Optimizing Product Descriptions on E-Commerce Sites

Posted by Susan Petracco - July 9, 2010 - Ecommerce - 10 Comments

To run a successful e-commerce site, you need to focus on two kinds of audiences – humans and search engines. One of the most effective ways to influence both audiences is with your product descriptions. Fortunately, it is possible to write great product descriptions that appeal to real customers and to search engines at the same time.

The worst thing you can do (other than to have no description at all) is to use one provided by the manufacturer to all of their retailers. Canned copy on multiple sites doesn’t impress the ranking algorithms, and often you can improve upon cookie-cutter descriptions for real customers, too.

Writing your own product descriptions can be time-consuming, but the benefit is substantial. You might also consider hiring a copywriter to handle the bulk of the work, and rely on his or her professional writing background.

Writing Descriptions for SEO

  • From an SEO perspective, try to write descriptions that are at least 250 words in length; this gives search engines something to chew on. E-commerce sites are full of navigation links, images, multiple calls-to-action, and other elements that aren’t textual content. It’s important to include enough words in your description to balance the other elements on the page.
  • Identify your keywords through careful research, and try to include their variations within the product description. It’s ok to repeat the name of the product within the description body, too. But be careful not to keyword-stuff. As with any site, keyword-stuffing looks unnatural to search engines, and it’s not people-friendly either.
  • Utilize your product descriptions to boost your internal linking strategy. Try to include links to related products or categories within the actual description. The contextual benefits of having links within paragraphs of text outweigh simply linking to related products or categories in a list that’s separate from the descriptions. When you link to other pages, use keywords that are beneficial to the page you’re linking to.

Making Descriptions Useful for Customers

  • Take a tip from bloggers – avoid using one long paragraph after another when writing your descriptions. Vary the content and make it easily scannable by using sub-headers and bulleted or numbered lists. This helps your description from feeling too dense and overwhelming for your visitors.
  • Include the item’s basics: color, dimensions, and material are useful for many products. Other products have their own detailed features that are helpful to shoppers. For example, a computer’s description should list the number and types of connections it has. A used car’s description might include its mileage, maintenance history, engine type, and condition.
  • Don’t only describe the features of your products. Also outline the benefits that the product will provide to the customer. How will it make her feel? What can she do with the product? Does it provide a sense of security, or a sense of status?
  • Mention any prerequisites needed to use the product. If it extends another product, make that clear, and also link to the “base” product if you sell it. List any batteries it might need. If the owner of the item needs to be of a certain age or to have a particular skill level, mention that too.
  • A final source to tap is your customer service department. If they receive frequent questions about a certain product, find out what those are and include the answers within the product description.

By the time you’ve addressed the issues in both of these lists, you should have a product description that will be beneficial to your customers and to the search engines – which means a boost to your bottom line. So if you’re currently using canned or too-short descriptions, consider taking time to write custom descriptions to improve your business.

About the Author

Susan Petracco

Susan Petracco is an e-commerce consultant and founder of NetBlazon, an e-commerce development firm. With more than 11 years of experience, she has worked with companies such as Talbots and Serta on a variety of retail initiatives. She can also be found blogging about e-commerce and small business topics at the DoublePlus E-Commerce Blog.
10 comments
Alex
Alex

From a e-commerce marketer perspective and someone who is guilty of some of the no-no's listed above, writing content rich product descriptions has always been a challenge. My e-store has about 1,000 products and writing good content for each one is just not possible at this time. However, we do market some products directly and for those we try to rewrite the canned descriptions (that we get from our suppliers). I just wanted to give me 2 cents as to way this happens so often.

PLR
PLR

Some sites can get away with it i.e Amazon bcoz you prorbaly go there knowing about the product but want the best price, the description is a perfect oppportunity to sell the product or sell the dream to your visitors.

Wynne
Wynne

I think Disqus was down for a whole or something. I noticed quite a few blogs were affected by it.

susanpetracco
susanpetracco

Thanks iEDGE! It's a great lesson for any kind of site owner, I think, although obviously I was focused only on e-com sites. Thanks for the feedback.

susanpetracco
susanpetracco

I think using those canned descriptions is just too easy for some people - and not everyone understands the benefit of unique text. Hopefully this will help convince some retail site owners.

susanpetracco
susanpetracco

Mike, I agree - bloggers are way ahead of e-commerce sites when it comes to the TEXT of selling. I'd love to see a top-notch blogger "redesign" the copy of an e-commerce site. What a great case study that would be.

Private Label Ebooks
Private Label Ebooks

From a marketing and SEO stand point it is very frustrating to see so many canned and short descriptions being used across numerous e-commerce sites. There is really nothing setting one advertiser/marketer apart from another when marketing the same product.Writing custom descriptions gives you the chance to focus in on keywords that are being overlooked for the product. This is what is going to make your efforts stand out from everyone else.

Mike
Mike

Great article, Susan. I feel like store owners should go out and learn what bloggers are doing to market their niched, tailored products to consumers. Some of the points that I notice are they mention a lot about benefits of the product and how it can solve consumer problems. Consumers now are looking for solution, not a product any more. Hence, listing these benefits help make consumers feel more confident on buying products. In addition, they have a lot more such as listing feedback, money back guarantee, etc.

iEDGE DS
iEDGE DS

Spot on and well said. Making copy suitable to customers rather than just to search engines is incredibly important!

Mark Thompson
Mark Thompson

I agree Alex. I am sure that writing 1,000 unique product descriptions is just not feasible. However you can try one of the following... 1. Pick and choose which products you write as unique description, only choosing the products that are most popular and making you money. 2. Make it a long-term goal and rewrite 1-2 descriptions a day, until they are all complete. 3. Outsource the work to someone who can do it for you Hope that helps and you explore one of those options. I think it will be very beneficial. Mark