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Writing Enticing Product Descriptions

Posted on 6.29.2010

If you want a challenge, try writing e-commerce product descriptions. Within a typical 60 to 70 words, you must concisely convey the benefits and selling points of your product while including search engine keyphrases that engage your target audience... all while working within the constraints of your content management system (CMS).

How do the pros do it?

We understand that balance and organization are vital.

Using the following simple, seven-step process will help you quickly master the art of e-commerce copywriting. Once you do, you will then be able to generate enticing copy that drives sales and boosts search engine positioning.

1. Get Familiar with the Target Audience
Amazingly, most people completely ignore their target customer when writing product descriptions. However, the site visitor is the key to shaping copy; the tone it takes and which angle is used to communicate the benefits.

For example, if your target audience consists of gourmet chocolate lovers, you will want to focus on the distinctiveness of your products’ flavors, the quality of the ingredients or perhaps the luxurious texture. But what if your target audience consists of — in part or in whole — those seeking gluten-free treats?

Added ingredients in gourmet chocolates may cause problems for those with celiac disease. These consumers are regularly forced to stick with ordinary, plain chocolate candies due to their condition. By doing a little research, you will find that gluten-free items are some of the most sought-after, up-and-coming grocery products. You will want to make certain this segment of your gourmet site visitors understands that you have products that meet their dietary needs.

Knowing your audience as a whole and understanding each segment within that audience is imperative to creating e-commerce copy that hits the mark every time.

2. List the Biggest Benefits
The steps in this process are progressive. So, while keeping your target audience and its needs in mind, make a list of the benefits that are most important to your customers. You may want to include various segments in your list.

Continuing with the example above, let’s create a mini-list for a boxed collection of international chocolates.

Gourmet Chocolate Lovers — Distinctive ingredients imported from across the globe.

Health-Conscious — Organic ingredients, premium dark chocolate, high-quality nuts.

Special Dietary Needs —Gluten-free. Other collections available might include sugar-free, vegetarian, vegan and kosher.

All Customers — 100-percent pure ingredients; no artificial colors, flavors or additives.

Gift-Givers — Attractive, boutique-style gift boxes wrapped in a silk bow. Gift card included at no additional cost. A style(s) appropriate for both personal and business gifting.

3. Predict the Future
Good copywriters look past the buying experience toward the future. After the customer purchases this product, how will his or her life be different or better? What will be the specific end result of a purchase?

In the case of gourmet chocolates, the end result for those purchasing for themselves might be breathing a sigh of satisfaction as these divine confections melt in their mouths. For gift-givers, the end result could be a positive impression on the recipients (whether business or personal) with a truly distinctive collection unlike any they have ever received.

Whatever the end result, it is important to give your site visitors a glimpse into the future so they can see how purchasing from your company will improve their lives.

4. Know the Limits of Your CMS
Content management systems (CMS) can be frustrating. Before you set out to write product copy 150 words long with a catchy headline, you will want to verify what can and cannot be accomplished in your system. Some have limited room in the copy field. Others force the headline by pulling information from the product specifications. For example, the headline on each product page might be automatically fed from the title of the product.

Knowing what obstacles and limitations must be overcome will make the process of writing copy much easier. A few common areas to check include:

• Maximum word or character count in the product copy field

• Additional fields below the fold (i.e. if you run out of space in the product copy field, you can add a link for ‘more information’ that drops the reader to a space further down the page)

• Forced information (headlines that are automatically inserted, product copy automatically fed to category pages, etc.)

5. Incorporate Search Engine Keyphrases
Depending on your site design and your CMS, product descriptions could conceivably be hundreds of words long. However, you are most likely looking at around 60 – 80 words. That doesn’t leave much room to incorporate keyphrases.

While longer Web pages benefit from the use of multiple search terms, I recommend sticking to one keyphrase for short product descriptions. Start with the framework of your page including the title tag, description meta tag, file name, page name in the navigational structure, breadcrumb trail, forced page headline and other elements. Then move on to the content. Use search phrases in:

• Headlines — If your headline is not forced by your CMS, make a point to include your keyphrase; provided it doesn’t detract from the message. It is usually very simple to incorporate a keyphrase into a headline, but — if for some reason it just doesn’t flow — leave it out.

• Product Image Captions — Too many e-commerce sites simply shove “Product #12345” below graphics. Instead, underneath the hero shot of your product enter a short, keyword-rich sentence that briefly describes the item. This assists your visitors with learning about your product and gives a little nudge to your rankings.

• Product Copy — Even within 60 – 80 words you should be able to comfortably include your best search term at least two or perhaps three times. Read the text out loud. If it sounds redundant, take out one instance of your keyphrase.

6. Write the Copy
It’s time to put all the pieces together. Start by reviewing the previous five steps. We have our target customer base, benefits, end results and keyphrase. Combine everything you have to create a compelling product description that will capture plenty of clicks.

While there are dozens of ways to write copy for any given product, here is one version of sample copy for our gourmet chocolate product. Our keyphrase is [gourmet chocolates].

Tour the World with International Gourmet Chocolates
Do a little culinary globetrotting with our collection of gourmet chocolates. Only 100% pure ingredients from across the globe are used. Organic Hawaiian coconut, Australian macadamia nuts and other exceptional treats blend with the richest dark cocoa from West Africa for distinctive gourmet chocolates that truly indulge the senses. This assortment of 16 truffles is gluten-free, elegantly packaged for personal or business gifting, and wrapped with a silk bow.

7. Tweak, Test & Track
Satisfied? You shouldn’t be. There is always room for improvement. Change a word or two in the headline or alter the focus to one particular segment of your audience. Gradually make small tweaks to your product descriptions and test them against the original version of the copy. Track your results in order to gain the best conversion ratio possible. This is an alltoo- often skipped step that — when done correctly — frequently results in tremendous gains.

Once you understand the components of good product copy, it’s easier than you think to put together descriptions that garner more sales. Keep this simple outline handy and you will quickly gain speed when writing high-converting e-commerce copy.

About the Author: Karon Thackston is author of the forthcoming e-book, Wordtracker Masterclass: Ecommerce Copywritiing, Proven Strategies for Boosting Sales & Search Rankings, available in September, 2010.

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