10 Tips for Writing Engaging Product Descriptions

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Writing Engaging Product Descriptions

Getting ready to add new/seasonal products to your online store as you head into September? Make sure you pay proper attention to the product descriptions. Compelling descriptions should engage the customer, solidify your brand’s voice, and include keywords. Here are some tips for making sure you do all that.

1. Think way beyond the default description. Lots of manufacturers can give you a list of facts, like size, weight, and color. But a boring list doesn’t make a good product description. You can certainly bullet point the essentials at the end of your description or you can include some of the factual stuff in a more thorough description. But whatever you do, don’t use the default list as the product description.

Bonus point: unless you’re the exclusive retailer of a certain product, there will be other retailers out there with the same product. Writing a unique description of your own will help you stand out. Not to mention that you can get a little more inventive with how you use keywords. Which brings us to our next point.

2. Optimize your description. Each product has its own product page, which means you have a new opportunity to wow the likes of Google and Bing with fresh copy that’s optimized around a specific keyword phrase or two. Use the keyword in the title tag, in the product headline, and in the description itself. Use synonyms as well, since search engines are getting better at figuring out what people really want when they enter a search phrase. So, for example, if you’re creating a page for a cool new tween girl’s hoodie, you might optimize for “girl’s hoodie” and use that phrase in the title tag and headline, but you might also use synonyms like “sweatshirt,” “tween hoodie,” and “girl’s sweatshirt” in the actual description itself.

3. Paint a picture using the product’s benefits. When it comes to selling products with words, it’s important to paint a picture. You want the site visitor to see herself using the product, so think of how the product might be used and set a scene. Let’s go back to the girl’s hoodie we mentioned above. In your description, you might talk about how it’s the “must-have” item for fall closets since it’s the perfect thing to wear to Friday night football games, shopping trips to the mall, or just chillaxing with your BFFs. This is also where you’ll discuss the product’s benefits, instead of simply providing a laundry list of features. So you might mention that the tween hoodie is made out of fleece, which will keep you extra warm on those cold bleachers when you’re cheering on the home team.

4. Use real-life language your customers use. Notice how we used words like “chillaxing” and “BFFs” in the example above? That was intentional, since the audience is tween girls (and parents of tween girls who are probably quite familiar with some of the lingo—even if they don’t always know what it means). Product descriptions are a great place to get out of marketing-speak and show your company’s human side. It’s also a place where you can have some fun.

5. Make sure the description matches the product’s essence. Obviously, if you’re selling a “serious” product—caskets or urns, for example (and yes, websites exist for these items!)—you’ll want to tone down the copy. You should still sound human, but you’ll want to make sure the tone comes across as reverent, not irreverent.

6. Make sure the description works with your store’s overall brand identity, too. If your store is all about elegance and sophistication, then your product descriptions shouldn’t read like copy from a teeny-bopper magazine. It’s important that your descriptions reinforce your brand’s identity—not create a whole new version.

7. Be consistent across all of your descriptions. Don’t get all cute and flirty for five descriptions and then slip into a more stilted tone for the rest. Again, your descriptions should reflect your brand and the tone should be consistent across all of them.

8. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation count. It’s easy to dismiss mistakes because, well, these are “just” descriptions, right? But if someone takes the time to go to a product page, it’s because she’s interested in the product or, at the very least, she wants more info. Don’t make folks suffer through incoherent prose or sentences filled with typos. People will notice, even if it’s on a subconscious level.

9. Study companies that do it well. If you’re wondering how to go about writing product descriptions (or you’re looking for examples to give to your copywriter to guide him or her), the best thing you can do is check out how other retailers do it. Start with your competitors. Which ones do a good job, which ones don’t, and be able to articulate why in both cases. Look at companies that are well known for doing “fun” descriptions, like J. Peterman Company. Do you like the descriptions? Why or why not?

Product descriptions can be found everywhere, not only online. When you’re in brick and mortar shops, check out the hang tags on products (specialty or one-of-a-kind products in particular). When you’re ordering your next entrée at your favorite restaurant, notice how the dish is described on the menu. You can find inspiration—and ideas to “borrow”—everywhere.

10. When in doubt, farm it out. Listen, you’re busy running your store, and you’re now heading into the busy pre-holiday season. After reading this post, you get that it’s probably wise to have compelling product descriptions, but you just don’t have the time or writing chops to tackle the project. That’s OK! This is where hiring a copywriter can make a lot of sense. You can search on “copywriter,” “product copywriter,” “ecommerce copywriter,” and various combinations. Ask for samples (make sure you like the style) and ask how they charge. Avoid hourly rates, if you can. Opt for project quotes or something that’s well defined instead (e.g. “I write 4 descriptions per hour and charge X amount”). Then, you can get a sense of cost and how to prioritize.

If you’re a retailer, tell us how you handle product descriptions. Do you write them in-house, or do you farm out the work to a freelance writer? If you’re not a retailer, do you have any favorite stores that do a great job with their descriptions? Share in the comments!

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