“What’s the best place to hide a dead body? – Page two of the Google search results.”
Classic. And still so painfully relevant to online businesses.
In essence, if your store does not rank on the first page of Google, you end up being one of the only people knowing about its location and sheer existence, especially if you’re selling niche products.
That’s why search engine optimization (SEO) is so important. It helps your customers discover you. It drives traffic to your store. And traffic, in turn, affects your conversion rates and sales.
SEO, however, is quite a broad topic and there is no single or definite approach to tackle it. There are numerous ways you can try to improve your traffic or develop SEO if you’re a small business. But, as an online seller, you should definitely focus on your product descriptions. After all, product descriptions are also pieces of content that are seen and evaluated by Google crawlers.
Here’s what you need to know to get started with writing optimized, user-friendly descriptions.
Write for Your Audience, Not Search Engines
Wait, the goal is to rank high on search engine results pages (SERPs), so why would you need to put your customers first? Because users and search engines are inextricably linked. If you write with your customers in mind, it shows that you care about clarity and readability and your store will earn some “extra points” from Google.
This principle, however, doesn’t quite work the opposite way. Besides, the sole purpose of writing product descriptions with the right keywords is to attract the audience who is looking for exactly what you’re selling.
Whenever you’re in doubt about the description you wrote, ask yourself: “Does this help my customer?” This essentially means you need to determine whether the description is informative enough and will help them decide to place an order with you over the competition.
And this begs another tricky question: “How do I help my customers to make the decision to buy?”
Highlight Benefits, Not Just Features
People search for goods (usually) having some specific intent in their minds. Once they land in your store, you want to keep them and show them it’s your products they’ve been looking for. And it’s not just for increasing sales. If they bounce too early and too often, it will hurt your SEO.
But here comes the problem: Buying online is quite a unique experience. The buyer cannot inspect the product or talk to the sales assistant immediately unless the seller uses a live chat to address this issue. So it’s hard to know exactly what people pay attention to.
For that reason, many online sellers focus on features. They list every single detail about the product, forgetting about the people who are going to use them. And that’s not exactly the way to go.
Features vs Benefits
Compare these two descriptions of a pair of hiking boots:
The features feel impersonal and boring. Moreover, they are often just a list of technical jargon that not everyone understands.
Think about camera specs. These are great for advanced users. But for newbies looking for their first camera, it’s going to be a struggle to make heads or tails of it.
The benefits, on the other hand, appeal to the buyer’s imagination. They put the item in context, they show features in action, they explain what they do and what the user will gain – not to mention that stories aided with rich visuals (e.g. photos, demos, infographics, videos) grab attention better.
What’s more, by being more descriptive, you give yourself more room to fit in the relevant keywords that are so much needed for SEO.
Does it mean that a list of features is a bad idea? No, absolutely not. Features and benefits should complement each other. Besides, your goods will very likely be sought after by different user personas, so you should address their needs, too.
Understand Your Target Audience
Each shopping journey begins with a need or motivation. People look to buy goods to make themselves or others feel better, to feed themselves, to educate, to fulfill some goal, etc.
And your copy should reflect those needs. It should strive to establish an emotional link between the product and the potential buyer.
However, some products are universal, so it might be hard to present them from the point of your customers’ needs. That’s where knowing your audience comes in. If you already understand those needs, you can attract a more relevant audience, and this will not only increase your sales but will reduce your bounce rate.
Here are a few examples of how you can present your products to target the exact audience:
- Are your customers environmentally conscious for whom “cruelty-free” or “fair-trade” will be the deciding factors to buy with you?
- Are they concerned fathers who look for “safe and toxic-free” toys for their kids?
- Are they healthy, fit people who care about the detailed ingredients list, nutrition table and expiry date on the vegan bodybuilding supplements you sell?
Business-to-business (B2B) organizations in automotive eCommerce, for example, can use success stories and game-changing cases.
If you approach product description copywriting from this angle, you might be surprised at how different the phrases are that people use to find what they are looking for. Try to incorporate those keywords or phrases into your copy to make it even stronger.
Adjust the Description Length
The length of the product description copy is another factor that affects your SEO. The problem is there is no such thing as an optimal length.
So the only way to go about it, yet again, is to think about people who will be reading your descriptions.
Earlier, we spoke about the buyers’ needs and the fact that they all have different motivations, expectations and requirements. We also mentioned that they display different levels of knowledge about your products (e.g.: pro vs amateur digital camera users).
What it basically means is that those two types of customers will require different product descriptions.
If your customers have a low level of knowledge about a particular product or brand, you will need to put more effort into explaining the product and convincing them to buy it. The copy for them will tend to be longer. It doesn’t mean though that you should write a lengthy story; rather, you can arrange different bits of information under clickable tabs or expandable sections. This way, your customers get what they need without feeling overwhelmed.
Customers with a high level of knowledge about the product or brand, on the other hand, already know your product and understand why they want it. The copy in this case is usually short and to the point.
However, high-level knowledge customers are not only the pros from certain technological fields. Customers buying basic, staple products (e.g. underwear that does not require much of an explanation) also fall into this category.
Avoid Keyword Stuffing
Another important thing to remember to avoid keyword stuffing at all costs. You write for users, not search engines, remember? While you want to avoid being spammy (and potentially hurt your ranking in the process), keywords are essential. How do you balance these two?
The search engine crawlers scan entire pages to ascertain meaning, and product descriptions are rather short pieces of text. So if you include the same keyword several times, you will cause the search engine to remove it from SERPs.
What’s the alternative? The copy itself is not the only place where you can insert a keyword. For instance, you can also include a keyword in:
- “Alt” image descriptions
- Page titles
- Subheadings (H2s, H3s, …)
- Meta titles and meta descriptions
One keyword in each of these is enough, and will help you avoid your product page being penalized.
Keep the Descriptions Unique
The product page must not be duplicated. Page uniqueness is a core element in SEO. What does this mean? Similar product descriptions on several pages will make it problematic for search engines to index the pages of your store. If the page cannot be correctly indexed, it will be less visible.
Let’s take shoes as an example. Many stores sell hundreds of similar shoes that only differ in size or color. In such a case, it would obviously be a challenge to come up with 10 (and sometimes even more) unique product titles for each pair, even if you had done the most advanced keyword research in the world.
For example, these two product titles are not unique:
“Ladies Summer flip-flops (pink)” and “Ladies Summer flip-flops (size 8).”
If you happen to run out of creativity after naming your nth product, tell search engine web crawlers that you do not want certain pages to be indexed.
To do this, add a “no-index” meta-tag to the <head> section of the page you want the crawlers to skip. It serves a similar purpose to the robot.txt file.
<meta name=”robots” content=”noindex” />
Although deindexing the page may not sound like the perfect solution, it’s still better than being penalized for something that might be regarded as spam.
Be sure to periodically check the Index Coverage report for your site in Google Search Console to find out about any indexing issues Google is running into while going through your store.
Ecommerce SEO copywriting requires skills and practice. If you want to make your life easier, you can use talent acquisition software to find professional copywriters who can write product descriptions with ease.
Product Descriptions and SEO: Summary
Product page copy is a significant part of your store content. The first thing to remember is to always keep the buyer’s needs in mind, and that need is information about your products. Product pages should educate (features) and motivate your customers (benefits) to convert.
Secondly, description copies should be aligned with SEO principles to drive organic traffic to your store. Keep your copies unique and use keywords sparingly to avoid penalties.