The Art of the Perfect Product Description
Whether your website offers 10 products or 10,000, a measly catalogue number and a price tag are simply not going to cut it in the product description stakes.
After all, who wants a FTU-0228X-YYP FOR JUST $199.99? Equally, who's interested in a cut and pasted chunk of text from your vendor's catalogue? Not your potential customers and certainly not search engines, that's for sure.
The companies who are winning the eCommerce game? They care enough about their product pages not to spoil them with substandard fluff.
The thing is, you probably put a lot of effort into the other elements of your product pages – using high quality images of your products, taking the time to make visiting product pages an enjoyable experience for your demographic and making certain your calls to action are clear and clickable
Don't undo all that hard work with lacklustre product descriptions. To help, we’ve created a guide to getting them right.
This one ought to go without saying, but it’s the most common problem faced by eCommerce sites on the web.
The use of copy and pasted content, carbon-copied from your vendor isn’t just bad for your SEO (search engines despise and penalise duplicate content), it also does absolutely nothing for your brand or for your visitors. You’ve lost every opportunity to add your brand’s personal touch or differentiate your site from the myriad of others selling the same product.
It may be an investment of time and resources, but producing carefully crafted, benefit-laden content, written with your target market in mind, really does reap returns.
But how to go about creating all that content?
A quick tip: Create a branding style guide, outlining your tone and voice in explicit detail. This will give you a framework to present to a group of writers while keeping important things like language consistent.
Then, instead of outsourcing the project somewhere like oDesk, where anonymous writers try to bash out as much content as possible, take it to a small group of quality writers you can be in direct contact with. If you find one writer you like, ask them for referrals – most writers have talented friends in industry.
It might be a little more expensive than other options, but the quality will be much, MUCH higher and you'll have the unique content you need.
Keep it About The Customer
It's time to take a quick journey into your imagination. Picture yourself as a salesperson in a real store, trying to sell to an interested customer. The slickest salespeople don't ramble off dry lists of specs and features hope they press the right buttons. Instead, they work hard to connect with the customer, putting them at ease, creating a sense of connection, building trust, explaining the potential – and most importantly - the personal benefits.
To make this work for you on a product page, you need to really get the demographic of people who by the product. Tap into who they are, what they're into, what their triggers and motivations could be - plus what may stand between them and making a purchase.
For example, take a niche product like Think Geek’s Jedi bathrobe:
The page is packed with inside jokes and references to interests in your average Star Wars fan's cultural milieu - The Big Lebowski, white Russians and Persian carpets included. It’s interesting to read, because it’s written in the customer’s own language. It appeals to things the customer can relate to and interests they have, driving at the psychology behind WHY they want to purchase such a stunning bathrobe.
Stock, bland text doesn’t have nearly the same impact or elicit the same level of emotion, and since most purchases are made with emotions (we rationalize them later), that’s conversion suicide.
An approach this personal isn't always possible as going too far can risk alienating another demographic, but make sure you don't shy away from packing plenty of personality into your product pages if you have a solid understanding of your target market.
For more broadly marketed products, you can still make product pages personal. Over at Bobbi Brown, for instance, the copy focuses on the common experiences of a broad customer market, but on a very personal, 'everyday' level.
Language is personal and direct, and the features of the product are introduced as benefits the customer is actually looking for.
This approach helps a visitor feel understood and addresses common problems, making the entire buying journey feel more comfortable, less impersonal, less riddled with barriers and much smoother.
The clearly presented awards are also great trust builders here - ideal for visitors teetering on the edge of a conversion.
Cut the Keywords and Go Natural
If you haven't already, forget about jamming as many keywords as possible into your product pages. In the bad old days it was considered legitimate practice to write product pages armed with a list of “must-have” keywords longer than an anaconda full of steroids.
Thankfully, those days are (mostly) gone.
Yes, analyze and choose targeted terms relevant to your product - and yes, use them intelligently where they work naturally, but do not under any circumstances jeopardize visitor experience in the out-dated name of keyword optimization.
First, search engines have been fighting over-optimization for years now. Google is increasingly moving towards a semantic web; the engine understands relationships between words and natural language, so they can understand the relevance of a page of content without needing to read a specific keyword a specific number of times.
Second, if your visitor has made the journey from your home or landing page all the way to that crucial product page, they are worth their weight in page 1 appearances for niche keywords. Play your cards right and this product page should be one of the last things they see before they start clicking their way towards a conversion.
Customer needs, questions and fears should guide the content you create – not a list of keywords. You should first try to alleviate fear, answer questions and address the underlying need before you start looking for ways to add your keyword in.
Take the "Yeah, Yeah" Test
Here's a quick tip: Step away from your product copy and come back to it with a fresh pair of eyes later. Read it objectively, from the perspective of a visitor – or better yet, have someone else read it back to you.
If any aspect of your copy makes you go "Yeah, yeah, so what?" tweak it or cut it out.
"Yeah, yeah" copy refers to any information which doesn't really tell visitors anything - or address the personal benefit to the potential buyer.
"Great value", "high quality", "industry leading features" are the worst sort of culprits, but many helpful specifications can also be susceptible to "yeah, yeahs" if the benefits to the buyer are not made explicit.
Here's a good example of how to avoid "so what?" product copy:
We've highlighted each real, tangible benefit in red. As you can see, REI.com have included at least one benefit which really matters to the target market for every dry specification. This kind of benefits-rich content is perfect for product pages, helping visitors to envision your product in their life and pushing them that much further down the buying journey towards a conversion.
In a Nutshell
• Write for readers not search engines
Keyword stuffing doesn't work. It won't just alert Google to spammy over-optimization, it also ignores the most important people in this process: your visitors. Write for the people with money to spend!
• Make it all about them
Take this opportunity to bond with your potential buyers. Conduct careful research into your target market, then focus on producing product page content which speaks directly to them and their experiences. Use their language, their cultural touch-points and their preferred tone to engage and entice them. Then use your insider knowledge to overcome the potential barriers to buying they may be experiencing (cost, shipping time, delivery, uncertainty, lack of trust etc.).
• Focus on benefits, not features
Great specifications are all well and good, but why do they matter to your visitor? Make sure you highlight at least one tangible way each feature will improve a buyer's life!
• Invest in thoughtful product page content
The cookie cutter approach doesn't work on truly powerful product pages. Craft unique content for your unique target market instead of cribbing from vendor pages or using a standard template of your own. If your visitor is willing to spend their hard-earned dollar on your products, you can take the time to demonstrate why their potential purchase is so special.