Compelling, informative, and unique product descriptions can help your ecommerce business increase sales. Moreover, original product descriptions can help avoid Google’s so-called “Farmer algorithm” penalty, which can affect retailers that copy product descriptions from competitors, or that use the exact descriptions suggested by suppliers.
Recently, a Practical eCommerce reader, Greg Jameson, posted an excellent comment about product descriptions, writing, “unique content and added value is what sells. The merchant is the salesperson, so sell them on what you have to offer, don’t just regurgitate what someone else has already said.”
The remark came in the context of “Google’s ‘Farmer’ Algorithm and What It Means for Ecommerce SEO,” my article about the recent change to Google’s search algorithm that sought to reduce redundant search results and improve user experience.
But the Google algorithm aside, it has always been a good idea to write original product descriptions that engage and inform shoppers. Remember, a competitor’s website is only a click away, so if you cannot peak a shopper’s interest, assuage concerns, or convey the value of buying the product and buying it from you, you may lose the sale to someone who can. With this in mind, here are some practical suggestions about how to write better, unique product descriptions.
Know Your Product
Before you can write a unique and persuasive product description, you need to know something about the product that you’re describing. This may sound obvious, but it is completely necessary. For example, consider this real description for a pair of Georgia-brand, logger-style boots.
Black Oil Tanned Leather
Oil Resistant Rubber Lug Outsole
Repairable Goodyear Welt Construction
Safety Toe Class I75/C75
The next to last line stands out, “Repairable Goodyear Welt Construction.” What does this mean? Would the typical consumer shopping for logger-style boots understand it? Did the person who wrote (pasted) this description — which is almost an exact copy of the description from the Georgia catalog that is meant for knowledgeable footwear buyers — understand what it means?
In shoemaking, a welt is a piece of material that attaches the upper part of the shoe to the sole. It is often called a “Goodyear welt” because Charles Goodyear, Jr. invented the first welt-making machine. Given this bit of knowledge, consider another product description for an identical pair of boots, this time from the Working Person’s Store.
These black leather boots employ Goodyear Welt construction to keep them together. This technology uses heavy-duty waxed threads and welts to attach the oil-tanned uppers to the rubber soles. This creates a bond that is nearly impossible to break. However, if you should work so hard that it does break, not to worry, it is repairable.
Although this description reads much better and does a better job of communicating, it is still not perfect, because — based on a Google search for the phrase — it may be copied text, but it at least demonstrates an understanding of the product.
Here is another take on the Georgia boot description that is unique to this article.
These Georgia loggers combine the best of old-world artisan shoemaking and modern technology to give you a work boot that lasts. Take the Goodyear welt construction. Goodyear welts, which secure the boot’s upper to its sole, have been around — in the best of shoes — since before George Washington was born. Improving on this classic technique, Georgia uses heavy-duty, waxed threads that create an almost unbreakable bond.
Write Like a Professional
Volumes have been written about what it takes to be a professional writer. Many people spend years learning the craft, so it would be presumptuous to imagine that one could capture the essence of professional writing in a couple of paragraphs published in the middle of an article.
There are, hover, a few professional writing concepts that can — at least at some level — be described here. I’ll call these concepts “audience,” “voice,” and “structure.”
The first of these, audience, simply means that you need to understand the person who will be reading your product description. From a marketer’s perspective, this is the idea of knowing your customers. Consider the following description for some bikini bottoms from Roxy, a clothing retailer.
Wild Paradise Brazilian String Bikini Bottoms
Careful now, this string has some serious zing. And comes styled with a look-at-me-wow print to boot! Our Brazilian String bikini bottom has string sides and offers slim coverage with a low rise. 95% nylon/5% elastane crochet. Imported. Hand wash cold.
Roxy’s customers are young adults and teens, seeking primarily casual clothing. Does it sound like Roxy know its audience? Judging from the bikini-bottom description, the answer would be “yes.”
Consider writing a description of your typical customers before you write descriptions of your products. When you do write product descriptions, keep these typical customers in mind.
The second concept, voice, might be described as the way your brand sounds. What you know about your audience should inform this brand voice. Look back at the first two sentences in the Roxy example.
Careful now, this string has some serious zing. And comes styled with a look-at-me-wow print to boot!
Phrases like “serious zing” and “look-at-me-wow” are indicative of the Roxy brand, which is young, relaxed, confident, and casual.
Conversely, here is a product description for a relatively expensive Le Creuset cookware set from Sur La Table.
Le Creuset pots, pans and grills are sand-cast, painstakingly polished and finished by hand, then sprayed with two coats of enamel and fired twice—no other procedure yields cookware that so evenly conducts and retains heat while withstanding the rigors of daily use. Porcelain enamel interior finish requires no seasoning and resists scratches and chips. Goes easily from oven to table for beautiful presentation.
The voice in this example is consultative, informative, and speaking with authority. To find your own company’s brad voice, imagine how you would speak to your customer if you were face to face.
Finally, professional writers are conscious of structure. This may mean grammar. It may mean creating an outline that includes the points you need to cover, or it may simply mean always starting a product description with a particular kind of sentence or idea.
Take another look at the third Georgia logger description’s opening sentence.
These Georgia loggers combine the best of old-world artisan shoemaking and modern technology to give you work boot that last.
This sentence might be described as a fact-to-benefit bridge. It states some fact about the product — “these Georgia loggers combine the best of old-world artisan shoemaking and modern technology” — and then explains how that fact benefits the customer — “to give you work boot that last.”
You may wish to structure your company’s product descriptions so that they always start with a fact-to-benefit bridge, or some similar idea.
In a perfect world, every product description on your site will have a well-written product description that encourages customers to buy. But you still need to be pragmatic.
If your ecommerce business’s previous product description plan consisted of copying and pasting manufacturer descriptions or plagiarizing the competition, you may be facing hundreds or even thousands of descriptions in need of a rewrite, so focus on your most important — best selling, highest margin, largest inventory — products first, adding perhaps five new product descriptions each day until you’ve tackled them all.
You should also consider the product itself. Some products just don’t need long descriptions.
Writing unique and effective product descriptions may help an ecommerce business attract more shoppers, convert more of those shoppers into paying customers, and build more brand loyalty so that those customers come back.
As daunting as the task of writing unique product descriptions may seem, it can be done. As suggested above consider adding five well written descriptions each day.