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The importance of eCommerce product descriptions

by Chris Sutton | January 17, 2012

Many businesses developing their first eCommerce website seriously underestimate the amount of time required to properly develop the site. In actual fact, the technical side of things is quite straightforward, and it’s the creation of high quality images and writing of good product descriptions that really takes the time.

I talked about product images and their importance recently, but product descriptions are equally important and we’ll take a look at that today.

While writing all your own descriptions can be daunting, the sheer amount of text required for product descriptions actually provides a substantial benefit as well as all the work. If you have a small static site with just a few pages, it’s really difficult to optimise it for more than a few words, but with a reasonable number of products you can optimise your site for a much greater number of keywords and phrases and significantly increase your Google footprint.

Just think of all that work as an opportunity to build a successful ecommerce website - and a potentially thriving business!

There are some risks though in the process of writing product descriptions.

Many people take the easy route with product descriptions and just copy and paste from the manufacturer's brochures or website. But the best and shortest advice I can give is simply this: Don’t. You can learn more about Google's intentions here.

Primarily, this is because Google penalises duplicate content, if you have the same product descriptions as dozens or even hundreds of other websites, Google has no idea which should rank higher and sites will frequently drop in the rankings as a consequence.

A further, very important reason for writing or editing the descriptions instead of using the manufacturer's text is that their descriptions tend to focus on the features or technical specifications of a product, whereas if you’re going to make a sale you need to focus on the benefits. Think of your descriptions as your saleperson on the spot. I’m sure you wouldn’t just recite the technical details directly to a customer you were talking to, you’d explain what the benefits those features or technical details would actually provide. So you really need to highlight the benefits of a product in the description.

Writing your own descriptions also has significant SEO benefit, it enables you to craft the text around the keywords that you want to use for that product.

Lastly, and importantly, you don’t need to write “War and Peace”! Concise product descriptions are far more likely to be read by your customers than long rambling descriptions. This is actually a difficult one to set any definite word quota for though, because if it’s a complex product then you need to cover the detail adequately. The best way to handle the situation where you have to include a lot of detail is to add tabbed content areas below the primary description, and you can provide as much information as you like there for those customers who need it.

Learn more about writing emotive, effective product descriptions here.

SiteSuite Website Design - Online Marketing Blog Author Chris Sutton

Co-founder and Managing Director of SiteSuite Australasia, Australian pioneers in web design and ecommerce since 1997. For more from Chris you can follow him on Google+ or Twitter, and for further professional musings and thoughts on his other passions in life,

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