Everyone knows what a product description is.
It’s a description…of a product.
[pausing for applause]
But not everyone knows how to write product descriptions, which is a HUGE problem if you run an eCommerce store.
Until you are writing descriptions that consistently convert shoppers again and again, I’d recommend you make that your priority before spending more of your budget on increasing traffic.
Fortunately, this is one of my agency's specialties.
In this article I'll cover sage copywriting advice from icons like Gary Halbert to scientific studies that prove the best format for your product descriptions to a whole lot more.
Let's dive in.
How to Write Product Descriptions: 15 Tips for Descriptions That Customers Can’t Resist
I wasn’t exaggerating with my title. The following guide includes every piece of advice you need to create the kinds of product descriptions your customers will love, and your competitors will envy.
Use this as a checklist to improve every one of yours and you’ll not only have an easier time attracting traffic but converting it, too.
1. Despite Its Name, Copy Is Not to Be Copied
Let’s start with an easy one.
If you’re selling another company’s products, it’s tempting to simply use their descriptions, too. You’ll save time and, you might reason, who can write a better description than the company that manufactures the product?
I’d still encourage you to take the time to write your own.
For one, it’ll be nearly impossible to rank well if the bulk of your product page’s copy is, well, copied. You’re not going to be the only one who tries that, so your copy can no longer a distinguishing feature for Google to consider when ranking your product page.
Here’s What Happens When You Copy Copy
Google currently shows 2,300 pages are all using the same text to describe a specific pair of Oakley sunglasses.
And, yes, two pages “beat” Oakley’s website for that exact text, but if you run those pages through SEMrush, you’ll find that they don’t attract any traffic because they don’t rank well for any actual keywords.
So, copying product descriptions may save you time, but it costs you dearly.
Secondly, don’t assume the manufacturer’s product description is perfect. Unless they’ve read this guide, they still have room for improvement (he said, modestly).
In all seriousness, I’m about to go through 14 different ways you can improve your product descriptions. If you’re on the fence, use what you learn on just one of yours and see if you can’t pull in more traffic and/or increase conversions compared to the manufacturer’s best efforts.
They might start copyingyou.
2. Highlight Benefits Over Features
Alright, now that we’re talking about the descriptions you’ll write, let’s begin with the Golden Rule of sales copy because, if you don’t nail this one, the rest of your product description is going to suffer.
When you learn conversion copy, the first lesson is that you always emphasize benefits over features. This rule predates online marketing by decades. The legendary copywriter David Ogilvy was obsessive about vividly detailing the benefits of a product instead of highlighting its features.
Here’s a famous example of how he did this in an ad for Rolls-Royce:
In the copy that follows, Ogilvy goes on to detail the many features of this fine automobile, but his opening salvo for winning the attention of readers eloquently expresses one of the most enviable benefits – at the time – of driving a Rolls-Royce: the engineering is so exceptional that, even at 60 mph, you’ll be traveling in luxury. In fact, you won’t even hear anything – not the motor, not the wheels – just the (very fancy) electric clock.
If it’s good enough for Rolls-Royce, do you think leading with the benefits might work for your company, too?The Difference Between Your Product’s Features and Its Benefits
Customers don’t buy your products because of their features. They especially don’t get excited about buying your products because of their features. What they want is what the features have to offer.
You don’t buy a power drill because you like things with rubber handles or that make a lot of noise. You want a power drill because it allows you to effortlessly put holes in walls, so you can hang things.
Let’s go to another world-famous copywriter, Gary Halbert, for a better understanding of the difference between features and benefits. Though he uses “facts” instead of “features”, here’s how the master of marketing described the difference:
“A fact is simply that... a fact about your product. Like thefact your car has 350 horsepower, or thefact it is painted a bright red. A benefit is what your productwill do for the buyer. Let's say your car is heavy, it weighs maybe 4,000 pounds. That's afact. Well, it seems to me that fact could translate to at least two benefits: (1)safety, a heavy car offering more protection in a wreck than a lighter one; and (2)comfort, as a heavy car generally yields a smoother ride.”
It’s the benefits those features convey that make them race to your checkout page, so make sure they get a starring role in your product descriptions.
So, Hide the Product’s Features?
Novice copywriters often take this advice to mean that customers never care about features. Many literally leave them off their product descriptions altogether.
I’m not suggesting you do this.
What I am saying is that, like Ogilvy did in his Rolls-Royce ad, youlead with the benefits. You still need features to root those benefits in reality. They still belong on your page. You can even feature them prominently. Using bullet points is great for this (more on that in a minute).
But if you assume that your visitors will automatically know the benefits they’ll gain from your product’s features, that could be a costly mistake.
Let’s take a look at another example, this time one that isn’t an impossibly-expensive luxury vehicle.
RADIUS isn’t taking any chances hoping it’s obvious why you should buy their oversized toothbrush.
They list the features and the benefits you’ll enjoy if you purchase their toothbrush.
For example, RADIUS doesn’t stop at just saying “SUPERSIZED BRUSH HEAD FOR SUPERIOR CLEANING” like many companies would. They explain how these features make it easier to “target those tricky-to-reach areas more easily” and massage your whole mouth.
It’s fine to have an eye-catching feature-specific header in your bullet points, but don’t leave it at that. Take a cue from RADIUS and tell shoppers what thebenefit of these features are.
Even benefits can become boring, though.
If RADIUS had simply said that their toothbrush is “supersized for superior cleaning”, that wouldn’t have had as much of an impact. What does “superior cleaning” really mean, after all?
These kinds of descriptors are common in product descriptions, but they don’t elicit much of a response because the reader knows anyone can use those kinds of terms. Aside from “superior”, other examples I see a lot include:
It’s not that you should never use these words.
It’s just that you should never use them by themselves.
In Section 8, I’ll delve into some powerful words that really do carry their weight, but, even then, you still need to answer the question, “so what?”
Your vacuum cleaner is state-of-the-art?
What does that mean for me, the customer? How does “state-of-the-art” translate into a tangible benefit I’ll be excited to pay for?
You have to make that clear on your product pages.
The Difference Between “Eh” and Exciting
The great copywriter Clayton Makepeace observed that many marketers fell into the trap of advertising “fake benefits.” One headline he cited as an example was, “Balance Blood Sugar Levels Naturally!”
What’s the benefit of this product?
It gives the customer balanced blood sugar levels, right? Even better, it does it naturally!
But so what?
Why does somebody want that?
How can you make that benefit even more appealing?
To improve this kind of copy, Makepeace applied his “forehead slap test”:
“…have you ever woken up from a deep sleep, slapped yourself in the forehead, and exclaimed: ‘Man … I need to balance my blood sugar levels naturally!’”
(Answer: no. You haven’t. Ever. No one has.)
He went on to explain that:
“Nobody really wants to balance their blood sugar levels. But anyone in his or her right mind DOES want to avoid the misery of blindness … cold, numb, painful limbs … amputation … and premature death that go along with diabetes.”
When you’re coming up with a product description, start with its features, then identify its benefits,and then think about why those benefits are so important to your customer.
I’m going to show you how to really get a reaction from those benefits in Section 4.
Before that, though, it’s important that you…
3. Make Exciting Claims, But Back Them Up with Data
Exciting benefits are essential, but just as important is using data to back up these claims.
That’s because, unfortunately, people don’t trust advertisements.
Like, at all.
This is nothing new. Back in 1994, sales expert Michael Bosworth stressed this in his book, Solution Selling:
“Buyers are suspicious. Face it, your buyers carry psychological baggage left over from previous encounters with sellers. Plan that.”
In other words, customers love to see the amazing benefits of your products, but they expect you to back them up with proof.
This is where a lot of copywriters fall short with their product descriptions. They do a great job of calling attention to the benefits of their products, but they don’t use any data to bolster those claims.
It’s not that they forget to.
It’s that they’ve come to associate data with features and features with boooooooooooring.
But that doesn’t have to be the case.
Check out this fantastic product description from Dyson:
If you need an air purifier, the benefits in this product description are hard to ignore.
Dyson doesn’t just tell you that it purifies all year, which is the major benefit of their product. They go on to tell you what exactly that means, an especially smart move in case you decide to do some comparison shopping.
The company tells you that their product’s HEPA filter:
“…automatically removes 99.97 percent of allergens and pollutants as small as 0.3 microns including pollen, dust, mold spores, bacteria and pet dander from your home.”
Did that data help?
Do you feel more confident in the benefit they claim now?
Do the same with your product descriptions. Explain your product’s exciting benefits and then instill confidence in those claims by backing them up with data.
4. But Don’t Forget Why People Really Buy
We all like to think of ourselves as logical, rational, and reasonable.
So, when someone asks you why you purchased a certain product, you probably give a logical, rational, and reasonable answer.
You’re also probably not telling the truth when you do.
It’s not your fault, though.
You definitely think you’re being honest.
But the truth is that, usually, logic, rational, and reason have little to do with our decisions, especially when it comes to our purchases.
Take it from Gerald Zaltman, Professor Emeritus of Business Administration at a little school called Harvard. He discovered that roughly 95% of all cognitive activity happens in the subconscious mind, meaning we’re not actually aware of it.
When he compared customers’ stated beliefs about how they shopped compared to their actual behavior, he found that:
“…many consumers report handling competing brands and comparing prices at the point of purchase. However, observations of these same consumers often reveal that they don't even look at alternatives to the chosen brand. Another option uses physiological or response latency measures. These often reveal that what consumers actually believe or think, as measured by unconscious physical reactions, contradicts what they say when asked directly.”
Put another way, while webelievewe’re being quite logical before we click “buy”, nothing could be further from the truth.
What, then, is moving our mouse to that buy button?
To explain why, let’s turn to yet another legendary copywriter, Joseph Sugarman. Many consider him to the best copywriter of all time. One of the reasons he’s earned that enviable reputation is because he understands, “You sell on emotion, but you justify a purchase with logic.”
As he explains in his copywriting classic, Triggers:
“When I first bought a Mercedes and my friends saw it, I told them that the reason I bought it was because of a series of technical features that I found very impressive. The real reason I bought the car was not for the technical features at all. It was an emotional decision. I wanted to own a prestigious car and belong to the select group that drive Mercedes.”
What is therealreason shoppers are coming to your product page? Not the logical one they’d report, but the emotional one that really drives them.
Find out what that is, describe it in a way that rouses emotion, and you’ll have a winning product description you can depend on.
To go back to Makepeace’s example about the product that balances blood sugar, recall that the benefit people wanted was to avoid the pain of losing limbs and other painful eventualities. Good copy for that product won’t focus on the fear people have of those possibilities. It would focus on the love they feel for their friends and family if their health were to take them away prematurely. It might even focus on their pride as a healthy individual.
How do you know what emotional appeals will work best for your customers?
I’m glad you asked…
5. Don’t Go Overboard with Your Buyer Personas –Yet
A buyer persona is a fictitious representation of one of your ideal customers. The idea is that the better you can describe this persona, the better you can write your product descriptions to win them over.
Most marketers swear by them, but can I be honest with you?
I think buyer personas area little overrated, at least when it comes to writing product descriptions.
Look, I’m not saying they’re never useful. At IWD, we actually create buyer personas for our clients, so I definitely understand their potential.
It’s just that, over the years, I’ve worked with a lot of marketers who spent a lot of time going into excruciating detail when designing their buyer personas.
And then, because they’re so invested in these personas, they refuse to budge from them. They know they’ve perfectly described their ideal customer, even if their conversions suggest otherwise.
My takeaway from these experiences has been that, yes, buyer personas can be helpful. And, yes, you should put serious effort into creating them.
But if you nail down the following details, you’ll easily create personas that lead to profitable product descriptions:
- What are the benefits they’re after? By now, you probably know how important benefits are, but we’ll talk about how to work those into your buyer personas next. Obviously, the associated emotional states are important, too.
- What features will support this benefit?What features do they have to see your product has in order to associate it with the benefit they need?
- What tone of voice do they prefer? Do these people expect you to be serious or would that be a turnoff? Will you win more trust by being casual or even more respect by being funny?
Let me show you how simple this can be.
Check out this product description from Fully for one of their standing desks:
The company understands what their ideal customer wants: not just a standing desk, but a standing desk that will last for years and that they can feel good about using, because of how it’s made.
I could be wrong, but I doubt the team behind this description spent countless hours putting together a full biography for their persona. They just got clear about what mattered most to them and what tone to use.
Start Small with Your Buyer Personas and Build on Them
Again, I’m not going to be popular for this opinion, but I strongly suggest that you don’t go overboard when creating buyer personas for your product descriptions. Focus on the three traits I covered, create your descriptions, and then refine them over time, as necessary.
6. Speak to Your Customers’ Pain Points
Alright, I just alluded to this, but if you want your product descriptions to trigger clicks, think about your customers’ pain points.
Put another way, what brought your customer to your product page?
Here, again, we can look to successful sales experts who knew about these kinds of triggers long before product descriptions on the Internet existed. David Sandler started his own sales training organization back in 1967 and many of his teachings are still embraced by copywriters today.
One of them is the power of pain:
“Pain in the present is the most motivating buying emotion…People buy for their own emotional reasons and justify with logical reasons [note: sound familiar?] …The strongest motivation will be the avoidance of pain in the present. If your product or solution could help a prospect avoid the pain, you will have the sale!”
“Buy our product or elllllllllllse!”
So, Scare Your Customer into Buying?
This topic often makes a lot of new copywriters uncomfortable because it sounds like the secret to sales is writing product descriptions that basically say, “Buy this or else.”
Fortunately, you don’t need to terrorize your customers to increase conversions.
Let’s look at that product description from Fully again. If you read it earlier, did it come off as aggressive? Did it put you in a state of fear?
But the writer definitely anticipated the pain point that would bring shoppers to the page. It’s not that they care about their physical wellbeing. If that was the driving force, the customer could have just gone to Amazon or anywhere else that sells run-of-the-mill standing desks.
They’re on that page because they don’t want a standing desk that’s an eyesore. They also don’t want a desk they’ll need to replace after trivial wear-and-tear. They can’t stand the idea of buying their desk from a company that isn’t environmentally-conscious, either.
Fully’s marketing team anticipated those pain points and addressed all of them in their copy without coming across as overbearing, forceful, or scary.
7. Ask Yourself, “What Do Customers Need to Know to Feel Comfortable Buying?”
Every customer has one pain point in common, regardless of what they’re shopping for.
This is the fear of buyer’s remorse.
Even if it’s not a big purchase, no one likes feeling as though they just wasted their money.
Now, there’s plenty you can do after the sale to prevent buyer’s remorse and the returns it often causes.
What we’re talking about is how you can preempt that regret by using product descriptions to educate customers into feeling confident about their purchases. The more confident you make them, the more likely they are to buy.
Obviously, things like guarantees and warranties help, but plenty of your competitors probably offer those. To stand out, think about that buyer persona of yours.
What questions do they have about your product?
I’m going to highlight another Dyson product here because their product page is such a good example of a company that doesn’t leave anything to chance.
Their vacuums are extremely unique and while that definitely draws a lot of shoppers to their site, I bet it also repels a lot of them at the last second, too. Those shoppers might wonder if they really need all these one-of-a-kind features or if they’re really worth the extra price.
Dyson doesn’t try to answer all of those questions on one page, but they make it easy for shoppers to quickly get those answers by linking out to them like this:
In many ways, this is similar to focusing on the benefits of your product. Dyson is telling customers why each feature is so valuable.
Still, your shoppers may have other questions that aren’t necessarily related to your products’ main benefits. One easy way to discover what those questions are is to…
Talk to Your Customer Service Team
Your customer service team can be a goldmine when you’re putting together product descriptions. They deal with shoppers who have questions before they buy, but they probably also speak to a lot of customers who may be wrestling with buyer’s remorse.
Many of those customers may have had questions about your products before purchasing but ignored them until buyer’s remorse set in. If you can answer these questions right on your product description, you’ll keep shoppers from going elsewhere to find them, convert more of them into shoppers, and keep more of them from returning their purchases.
It’s hard to think of an eCommerce company that does this better than Amazon. Every product description on their site includes a space for answering FAQs.
Speak to your customer service team, pull ideas from your competitors, and look at Google’s “related search” suggestions for questions you can answer in your product descriptions.
8. Don’t Settle for Boring Words
In Section 2, I cautioned you not to get caught up with using flashy words if you aren’t going to back them up. Telling your customers that your product is “superior” won’t get you very far if your description doesn’t go on to explain why that is and why that matters.
Nonetheless, after 20 years of working in eCommerce, I can definitely confirm that some words are simply more powerful than others. As long as you follow the advice from Section 2, you can improve your conversion rates just by choosing better words to describe your products.
And, as we covered in Section 5, the words you want to use are the kinds that evoke emotion. Stale, dry, boring words aren’t the way to go. Incidentally, those seem to be the ones that large manufacturers favor, so there’s one more reason to keep Section 1 in mind and create your own copy.
Alright, enough of self-referencing, let’s talk about power words.
Words to Live Sell By
Some words always do well with customers because they’re immediately recognizable for offering value. A prime example of these magic words is “you.”
People love it when you talk directly to them. The only word they enjoy hearing more than their own name is “you”, so slather it all over your product descriptions. You want your customers envisioning themselves using your product. Check out this product page from Bowflex for a great example. “You” and “your” are used 24 times.
Here are just a handful of examples:
Of course, there are plenty of other words that pack a punch.
Remember our friend David Ogilvy from Section 2 who had so much success with Rolls-Royce? He had a collection of 20 “power words” he loved to use whenever possible:
If you want a comprehensive list of “power words” to consider for your product descriptions, I can’t think of a better reference than arguably the best blogger of all time, Jon Morrow. Check out his huge collection of power words for more than 800 options.
Your Product Descriptions Should Sound Like a Friend Wrote Them
At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter which “power” words you use if your product description comes across as unnatural to your customer.
That’s because, “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy things.”
I’m not sure who actually came up with that age-old sales adage – I learned it from copywriter Dan Kennedy – but it’s survived from the early days of marketing because it’s absolutely true.
Shoppers will be quick to click away if your product description feels like a sales pitch because that’s not the experience they want. They want to feel like they’re in complete control. They want to feel like they’re learning about your product, not being lured into buying it.
This is why you’ll need to do some thinking – and probably some experimenting – to decide which words will really work best with your customers. In the end, I don’t think you can go wrong with talking to them like a friend.
Again, this is where your buyer personas can help (see? I don’t completely hate them).
Here’s a fantastic, friendly-sounding product description from Bang Shoes that illustrates this concept beautifully:
You don’t find any of the powerful language I cited above, but I bet that product description does really well with their customers.
And I bet it’s because customers recognize the words and tone as sounding like one of their friends. They’re familiar with both, so they don’t feel like someone is pushing them into a buying decision.
Appeal to Your Customers’ Senses
Lastly, some of the most powerful words you can choose when writing your product descriptions are those that appeal directly to your customers’ senses.
While eCommerce marketers enjoy a number of advantages over our brick-and-mortar counterparts, we’re at a big disadvantage when it comes to sensory experiences. Your customers can’t actually reach out and touch your products.
High-quality images and videos can definitely help with this, which is why I’ll cover that in Section 12.
But your copy can go a long way toward providing a sensory experience, too. Use sensory words when you write your product descriptions to help your shoppers feel as though they can actually touch, smell, hear, or taste your product.
…obviously, pick the senses that make…well, sense. No one wants to taste your inedible product. If you talk about the sounds your clothes make, people will either think you’re crazy or the people who buy them will be crazy.
Anyway, let’s look at a great example of how to use sensory words in product descriptions from Lush, a company that sells bath bombs.
Can’t you feel what it must be like to slide into a nice, hot bath and use this product?
The writer didn’t just describe their bath bomb, either. They went the extra mile to describe what you felt like prior to using it, too. Your muscles are “sore” and “tired.” Soon, it’s “cleansed” and “comfortable.”
When you tell your customers a story, think like an actual author. Don’t just list the boring features or the compelling benefits. Use lots of sensory words to transport your shoppers to a world where they’re actively enjoying your products.
9. Give Shoppers a Great Story
Another smart way to keep shoppers from feeling like they’re being sold is to weave stories into your product descriptions.
In fact, storytelling is credited for the success of what many consider to be the greatest sales letter of all time, one that is believed to have generated roughly $2 billion in revenue for The Wall Street Journal. It’s worth clicking that link to read the whole thing, but to give you an idea of how hard it relied on storytelling, here’s how it begins:
On a beautiful late spring afternoon, twenty-five years ago, two young men graduated from the same college. They were very much alike, these two young men. Both had been better than average students, both were personable and both – as young college graduates are – were filled with ambitious dreams for the future.”
Aren’t you at least a little interested to see where that story goes? It turns out millions of subscribers felt the same way.
But Why Do I Need Stories in My Product Descriptions?
There are two reasons I recommend trying to use storytelling in product descriptions.
The first is that, according to a paper published by Harvard Business Publishing Corporate Learning,stories are easier to remember:
“…stories are easy to remember. Organizational psychologist Peg Neuhauser found that learning which stems from a well-told story is remembered more accurately, and for far longer, than learning derived from facts and figures. Similarly, psychologist Jerome Bruner’s research suggests that facts are 20 times more likely to be remembered if they’re part of a story.”
So, if you know that your shoppers usually don’t buy on their initial visit, telling them a story is an effective way to keep them thinking about your product long after they leave your website.
The second is that you really can’t tell a story without adopting a tone. By forcing yourself to do that, you automatically need to think about your customer and the kind of tone they’ll relate to most. By doing that, you’ll start to choose the kinds of familiar words that will make your product description stand out.
When You Shouldn’t Bother with a Story
I’ll admit there are some exceptions to this rule.
The more likely a customer is to make a purchase on their first visit to your site – or, even better, the first time they even go searching for the product – the less likely a story is necessary. The right tone is still important, but if you know first-time visitors usually become customers, there’s nothing for them to remember.
They read your product description.
They decide the product is right for them.
They buy right then and there.
These kinds of products generally don’t cost much and/or customers can’t afford to go long without them. Think of things like nails, screws, and bolts. Can you imagine someone reading a story about those? Or common goods like Tupperware, socks, or coffee mugs. People want those objects ASAP and won’t need a story to convince them of it.
In cases like those, going to the trouble of coming up with a story probably isn’t worth it.
Now, if you’re trying to charge more for a very specific type of mug for a very niche audience, then storytelling might be your secret weapon to close the sale.
10. Make Your Copy Easy to Scan
I’ve used a lot of different examples of product descriptions so far. They’ve been from a wide array of industries with equally disparate markets.
But one thing they all have in common is that their copy is easy to scan. Aside from the Rolls-Royce ad – which was from a magazine published in 1958 – you won’t find big, blocky paragraphs of text anywhere.
The reason successful eCommerce copywriters keep their product descriptions nice and lean is that scannable content is an absolute must online. And that’s because people almost always scan copy before deciding whether or not they’ll read it.
One of the most popular studies on how web users consume content concluded that:
“On the average Web page, users have time to read at most 28% of the words during an average visit; 20% is more likely.”
Website visitors do this to make sure the webpage contains the information they want before actually devoting time to reading it.
Therefore, scannable copy is as important to your product descriptions as it is to any other aspect of your website.
You may need to convey a lot of information, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make it easy to scan.
How to Make Your Product Descriptions Easy to Scan
First, as much as possible, keep your sentences short and sweet.
Once again, I’ll let one of the best in the world, Joseph Sugarman, explain how short sentences led him to huge profits:
“If you look at many of my ads, you’ll notice that all of my first sentences are so short they almost aren’t sentences. No long multisyllabic words, either. Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.”
This was one of Sugarman’s many secrets for locking in readers and moving them down the page. Of course, Sugarman was writing long-form ads for magazines, like the one below. Still, he relied on short sentences to effectively communicate a lot of information in a very engaging, readable way (you’ll also notice he liked to use storytelling, too).
This copywriting best practice retains its powers in the Digital Age because people still love to scan.
Another super-simple, super-effective way of making your copy scannable is using bullet points.
And, once again, a great example of a company that understands the power of bullet points is Amazon. No matter what product you’re interested in, Amazon displays bullet points right up at the top with all the other vital information a shopper needs to become a buyer:
While there is no lack of copy down below the fold in case the shopper needs more convincing, Amazon puts the easily-scannable bullet points where they will see them right away. They’re next to the buy button, too.
Here’s another example from innocent juice:
Their copy is short, to-the-point, and easy to scan.
I also love how they set their bullet points apart by changing the font and adding some color.
Bottom line: copy that’s easy to scan is more readily read. Apply that to your product descriptions and use bullet points for the most important information.
11. Format Your Product Descriptions for How People View Them
That being said, the best, most-easily scannable copy in the world won’t save your product descriptions if they’re not formatted correctly.
Just like people prefer copy they can quickly scan, they also have a natural proclivity for specific types of formatting. Our eyes are naturally drawn to certain parts of the page, so it makes sense to format your product descriptions with these tendencies in mind.
F Your Product Descriptions
Since 2006, the vast majority of product descriptions – at least the successful ones – have all taken on the same shape: an F.
That’s because, back in 2006, NN/g released a study that showed website users prefer their content to have an F-shaped reading pattern.
If you look at any of those Amazon examples above, you’ll notice that the images are all on the left with copy and other important information starting closer to the middle of the page and ending on the right. This isn’t by accident. It follows the natural F shape users scan when they’re trying to quickly pull important information from a page.
In fact, it’s been proven that website visitors spend 80% of their time on the left half of webpages. Put your images there to lock in that attention and you can then move it to the right for your copy.
More than 10 years later, NN/g went back and assessed how their study had impacted online content. Here are some of their tips for formatting your content so it’s most accessible to your users:
- Include the most important points in the first two paragraphs on the page
- Use headings and subheadings. Ensure they look more important, and are more visible than normal text so users may distinguish them quickly.
- Visually group small amounts of related content – for instance, by surrounding them with a border or using a different background
- Bold important words and phrases
- Use bullets and numbers to call out items in a list or process
Use these tips with F-shaped formatting and it’ll be much easier for shoppers to scan your content and find the information they need to become customers.
12. Use the Right Media to Stand Out
I know this goes without saying…and yet, here I am saying it: you must pair your product descriptions with high-quality images of your products.
As much as it pains the copywriter in me, I’d even go so far as to say that an impressive image can make up for disregarding many of the copywriting-related rules on this post.
But there’s no denying it: beautiful, high-quality images steal the show.
Obviously, people want to see the product they’re going to buy before they hand over their payment information.
It goes far beyond that, though. Just like the other elements on this post, there’s a lot you can do to optimize the media for your product descriptions to significantly increase sales.
Don’t Just Use Colorful Language – Color Your Actual Language
When I say “media”, I don’t just mean photos, I’m talking about all of the visual assets and ques you can use to engage your shoppers.
One example of the many ways you can optimize your visuals is by adding color to your product descriptions. As Xerox points out, “color gains readership by 80%.”
That’s not all.
Xerox goes on to explain that adding color also, “makes an impression that is 39% more memorable.”
It’s no surprise, then, that, “color increases readers’ attention spans and recall by 82%.”
Just like innocent juice did in that example above, consider using color to offset the most important parts of your product description. That one change will increase the number of people who read itandhow easy it is for those people to remember that important information later.
Use Multiple Images to Show Off Your Products
Use multiple images to show your shoppers every angle of your product and any relevant photos of what it looks like “in action.”
I’ve worked with a lot of eCommerce companies that thought this step wasn’t important. They sold products that pretty much looked the same from every angle or those other angles just didn’t matter (e.g. no one cares about the back of a plain t-shirt).
Nonetheless, I encourage you to reconsider.
Recall that bath bomb from Lush that I referenced in Section 8.
You could take pictures of it from every angle and it wouldn’t matter. It’s pretty much going to look the same.
But the marketers at Lush were smart. Along with the sensory language they used to describe the feeling their customers will get when using the bath bomb, they also included photos of it in action:
I’ll be honest with you. I’ve never bombed my bath before, but I assume these kinds of images are quite compelling to those who do. It helps them feel the benefits of the product in a way that the primary image couldn’t.
If a Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words…
I already talked about the power of pithy copy. Your customers may read larger product descriptions, but you need to win them over with easily-scannable copy and bullet points first.
This can still be a real problem for many companies if they sell products that really do require a lot of explaining.
If they don’t provide that essential information, they’ll lose shoppers to competitors that do or they’ll end up with a lot of returns from customers who didn’t understand what they were buying.
On the other hand, if that essential information looks like a novel, many customers are going to look elsewhere (or just ignore it and, again, send the product back when they’re not happy).
The easiest way around this conundrum is with visuals.
Look at how much information Solo Stove packs into their product descriptions thanks to their helpful images.
This is a great way of showing customers the product’s dimensions.
Before breaking into their body copy, Solo Stove uses these great visuals almost like bullet points to summarize their product’s selling points.
They even offer five simple-but-effective visuals like this one to show shoppers how their stove works:
These are just absolutely fantastic images that don’t just grab attention but also convey information that customers want before they decide to buy.
Show Your Products in Action with Videos
Few things are going to improve the performance of a product description like adding a video to it.
That’s because people actually like being marketed to through video:
“54% of people want to see more video content from marketers.”
So, more and more, they’re becoming such a standard feature that if your product descriptions don’t have them, customers will notice.
Fitting in isn’t the only reason to start adding videos to your product descriptions, though.
The real reason is that videos help sell a lot of products:
“…Amazon and eBay report that adding a video ad to a product description increases the chances of a shopper buying that item by up to 35%.”
While videos will definitely cost you more than simply typing out the copy for your product descriptions, the ROI is clearly worth it. If you’re on a tight budget, start small with just one or two products. When sales increase, take that new ROI and invest it into more videos.
Finally, if you sell a service and not a product, you may have been feeling a bit left out in this section. Images of how you help may not always make a lot of sense.
However, videos can be perfect for showing off what your services do or simply explaining those all-important benefits.
We use videos for this all the time at IWD.
For example, the product page for our Checkout Suite is fairly lengthy. It took us thousands of words to do it justice.
Not everyone wants to read thousands of words, though (if you’re one of them, sorry!). That’s why we also included a video in the lengthy product description:
So, even though we don’t have a physical product to show off, we can still use visuals – vis-à-vis a video – to explain what makes it so great.
Remember: Media Speaks to the Quality of Your Brand
Finally, one last reason I always stress the importance of high-quality media to our clients is that I know their customers will instantly judge their company the moment they see them.
If their product descriptions include high-quality images and videos, their website visitors will assume they’re a reputable, respectable business. That doesn’t mean they’ll become customers right away, but the company will have overcome a major barrier that most eCommerce companies face: earning trust.
While we’ve already covered many of the best ways to do this (e.g. informative copy, user reviews, social proof, etc.), those methods will fail to inspire confidence if you use low-quality imagery that tells a very different story.
It will either look like you don’t care enough to spend on better media, or your company isn’t successful enough to afford it. Either way, just like cheap media, neither is a good look.
13. Don’t Forget About Google and Don’t Assume You Know What Your Customers Search For
Everything we’ve covered so far about writing product descriptions has had one goal and one goal only: to win over your prospective customers.
And, yeah, that’s a pretty important goal.
However, none of what we’ve talked about so far will do you any good if no one actually sees those amazing product descriptions.
For that, you need an online channel you can rely on for putting your descriptions in front of prospects.
Traditionally, this has meant Google.
Don’t get me wrong. We have clients who have spent a lot of time and money building out their email lists and using those as their primary channels for selling products.
Of course, social media has been huge for eCommerce, too. Many companies exclusively rely on Instagram or Facebook for introducing their products to customers.
Nevertheless, I still highly recommend that you write your product descriptions with Google in mind. Even if you have another channel in place, SEO is the most cost-effective option for eCommerce companies, and it isn’t even close.
And, yes, I’m aware that email has the highest ROI, but you still need a reliable channel to grow that list, now don’t you?
So, optimize your descriptions for Google. No matter how great your other channels may be, at the very least, earning traffic from Google means taking it away from competitors and who can pass up an opportunity to do that?
Don’t Assume You Know Your Keywords Because You Know Your Customers
With all that being said, we’ve worked with a lot of clients who come to us thinking SEO just doesn’t work for their business. I’ve heard it explained a number of different ways, but the bottom line is always the same: they’ve optimized their site – including their product descriptions – and hardly have any traffic to show for it.
In the vast majority of the cases, the reason is simple: the “keywords” they’re using aren’t the terms their customers use when they turn to Google.
SKU numbers come to mind immediately as an example. I’ve seen clients use them for their product pages’ title and H1 tags…and that’s it. They’re banking pretty heavily on the hope that their customers:
- Know what their SKU numbers are
- Immediately think to search for them when looking for their products
To be fair, I have seen it happen before, but it’s rare.
In any case, to optimize your product descriptions for Google, I recommend you do two things:
- Spy on Your Competitors:For inspiration, run a competitor page for a similar product throughSEMrush to see what it ranks for. Are any of those nonbranded keywords relevant to your product? Then take them for its page and thank your competitors for doing all that hard work. They saved you a lot of costly trial-and-error.
- Listen to Google Search Console: Even if a product page isn’t currently receiving any traffic, that doesn’t mean it’s not earning impressions. Google Search Console records an impression for your page any time it ends up in search results that a user views. If it doesn’t get a click, you don’t get any traffic, but that impression can still be helpful. Head to Google Search Console and check for impressions for any product page you want to optimize. For those that have them, check “queries” to see what people searched for when that impression happens. That will tell you what search terms Google associates with your product and should give you some good ideas for optimizing its description.
By all means, use your own industry knowledge when writing your product descriptions, but please don’t forget to leverage SEO software and your own Google Search Console. You just can’t be too careful when competing for Google’s very valuable attention.
14. Leverage the Selling Power of Social Proof
If you follow every tip we’ve covered so far on this list, writing a promising product description will be no problem.
You even know how to format them, so your readers are more likely to actually read all that valuable information and have a better chance of becoming customers.
Plus, you now know what kind of media you need to really sing your products’ praises.
And yet, we humans are fickle creatures.
All of that hard work still won’t be enough for most of us.
That’s because, before we buy, there’s one more absolutely vital piece of information we need. Even though we may be loathed to admit it, we really want to know what other people think.
This is the driving force behind the psychological concept of social proof. In short, we tend to assume that if other people like something, we will, too. If you keep hearing about how good a new show is on Netflix, you’ll be more likely to check it out, even if you don’t know much else about it.
As eCommerce marketers, we care about social proof for the same reasons. If shoppers see how many people absolutely love your product, they’re more likely to become customers, too.
Without a doubt, the easiest way to do this is with product reviews. Show shoppers that other people have made the same decision that they’re currently considering and that those customers were happy they did.
You’re probably already well aware of how Amazon has successfully leveraged the power of user-submitted reviews to increase profits.
Another social-proof-based tactic they’ve pioneered is sharing user-generated content in their product descriptions. Check out some of the descriptions from this Amazon post for a mud mask:
The product’s five-star review probably helps close a lot of sales, but I bet images like these help a whole lot more. They don’t just show the product “in action.” They show real people who seem to be enjoying the product. Their review supports this theory, of course, but putting a picture next to it helps to validate the review, too. Customers are less likely to worry that the manufacturer has made it up out of whole cloth.
Now, you might not enjoy the same luxury that Amazon does when it comes to user-generated content, but that doesn’t mean you can’t leverage the same advantage. Reach out to customers for photos and videos of them using your product “in the wild.” Many companies do this by turning it into a contest on social media.
However you decide to do it, use social proof to tell your customers, “Lots of people just like you love our products.”
Show People Enjoying Your Product (Just Like Your Shoppers Will)
Though it might not technically count as social proof, professionally-made videos can have the same effect if they show people using your products and having areallygood time doing it.
If you check out the site for Onewheel, almost the entire thing is just one big reminder that seemingly everyone on the planet owns one of these motorized boards and they all really enjoy them.
There’s a video showing people having a great time with their Onewheels right on the homepage:
Another video on one of their product pages:
And a completely different one playing on their other product’s page:
No matter where you go on their site, you’re never far away from a video of people demonstrating how much fun it is to own one of these products.
Go check out the site for yourself and see if you don’t feel positively about their product, even if you had never even heard of it before.
While video demonstrations are amazing for your product descriptions, share pictures and videos that show people really enjoying your product, too.
It might not be a one-of-a-kind, self-propelled, single-wheeled skateboard, but if people benefit from using your product, there’s an opportunity to use a photograph or video to prove it.
15. A/B Test
At the very beginning of this post, I pointed out that there’s no one-size-fits-all for product descriptions.
For some companies, there’s nothing more powerful than to keep it short-and-sweet.
For other companies, videos and long customer testimonials are just table stakes. They need to pull out all the stops to win over their market’s demanding customers.
While you now have 14 of the most important, proven ways to write product descriptions that attract and convert, my last piece of advice is to test every last one you implement.
Every. Last. One.
Don’t just use the photos that have “always worked.” Try another option and see if it improves your conversions.
Don’t even assume that your competitors have it right if they all stick to the same thing like shorter copy. Run an A/B test on one of your products with a longer description to see what happens.
In short, test, test, and test some more.
Gaining just a single insight could be all it takes to overtake your competition.
How One Company Actually Lost Money by Adding Product Descriptions
A company once “improved” one of their product pages by adding copy and…didn’t improve sales.
In fact, they ended up losing conversions to the tune of 31.38%!
The company added product descriptions to their site after a customer survey reported that shoppers wanted more information from their product pages.
Happy to help their customers, they added product information that included a breakdown of the benefits of individual features in user-friendly terms.
Unfortunately, those well-intentioned additions had the exact opposite effect.
To be fair, it’s probably not that their customers didn’t want the information they had asked for in those surveys. If you click that above link, you’ll see that the new product descriptions had a poor layout. Among other things, they pushed high-quality images down and the “buy” button even further down below that.
In short, they ignored a lot of the advice we covered above.
So, as much as I stand behind every point I’ve made in this post, please invest in A/B testing to make sure that your product descriptions work best for your unique market. Even if your initial changes are effective, testing could show you options for improving them even more!
“That’s All Well and Good, but I Have to Write Thousands of Product Descriptions”
At IWD, we work with a lot of eCommerce companies that have a lot of products to sell.
Writing hundreds or even thousands of product descriptions is already tough enough, so following each of the 15 steps above for all of them can seem impossible.
My advice would be to focus on the simplest improvements first, which will almost always be your copy. When your schedule, budget, or both allow, you can go back and take new pictures or even add videos. You can add product reviews and launch an initiative to have former customers come back and leave them.
For now, start with the product descriptions that need your help the most and focus on copy.
If my advice from Section 1 applies, change your copy so it differs from what the manufacturer is saying. Use bullet points to highlight your products’ features and dial them in to your customers’ pain points. Cut up the rest of your copy so it’s easy to scan and look for opportunities to add keywords youknowyour market uses when they turn to Google.
Doing this thousands of times will still be a challenge, but it’ll become much easier as you start to see positive results from your efforts.
How to Write Product Descriptions: Treat Them Like the Most Important Copy on Your Site
Well, if you’ve made it this far, I can probably assume you already know that product descriptions are extremely important.
However, as I just touched on, I know that going through all of them and writing new descriptions based on this advice can seem overwhelming.
Start where it makes the most sense for your company. That may mean literally doing nothing more than adding SEO keywords to each product description. Great! That “small” change is going to have a huge effect over time.
The important thing is that you treat your product descriptions as a true priority.
Give them as much attention as the other copy on your site and your customers will, too.
And if you want any help with yours, feel free to contact us.