The Art and Science of Ecommerce Product Descriptions

October 13, 2015 Karen Axelton

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The product descriptions you provide on your ecommerce site are one of the factors that can make or break your sales. But many entrepreneurs don’t take the time to craft product descriptions that sell. Here’s how you can write winning product descriptions.

Your goal is to make your product description unique. How many times have you looked for a product online, only to find the same brief, generic description across multiple websites? With nothing else to differentiate the sellers, you probably end up buying on price. The same will happen to your customers unless you make the effort to write a unique product description.

One common mistake many ecommerce entrepreneurs make is to copy and paste descriptions from the product manufacturer’s website. Not only does this render your product descriptions as generic as your competition’s, but worse, it can harm your SEO. Search engines penalize websites that contain copied content — and they don’t differentiate whether you’re plagiarizing a newspaper article or copying a product description.

Instead, start with the manufacturer’s or wholesaler’s product description, then combine it with unique terms to make something all your own. A good product description requires several elements:

Features: features are the factual attributes of a product — things such as dimensions, materials, available sizes and finishes, etc. It’s important to include features in your description so that customers can make apples-to-apples comparisons, but features alone won’t sell the product. That’s what benefits do.

Benefits: Benefits explain how the product helps the purchaser by making their life easier, solving a problem or meeting in need. For example, if you’re selling lightweight travel purses to female travelers, the features might include lightweight materials, dark colors and secure zippers. However, you’ll also want to translate those features into benefits:

  • Lightweight materials make the bags easy to tote so your shoulders don’t get tired.
  • Dark colors don’t show dirt during travel.
  • Secure zippers help thwart pickpockets and protect the contents.

Your description should combine benefits, features and keywords relevant to each product to boost your ecommerce site’s SEO. Try to work the keywords naturally into the text; also include them as alt tags for product photos and in your meta-tags. Make sure that product descriptions include both broad, general keywords (travel purse, travel bag) and more specific, “long-tail” keywords (navy crossbody travel bag, nylon crossbody bag, black and gold travel bag).

How do you strike a balance between providing enough information in your product description and keeping it short so it’s not overwhelming? One approach many ecommerce sites now use is to provide a brief overview description, then include additional details in drop-down windows or tabs so customers can view them if they choose. For example, your overview could describe the general features and benefits of the travel bag, while the details could be included in a bulleted list showing manufacturer specifications. This is especially useful when you’re describing complex products such as appliances.

Make your descriptions easy to read by using bulleted lists, lots of white space, short sentences and paragraphs, subheadings and various fonts to differentiate different parts of the description.

Don’t forget product photos. Today, shoppers expect high quality product photos — this is a critical part of your product description. As online search is becoming more visually oriented, using high-quality photos makes online shoppers more likely to click on your product photo vs. your competition’s. Once they get your website, make sure they find a variety of photos of each product, including front and back views, close-up and distance views, and, ideally, video of the product in use or being worn.

Writing good product descriptions takes work, but is worth the effort. If you don’t think product descriptions are your strong suit, it’s worth hiring a qualified marketing copywriter. Just make sure he or she has experience in writing for ecommerce sites.

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Author information

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton

Karen Axelton is Chief Content Officer of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her company’s blog at SmallBizDaily.com.

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