Thanks to Ronald Dod of Visiture for providing this guest post about search-engine-optimized product descriptions.
Writing search engine-friendly product titles and descriptions is both an art and a science. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to get them just right. Do it one way and get penalized by the search engines, do it another and don’t gain any traction. What’s a marketer to do?
Though e-commerce search engine optimization isn’t easy, remember that the mission of writing a product description is to provide the customer with good, useful information. Getting your product descriptions right is a time-consuming task that can require a lot of tweaking, but by following these seven best practices, you can create product pages that are more useful to customers, more acceptable to search engines, and all-around stronger for achieving sales.
1. Make your product descriptions helpful and clear
If there’s a golden rule of product description writing, this is it. The product description that gets the most SEO traction will usually be the one that the customer finds most useful. Why? Because Google tracks how long customers spend on your site, and whether they go back to the search results. So, if you’ve got helpful, clear, conversion-focused content, Google knows, and they’ll reward you.
So, what do consumers find useful? Naturally, it all depends on who your customers are, but a few common elements include
- ways the product can improve a customer’s life
- use cases for the product
- proprietary technology that improves the product
- what sets the product apart from competitors’ similar items
- which accessories and components the product includes (or doesn’t include, if the consumer might reasonably expect it to)
This may seem like Marketing 101, and it is — because honest marketing is all about providing the customer with the tools to make the best decision.
2. Never duplicate content (even if it’s your own content)
Re-posting any content on different product detail pages (even content you own or have permission to use) can get your page seriously dinged by search algorithms. This is because Google’s web crawlers see large amounts of duplicate content and penalize it for what they consider to be spam or plagiarism.
While it might be tempting to copy-paste the manufacturer’s description, it will ultimately hamstring your SEO efforts. The solution? Put in the work to write original content for each product. It certainly takes longer, but you’ll get better performance out of your descriptions. Google’s algorithms don’t like duplicate content.
Another key point: Many common e-commerce platforms, such as Amazon and WooCommerce, offer easy ways to create product variations on a single page, such as multiple sizes or colors of a dress. You should already be doing this if you’re an apparel retailer, but it’s also worth it for merchants in other sectors who sell large numbers of similar goods, as it will save you from having to create dozens of separate but identical pages.
3. If you have to use duplicate product descriptions, make it temporary and use a “no index” tag
If you have hundreds of almost-identical products and you need to upload them right away, totally unique product descriptions may not be realistic. Adding the “no index” tag to your similar-looking pages, as shown in these Shopify tips, will keep the duplicates off of Google’s search radar and prevent you from being penalized. You don’t want to keep these tags around, though, because it keeps the page from being discovered by search engines. Try writing a handful of product descriptions each day, prioritizing the items with high demand and chipping away until they’ve each got unique content.
4. Create mobile-friendly page designs
Over half of e-commerce sales flow through mobile devices, and the majority of e-commerce growth is now being driven by customers on mobile. That means that you’re shooting yourself in the foot if you’re not optimizing your detail pages for mobile.
Try following some standard best practices for creating mobile-friendly product pages:
- Overlong product titles and product descriptions can be a pain to look at on mobile browsers, so don’t pad them unnecessarily.
- Make sure that photographs load properly on mobile devices.
- Optimize mobile pages for common mobile gestures — photos should be swipeable and zoomable, etc.
- Your add-to-cart page should fit on a single mobile screen so that a user doesn’t have to scroll back and forth to change sizes, see the price, etc.
Keep these tips in mind when building your e-commerce mobile site so that it looks professional no matter which device the customer is using.
5. Abandon keyword-dense product descriptions
The days of ugly, keyword-packed item titles are, thankfully, largely behind us. At the end of the day, artificially keyword-dense product descriptions aren’t useful to the customer. What’s more, they confuse search engines by pulling in sometimes-unrelated terms. These keyword density strategies are no longer standard practice, so make sure that your content writers aren’t packing their descriptions.
That’s not to say that keywords aren’t still important. All of your most important keywords should still be on the page. Shopify’s experts recommend one each in the URL, title, body content, and image tags. You should also pay attention to the search terms people use when looking for and reviewing your product. Incorporating these into the product description when you find keyword terms that come up over and over again.
6. Keep out-of-stock and seasonal pages up
This might seem counterintuitive since you don’t want a customer to come away disappointed. But there’s a simple explanation:
- You can do some link building, one of the most helpful things you can do for your SEO, by providing alternative product recommendations. When a customer sees an unavailable item, be sure to suggest substitutes within your own product catalog.
- If you ever plan on reactivating the item, you don’t want the page to lose its ranking by being taken down and put back up again. The sensible thing to do is to leverage the work you’ve already done.
7. Optimize the product description length based on buyer awareness
How long should your descriptions be? There’s no single best length.
Instead, evaluate on a case-by-case basis, considering how much information the customer is likely to need. If you’re selling a pack of plain white T-shirts, anything beyond the basics is likely overkill, unless your T-shirts truly are different. But if you’re selling a complex piece of audio equipment, detailed specs and a description of what it does are necessary.
When in doubt, remember: most people like e-commerce for how easy it is. If your product descriptions aren’t making it easy to buy your products, the customer will likely find another merchant with better UX. Your product descriptions should reflect the instinct to smooth the customer’s path to purchase wherever possible and, most importantly, to make it clear to them why you believe in your product.
Ronald Dod is the Chief Marketing Officer and Co-founder of Visiture, an end-to-end e-commerce marketing agency focused on helping online merchants acquire more customers through the use of search engines, social media platforms, marketplaces, and their online storefronts. His passion is helping leading brands use data to make more effective decisions in order to drive new traffic and conversions.
For further reading, learn how to optimize your product descriptions using PickFu.