Here are 17 questions every copywriter should ask themselves when writing a product description.
I’ve included a few examples to illustrate my points.
And to learn more, book yourself onto our online copywriting training course.
Don’t forget, the tone of the copy you produce should be entirely dependent on your product and brand. Consider the following.
1. What personality traits could be ascribed to your brand?
Whether your brand is dry, coy, exuberant, serious or cheeky, your product descriptions should not sound like a new or different voice is talking.
Make sure you compare product descriptions with other copy and against each other, to weed out inconsistencies of tone. BrewDog is very good at this, below.
BrewDog Punk IPA – click to enlarge.
BrewDog Dead Pony Club – click to enlarge
2. What do you intend your copy to do?
This might seem like an obvious question. You want to sell your product, right?
But you may have more specific objectives. You may be aiming to reassure customers that your product is as reliable as the market leader.
You may want to use your product page as a way to pre-qualify sales enquiries.
You may be intending product descriptions to complement, match or promote an in-store experience (such as a test drive).
3. Do you have brand editorial guidelines?
Much of getting the right tone of product page copy is following editorial guidelines just as you would in any other form of marketing. So, dig them out.
4. How distinctive are you prepared to be?
The confidence you have in your product and your brand will influence how prepared you are to stand out (if indeed that is appropriate for your audience).
Remember that product descriptions must be consistent (so don’t go crazy on one product and neglect others on the same site).
Here are some considerations when you get down to writing your product descriptions.
5. What are the benefits of using your product?
This is what everything boils down to, the most important information to convey to a customer.
Don’t write about what the product does (indigestion tablets cure indigestion), write about the benefits of using it (indigestion tablets relieve pain and discomfort).
6. Does your product have an interesting history or provenance?
You might want to detail the circumstances around its invention or the people associated with its production.
Any colour around product heritage can be used for authenticity, as Land Rover Defender does below with imagery and copy on its scrolling product page.
Land Rover Defender product copy – click to enlarge
7. How does your product work?
This is particularly pertinent in the world of marketing technology. Transparency will help convince customers of the efficacy of your product, just let them know enough of the magic to feel like they’re in on the secret.
It must be said that this tactic can stray into the pseudo-science of an anti-ageing cream advert but, however far you stretch it, customers like to know the reasons for your product’s success.
8. In what scenario might your product be used?
This is about setting a scene, evoking the product’s use. If you’re selling mess tins, it might make sense to spin a yarn about a camp fire.
It’s easy to be cliched, cheesy or flabby with this tactic, so be careful. Some customers will feel they know your product better than you do.
9. What can it be used alongside?
In fashion, this would mean some outfit advice. Team this with a poncho and a top hat etc.
This is similar to creating a scenario, placing the product in the context of other products the customer might use.
Software can be described with this technique, just as easily as a hoodie.
10. Who uses your product?
I’m not referring to your audience here, rather respected figures or companies or simply sheer numbers of users that have chosen your product or service.
It doesn’t matter if they bought it elsewhere, it simply has to be a desirable association.
Was this brand of guitar played by Jeff Beck? If so, better mention it. Below, WordPress does a great job of reassuring prospective users.
WordPress ‘product copy’ – click to enlarge
11. What constitutes your product?
What materials, technology or services does it comprise of?
It may be that your product requires you to detail what it’s made of. But aside from just stating it in a product specification, you may be able to extol the virtues of its makeup.
Is your product made from a metal also used in the aviation industry for its lightweight and durable properties? You get the idea.
12. How should you format product information?
More product copy is generally a good thing as far as search goes, but you shouldn’t look for ranking points at the expense of clarity.
If your product is fairly functional (cutlery, for example), you may want to display a bulleted product specification more prominently than a product description.
The opposite may be true for a luxury cruise or health insurance.
With some product pages becoming more immersive and longer, product copy may need to be broken up with subheadings and designed to fit with surrounding imagery or video.
For a good example of subheadings adding clarity, see Nike’s product copy below compared to a similar Adidas product.
Nike product copy – click to enlarge
Adidas product copy – click to enlarge
13. Have you reassured the customer with policy information?
For many sectors, T&Cs, returns policies, warranties and privacy are integral to customer confidence. Will this detail be included within a product description or separately?
Research beforehand will help with two important considerations. What are your customers looking for and how are your competitors providing it.
14. What are people searching for?
Keyword research is important, especially if you’re in charge of creating a product page URL and product title.
You’ll need to take into account variations within different geographical markets, synonyms where commonplace and whether visits are driven by brand search terms or product search terms.
Ultimately, your product pages should fit with your media strategy, so make sure you get input from the whole marketing team on just what your product is on the internet.
If you’re reselling a product, there’s no harm in looking for clues from the original brand content, but know that it may be difficult to outrank these other sites in search by virtue of copy and domain authority alone.
15. How do competitors describe their products?
The fact is that surveying your competitors’ product pages might just give you a few ideas.
They might throw up an important phrase you had previously missed or, quite the opposite, be missing some information you feel is necessary.
16. How does the product fit with the rest of your catalogue?
This is important to differentiate a product within your offering (a big consideration for URL and title, for example – colour or size may need to be prominent).
You may also want to cross-sell products within product descriptions (depending on the sophistication of your website/CMS).
17. Why do customers buy your product?
Is your product unique or does it merely stand our for price, quality or service. Knowing why your customers shop your products will help to shape product copy.
This may already be a question of brand positioning.