Optimizing Your Product Descriptions in 5 Steps

If you have an e-commerce website, you know that one of the biggest tasks is getting all of your product information into your online catalog.  You’ve got to collect photos, descriptions, technical info like weights and sizes, and SKUs.  In addition, you want to make sure that each of your product pages is optimized for two major goals – getting indexed by the search engines and enticing customers to buy.  Just posting the bare minimum won’t get the job done.  Try these suggestions to super-power your product description pages.

1. Identify Your Long Tail Keyword(s)… Then Use Them

Your product descriptions and individual product pages are the perfect place for you to target what are called long tail keywords. These are very specific terms, usually three or more words.  Looked at individually, these terms aren’t searched as highly as more generic, short tail keywords (think shoes vs. patent leather mary janes), however, your e-commerce site will have many more relevant long tail keywords or phrases that can collectively dwarf the search frequency of the short tails.  Plus, the long tail phrases represent exactly what a potential customer is looking for. These web visitors are ready to buy, instead of just browsing.  So here’s how to target them:

  • Make sure your Product Name includes the most relevant long tail keyword.  Taking our example above, you might list your shoe as “Style 214 Red Patent Leather Mary Janes” instead of simply “Style 214.”
  • If possible, use search engine friendly URLs, so that the address for your product page for the above would be www.mycatalog.com/shoes/red-patent-leather-mary-janes.
  • Include your main long tail keyword in your on-page product description, along with common variations and related terms.
  • Make sure your Title, Meta Description, and Meta Keywords include your main long tail phrase and the related or supporting terms.
  • If you can, be sure the images you upload for your product include your keyword in the filename.

2. Write Compelling & Relevant Descriptions

You have two things to consider while crafting your product descriptions – search engine ranking as well as conveying compelling sales information to your potential customers. Writing your descriptions is perhaps the most challenging part of optimizing your online catalog to increase sales, however the following tips should help you tackle this challenge:

  • Resist the urge to re-use descriptions provided by manufacturers or found on other websites.  This type of “duplicate content” will sink the search engine ranking of the page it is found on, as well as negatively impact the ranking of the entire site.
  • If you have a large online catalog, make a plan of attack.  Identify your most profitable products and write complete, search engine optimized descriptions for them first.  These might be the products with the least competition online, or your most popular best-sellers, or perhaps the products with the most built-in profit.  By tackling your descriptions methodically, you can have some of your products improving your traffic and sales, even while you are working to complete the rest of your catalog.
  • Find a unique angle or voice with which to write your descriptions.  Perhaps your brand is friendly and casual… then you might consider writing a funny or informal description. Maybe your website is targeting a more upscale audience, then you’ll want to use language that reflects that target market.
  • Be sure you cover all the details.  Don’t just tell the basics (red patent leather Mary Jane shoes). Include everything that a customer might want to know… details that will tip the scale in your favor.  Are the shoes uniquely comfortable, how high is the heel, is the sole rubber, is the insole lined, how roomy is the toe, what exact shade of red is the shoe, what situation might a customer wear the shoe in?  You get the idea.  Give as much detail as you can.
  • Work in your main long tail keyword and related terms as much as possible while maintaining the readability and credibility of your descriptions.  You certainly don’t want to keyword stuff (that will make you look bad to your customers as well as the search engines), but where possible, repeat the main keywords and phrases relevant to the particular product you’re describing.

3. High Quality Photos

Photography is one of the most important persuasive elements in any online catalog. With so much competition online, it is important to present your products in the most complete and flattering light possible – this includes multiple views, close-ups, and if necessary technical shots that can stand in for the experience of a customer touching and holding a product in real life. The better your products look in your photos, the more confident your potential customers will be in proceeding with a purchase.

Some things to consider when taking your product photos:

  • If nothing else, make sure your product images are clear and well lit and that customers can click on them to view an enlargement. If you have only one photo per product, this one image should be the best representation of the product you can manage.
  • Taking things to the next level, it is a good idea to take product photos in a lightbox or against a uniform background for consistent presentation and styling.
  • Present customers with multiple views of your product, including different angles (front, back, top, bottom), close-ups of special features, and if applicable in action.
  • Consider using models in your photography.  Some studies have shown that a smiling face in a photo increases conversions vs. a photo of a product by itself.  So, for our ongoing example from above, you might include a photo of a woman enjoying your red patent leather Mary Janes while wearing a stylish outfit.
  • Sometimes technical specifications are important.  If that is the case with your product, consider including a technical diagram.  Or perhaps it would be useful to photograph your product next to a ruler for scale and size comparison.

4. Add Customer Reviews

This may seem like a scary proposition, and many e-commerce merchants resist adding customer reviews to their website for fear of bad reviews.  However, the multiple benefits of this user-generated content far outweigh any potential pitfalls.  In fact, many studies confirm that online shoppers are more likely to buy from a website if it includes reviews, regardless of how positive or negative the reviews are. Negative reviews actually improve your credibility in the eyes of your potential customers.

Reviews build trust, support customer loyalty, help improve SEO, and increase conversions.

How is your search ranking improved?
Quite simply, your customers will use the relevant terms and keywords for your product while they review your products.  In addition, they might also use terms that you couldn’t use in your main description, such as competitors’ names, brands, and more.  And the reviews add additional, all-important “unique content” that search engines value so highly.

5. Use Suggestive Selling

Suggestive selling can come in several forms. The most common are: similar items and items you might also be interested in.  Both of these keep your customers shopping, instead of leaving it up to chance whether they keep exploring your website or find a new site to shop. Additionally, the use of suggestive selling helps increase your search engine optimization by building relevant internal links.

Similar Items
Consider adding links at the bottom of your product page to items that are similar to the one being displayed.  For instance, perhaps your site offers patent leather Mary Janes in other popular colors, or you offer other red patent leather styles.  These products are not only relevant to your customers’ interests, they are also likely to use relevant and related keywords, so cross-linking can help increase conversions and improve search engine ranking.

Items You Might Also Be Interested In
While this type of suggestive selling doesn’t have as strong of an effect on your SEO, it is a powerful tool for increasing sales.  In this scenario, you would link to the related items that a customer might also need or be interested in.  For example, perhaps you have a matching red patent leather purse to offer your customers. If you sell electronics, you should present necessary cords, batteries, or accessories. Offering these related products is a convenient service to your customers and helps you increase total purchase revenues per customer.


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