Well-Said: Five Essential Pieces Of Advice For Better Product Descriptions (And Why They Matter)

A guest article by Christina Coons, a professional digital marketer at Northcutt, an inbound marketing agency. She specializes in eCommerce, social media, and public relations, and spends her days helping brands succeed online.

Are the product descriptions on your storefront as good as they could be? Probably not. Here are a few things you could be doing better.

Digital storefronts have one glaring weakness when compared to brick-and-mortar locations, customers have to take you entirely on your word when you say a product is a good fit for them. Whereas in a physical store, they can pick up something and look at it, feel the fabric on a shirt, sniff the scent of a perfume, examine the weave on a rug online they’ve only your sales pitch. And if it isn’t a good one, they’re going to turn elsewhere for their purchases - that’s inevitable.

It isn’t just your customers you’re trying to impress here, either. High-quality product descriptions are also a ranking factor. Google’s made repeated advances over the past several years in that arena, to the point that today, it’s value and relevance that makes you rank just as much as it is keywords - if not more so.

In other words, you need to take steps to ensure that you describe your products in a way that’s not only relevant but compelling. You need to persuade people if they want to buy from you, but do so in a way that’s both concise and aligned with Google’s content guidelines. Today, we’re going to talk about how you can do just that.

Write A Story For Your Ideal Customer

At the core of a good product description is the fact that it doesn’t just describe what a person’s buying in dry, boring terms. It tells them a story. It paints for them a picture of what the product can do for them, and compels them to learn more about it - or to purchase it outright. To that end, the most important step here is to define your buyer persona.

  • Who do you want purchasing your products?
  • What are their interests?
  • How do they talk and think?
  • What sorts of words and phrases do they find appealing?
  • What’s their situation - why are they buying from you?
  • What objections might stop them from purchasing your product?
  • What specific need does your product serve?

Focus on that last point, rather than on the product itself. A young man shopping for cologne to wear on a date has very different purchasing intent than someone who’s looking to purchase a shirt for their husband’s birthday, for example. A different description will resonate with him.

In other words, you need to shape your language so that it conveys the sort of personality your ideal buyer would find most intriguing. Talk how you feel they’d talk. Convey an understanding of your audience, or else your descriptions will fall flat.

Finally, try to convey the experience of using the product. What about using it is pleasurable? Put that into words. SEO Moz gives a good example of how to do this, and you can find a list of great example product descriptions here.

Make Your Benefits Clear Up-Front

I already mentioned that you need to focus on the need a product serves, rather than the product itself. To that end, the specific benefits of purchasing a particular item on your store should be immediately apparent, as should your product’s features. While this isn’t necessarily a part of the initial product description, a customer should be able to tell, at a glance, what it can do for them.

One word of advice I can offer here is that you create bullet points to appear somewhere on your listing, that combine the positive features of your product with negative features or glitches it helps them avoid (clothes shrinking in the dryer, screen glare on a smartphone, and so on). As noted by the neuromarketing blog, people tend to be risk-averse. If you can help them feel assured that purchasing from you means they avoid certain risks typically associated with the products you’re selling, then you’re in a good place.

Keep It Short and Sweet

Most people are probably going to be looking at your storefront from a mobile device. If your product description is a massive wall of text, they frankly aren’t going to read it. Ideally, you want to be able to get the point across in around three to four hundred words though if you can do so in less without it appearing disjointed and confusing, definitely shoot for that.

You might also consider making use of short paragraphs, and bolded text to draw the reader’s attention where you want it to be directed.

Offer Up Some Concrete Facts and Figures

Does your smartphone’s screen have more pixels than major competitors? Do you have proof that the clothes you’re selling are made of the material that’s higher quality than the buyer can get elsewhere? Tell your customers about it.

If your product is really the best - or is at least objectively better than a leading competitor’s - give a concrete figure to demonstrate that. For example, look at the description of the Amazon Paperwhite. The more astute among you probably noticed it doesn’t call out any specific brands - and that’s important, too.

You want to be careful that you don’t step on any toes, lest you end up in a spot of legal trouble.

Avoid Filler Phrases, Duplicate Copy, and Keyword Stuffing

We’ve spent a lot of time talking about what you should do - I’d like to leave off with some advice on what you need to avoid doing. Remember how, with resume-writing courses, they give you a list of words to avoid like the plague? Writing a product description is a lot like writing a resume in that regard.

What I mean is that there are certain words and phrases which serve little purpose other than acting as ‘filler.’ When your customers read them, their eyes glaze over. They go from experiencing your product to simply reading a boring wall of text.

These words and phrases come in many forms:

  • Jargon is industry slang that’s difficult for your audience to fully understand. This one’s a bit difficult to articulate, as knowing whether or not a buyer will know what something means requires you to understand your audience. A business leader, for example, will likely understand terms like ‘drilling down’ and ‘minesharing,’ but a teenager buying a smartphone might not.
  • Overuse terminology like stunning, just, elegant, chic, “excellent quality,” and so on. This one might require a bit of research, as they vary by industry.
  • Keyword stuffing is a practice that should already be dead - it hasn’t worked for nearly a decade now. Basically, if your product description includes twenty different ways to say the word ‘shirt,’ you’ve stuffed it with keywords. Sprinkle in a few keywords here and there, make sure they flow with the rest of your copy, and make sure they’re phrases someone will actually type into a search engine.
  • Duplicate Copy is exactly what it sounds like - it’s something you copied and pasted from elsewhere on your site (or worse, elsewhere on someone else’s). Don’t do that.
Closing Thoughts

There you have it. You now know the secret to great product descriptions. Now get out there and start optimizing yours. And if you need a little help doing so, here are a few great Shopify plugins that’ll aid you along:

  • Easytabs lets you add tabbed descriptions to your products for greater ease of browsing and organization. Tabify offers the same functionality, as does Product Description Tabs Widget.
  • The Product Reviews Addon allows you to automatically request a review for products from purchasing customers.
  • Editorify streamlines the process involved in editing or updating existing product information.
  • Product Labels helps you make your descriptions a bit more visually appealing with label images and calls-to-action.

Of course, there are plenty more out there, as well - have a look, and see if you find some that you like!


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