your product? We often treat case studies as their own content type, rather than putting them on their own page, but how we handle them depends a lot on their length.
A case study can be anywhere from 300–1500 words long (or longer, depending on your industry). Anything shorter is closer to a testimonial, and would probably be handled differently.
Landing pages can vary in length, depending on the buying stage your visitor is in. If you expect your visitor to already be ready to make a decision, then your landing page a closer: short copy (50–300 words) that doesn’t get in the way of closing the sale will do.
But sometimes visitors come to your landing page from an advertisement, in which case they might be totally new to your site and need a lot of information before they’re ready to close. In that case, your landing page should be very persona-centric, and will need to cover a lot more ground with the copy. In these instances, a landing page could be well over a thousand (or even two thousand) words long.
However, something of that length is basically its own project, and you may want to discuss that as a scope of work separate from the rest of the website project.
Whenever clients ask about covering more detailed information, I usually point them to the blog. Your blog is the space on your site that is designed to say literally all the things you want to say, but in an organized way.
Think about it this way: If you put 50,000 words of content onto one page, it’s going to be difficult for anyone to find what they’re looking for. They could scroll forever and still not find the answer to their question. And from Google’s POV, 50,000 words covers so many topics that it’s going to have a hard time knowing exactly what the page is supposed to be about.
On the other hand, if you’re writing a series of posts in which each post covers each topic at length and in depth, Google is going to have a much better idea what those posts are about. And so will your readers.
Your blog comes with categories and tags that allow you to cross-reference and index your ideas, as well as keep them in a format where more topics are easy to discover. So if every you get to a point in your website copy where you’re wondering if something is starting to ramble, take that point and save it for your blog where you can really do the topic justice.
The bottom line here is that, when you’re writing content for the heart of your site, ask yourself: “what is this page about?” The harder it is for you to answer that question, the more likely it is that you should re-organize your page content.
And, if you do find yourself falling into the trap of the never-ending page, remember your blog. Having a lot to talk about is great, and we encourage that. But it’s better to put that content somewhere organized, where it can be easily referenced and consumed, rather than crammed on one page where it’s hard to follow.