How to write product descriptions that really sell . . . or at least make a decent effort to do so!

Be honest – when was the last time you actually enjoyed reading a product description? In a situation where you were actively looking for a product online, that is. Did you engage with it? Did it really provide you with valuable information? Did you find it creative, or did it just feel like you were reading a boring product manual, like so many we come across these days?
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The truth is this: although the best product descriptions have immense power to grab customers’ attention and communicate true value, not every online retailer or e-commerce website actually realizes this. More often than not, they will only treat this section of their website’s content as an area to be filled, maybe as a “product description SEO” section with some supposedly interesting keywords, and that’s it. Well, we’re here to tell you (and them): that truly is some missed potential!

Let’s get one thing straight: we’re not here to tell you how to write product descriptions. Well, a little bit, yes. Maybe you already know this, but it’s always good to remind you that a product description is an actual piece of marketing copy. Savvy? Don’t treat it as a product description – which it is – but treat it as a piece of advertising. Something you’re going to use in a social media marketing post, for instance. A true ad. As a unique opportunity to connect to your users, to communicate true value to them, to make them want to know more about your product.

OK, great product descriptions. But could you maybe give me the basics, the “product descriptions 101”?

By all means, dear reader. But keep in mind: this is not mandatory. It’s going to change depending on the product itself. A product description needs to answer a few basic questions:

  • What is this product for – or how is it meant to be used? (Here you could include every piece of information about the product’s use – seasonality, time of day, etc.)
  • How does the product actually work?
  • What are this product’s main benefits to customers/what problem does it solve?
  • What are some critical pieces of information about the product that every customer needs to know?
  • Are there any technical specifications that users need to be informed of?
  • Are there any other details that need to be communicated?

That’s more or less it. You’ve made it through the “how to write a product description” part. But, as you’re probably aware by now, that’s not all of it. Actually, it’s only the half.

What we’re going to cover in this product description article:

  1. Who are you writing it for?
  2. Is it to the point?
  3. Is it creative?
  4. Is it visually interesting?
  5. Is it optimized?
  6. Does it include reviews?
  7. And finally… is there actual value to it?
  8. Some KPIs would be great
  9. Conclusion

1. It's a product description, sure, but it's not for everyone

This one’s pretty important, so let’s start with it. The best product descriptions are targeted – made for a specific audience. Sure, if it’s a very popular product, this audience is going to be very broad. But, in any case, it has to be focused on the people who are actually interested in what you’re selling. That includes people who are already familiar with your product, and potential new customers as well. Makes sense?

That’s why many of the articles about “best product descriptions” out there talk about a concept called the “buying persona” – the profile of someone who might actually be interested in the product. And the cool thing is that this might change from product to product. In some cases, more detailed information might be needed, because the buying persona (this sounds like a cartoon villain) wants to know more about it. In other situations, it might be incredibly succinct and to the point. Because there’s no need to provide much information – the target audience already knows most of it.

And this also goes for the writing style, by the way. Tone, wording, expressions, idioms – all of these take the ideal buyer into consideration. Because in the end it might make a very big difference.

2. This article is kind of long (sorry about that),
but your product description shouldn't be (unless there's a very good reason for it)

We’re pretty sure that every “how to write product descriptions” article out there is going to tell you this: try to be specific. Tell your would-be customers what they need to know. And make sure to do it in a clear, relevant and – why not? – fun way. (OK, the fun part may not be very appropriate for some products). The bottom line? Get to the point, to the really important information.

Another important thing, apart from being to the point: make it scannable. That is, easy to read. Use bullet points, headlines, questions and answers, the right font size, some blank spaces in between. Your product description isn’t going to be very interesting if it looks like a tome from the Middle Ages, or an article from an encyclopedia. Trust us on this.

And, lest we forget, your product description should be value-focused. It should concentrate on how this particular product solves a problem, how it improves your would-be customer’s life. Never forget.

3. Just because it's a product description doesn't mean it has to be boring

Yep. This one is pretty self-explanatory, right? Don’t suck. Be great. Don’t boast too much, though, and don’t tell lies. Be nice. But hey, it’s still a piece of content directed at an audience with very specific goals – to guide them through the famous sales funnel and help them decide to make a purchase. So, boring won’t do. Being creative is as crucial as ever it was to a piece of web content out there.

And how to write a good product description while being creative? We like to be funny every now and then. We also like words that aren’t run of the mill, clichéd, everyday. And, obviously, we like to use a tone that’s going to create an emotional connection with users – or, to take a very much-used expression, to “strike a chord”. Wait, this shouldn’t be here – we just told you not to use common expressions! Well, sorry, but you get the picture.

And sure, we could tell you to include some “power words” in your product description to influence your users and create a sense of uniqueness. But they have to be aligned with the creativity and the product description itself. Otherwise, these words won’t do the trick. It’s a product description, after all, not a hypnosis session. And, be warned, customers don’t like too much boasting or too many superlatives. It just doesn’t feel that… genuine.

4. How to write a good product description for a product that isn’t really there

That’s simple: by using all the powers granted to you by the magic of design elements… and pictures, of course.

It might come as a shock, because we’re talking about best product description tips here, but the design of and pictures on your product page could be even more important in some cases. Why? Because most people will only scan through a product description (please re-read point number two above) and spend more time looking at images of said product. And, let’s be honest – they’re about to buy a product that they can’t see in front of them, or feel in their hands. So this should come as no surprise.

So why not create product copy that actually complements the images, explaining to the audience what they are seeing and giving them very important pointers (such as the measurements of an item of clothing, for instance)? And use fonts, alignment, headers and other design-related items in a way that complements the entire page and the user experience?

That’s what we’re talking about – images and words go hand in hand, so use that in your product’s favor.

5. It's an SEO content world… and you need some product description SEO. Period.

Of course – you didn’t think we’d leave SEO out of this, did you? As with any other piece of content on the web, your product descriptions are a great chance to add visibility to your page and website. Why? Simply because people are already looking for your product, and you need to make sure you’re using the same keywords they’re using to look for you. That includes the entire SEO bandwagon: your URL, title, headers, meta descriptions, keyword density, internal links, etc. Need some pro advice on that? Check this article right here.

But please, please – product description SEO also requires some SEO “don’ts”. Don’t stuff your product description with all the keywords remotely associated with it – use them in a natural, flowing way. Don’t use keywords that are too broad, too generic, too… useless. Usually e-commerce users go for the more specific ones, also known as long tail keywords.

6. Your customers may create a much better product description than you do

You’re selling a great product that will certainly help everyone who buys it. You have confidence in that, and your product description shows it. But hey, why not let your customers provide reviews as well? This might be an incredible opportunity to add some great user-generated content into the mix, bringing your entire product description closer to your target audience.

There are two ways to go about this: either allowing users to create detailed reviews (including a grading system) or conducting specific research with them through other means (let’s say an email newsletter, for example) and including their positive, glowing reviews in your product description page as recommendations. Not bad, right?

That’s what online marketers usually refer to as “social proof” – adding positive reviews and telling users that the product is popular is going to influence them towards making a purchase. The more relatable the recommendation is to them, the better. At least in theory, of course.  Your product’s greatness should do the rest.

7. We're going to talk about value again. Please don't hate us. It's important, we promise.

Yes, we know. “This again,” you might be saying. But bear with us here. We talk a lot about communicating actual value and benefits to your users. How exactly is this done? Allow us to give you some nice tips on that:

  • Demonstrate how your product solves the main problem that the customer has. Or, instead of a problem, think of the query that brought the user to your page in the first place.
  • Have your target audience in mind when describing your products and their respective value. What kind of features are they interested in?
  • One good tip you might have heard before: don’t focus on the product itself. Go for the experience instead. This will already stand out as a product description.
  • Don’t overdo it, or it will sound artificial. Pick the main benefits of your product and highlight them. Don’t choose a benefit for each feature and describe it – it’s not likely to work. 

8. It's a product description, so… it's going to need some performance tracking

It’s just like with every piece of content marketing. Goals are important – to know where you’re going, and to track your way there. There’s got to be some kind of indication that what you’re doing is right, or not. And KPIs are the answer.

If you’re working with an online marketing agency that’s covering your product descriptions, they might be able to help you with that (that is, if they haven’t already). But, for the sake of information, we’re going to list some items that should be relevant for you when looking closely at your web analytics dashboard:

  • Traffic (and traffic sources, especially organic)
  • Average time on page
  • Conversion rate
  • Revenue (obviously)
  • Page rankings

These, of course, will depend on your overall content marketing plan and your business goals. But, in any case, a tracking system is of the essence. You need to be able to clearly identify success in your strategy (or lack thereof).

Conclusion: the best product descriptions are something more than product descriptions

We’re at the conclusion, and by now – if we did a good job – you’ve understood that simple, dull product descriptions won’t do much for your products (or your sales). Going a bit further isn’t only a good idea; it’s truly necessary to stand out and make a difference (or, how shall we put it – a sale?). Telling a real story about your product, connecting to your users on an emotional level, showing your audience how the product can have a positive impact on their lives. That’s what product descriptions are about – not merely listing product features and characteristics, but actually showing users what’s so great about the product itself – for them, of course.

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