For many, when it comes to writing product descriptions for their e-commerce website, it is a one-way ticket to Boresville! You can tell they'd rather have their teeth pulled, Orin Scrivello style, than sit down and write some copy that sells (heck, even more easier than just to go and control-c some competitors copy, right?)

The thing is, even if some half-hearted effort is put into producing web copy, it can be a highly effective unique selling point of a site. Add that it also helps with page ranking factors in the search engines (and no, I'm not talking about spamming, sorry, peppering the product name on the page more than a well seasoned, black bean sauce but rather using words to help engage with your audience and drive down shopping cart abandonment rates).

Words do sell!

Adding 'buying or selling' words into your copy is always a good start. These buzz words can engage with a potential buyer and motivate them into making a sale. Be careful, however, adding words such as 'must-buy' without actually providing a solid example why a product should be deemed a 'must-buy' could prove more harm than good.

I've always found being simplistic is always the best way forward, in fact I would never use 'must-buy' in any product description (I'm not a hard marketer and it is such an overpowering statement) but instead convince the potential buyer with a more emotional description or even humour for example, 'Do you really want to be the only person in your street without one?' instead of 'must buy” works for me'

I guess it's all about the style of the writer, I tend to want my product descriptions to have some engagement. Rather than going for the jugular I prefer teasing and temptation.

Semantic copy offers another dimension

Product descriptions should always have some sort of word association related with the main keyword search. One reason is that people use various words to search for the same thing. Search engines love relational words which might bring you extra traffic rather being just concentrated 100% on a particular key-phrase.

Let's run a little semantic search with Google for an example. Say you sell 'Posters' on your e-commerce site. By typing the following search function into Google, we can find the most related word that Google considers associated with 'Posters'...

~Posters –Posters

By running the above search function we are greeted by the word (or words) that Google finds the most semantically related to 'Posters', these are emphasised in the search listings by the bolded text. In this case, it highlights the word, 'Art'.

Now, we dig a little deeper ...

~Posters -Posters -Art

This time it returns 'Poster', remember that search engines manage singular and plural uses of a word completely differently. Because of this search function, we now have 3 main keywords to target for within our copy “Posters, Poster and Art” instead of just concentrating on Posters. Using this technique will drive much more long-tail searches to your product page and enable you to reach that low hanging fruit quicker.

Product copy and 'red stop signals'

When I speak of red stop signals within product copy I am referring to those techniques which we insert to help try and stop people scanning our product page and physically start reading it. Most common identifiers to halt a person scanning a page are headers, bolded text, lists (bullet points), images and to a lesser degree itallic text.

Once you have stopped your potential buyer from scanning the page and now have their attention, hopefully, your well crafted and thought out sales copy should take over and turn that promising lead into a sale. Let's face it, if sales have slowed or worse, dried up, you need to be more pro-active in getting your site back-on-the-tracks and overhauling your product copy is one of the best places to start.

Paul Steven

Published 8 July, 2009 by Paul Steven

Paul Steven is Director at North South Media.

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Comments (6)

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David Fairhurst

You're absolutely right Paul, it's not just a case of getting people to the site if you're an online store owner... it's about converting those visitors into sales. 

The bigger percentage of conversions you can get, the more money you make and it's all down to keeping visitors on your pages as long as possible to give them the opportunity to buy. 

Things like objection handling come into the mix strongly as well (like putting returns policy, information on secure shopping etc on the product page), but well written descriptions with relevant, readable information and well taken photos of the products that aren't fuzzy (with perhaps a zoom function so that people can see detail) are the cornerstone of selling online... if people don't trust the website then they won't buy, pure and simple! 

Some of our customers are now coming round to the idea that they really do have to write good descriptions for each and every produce, others are not as yet listening.  Guess which ones are flying in the sales?!

about 9 years ago

Rob Smith

Rob Smith, Managing Director at Blueleaf

Generally I think copy is one of the things that gets the least attention in many website projects when really everything is centered around the content - not the functionality.

We're encouraged our clients as much as possible to revisit copy and keep revisiting it in the effort to create much more engaging experiences.

Finally one other thing I'm not sure you mentioned is testing that copy - A/B testing of your copy can really help find out what your market wants!

about 9 years ago

Paul Steven

Paul Steven, Owner at North South Media

@ David, I agree, it is the small things that matter - people overlook product copy - they all add up to making that all-important conversion.

@Rob, no I never touched on A/B Split Testing but most certainly would be advising site owners / webmasters to be continuinously tweaking and measuring all aspects of their site.

I've never seen a perfect ecommerce site but I have seen plenty of bad ones.

about 9 years ago


Emily Hill

This is a great post, Paul. I particularly like your explanation of semantic copy, and I think it has a broader application to other websites outside of the Ecommerce arena.

about 9 years ago



yeah that's right, i see lots of weird copies these days :)

almost 9 years ago


Andy Baptist, Web Developer at POS Ltd

I agree, your descriptions have to be unique and well written both to help conversions and to get your pages listed in search engines. Google wants product pages to be navigated to via it's product ads and so I find it hard to believe that they would knowingly pitch a product page highly in its organic results without good reason. To give them a good reason produce a well written and fairly verbose description that stands up all on its own as a piece of writing and you will have a better chance of search engines ranking you well in the organic results.

2 months ago

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