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The 7-step process for writing enticing product descriptions

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Karon Thackston explains how the pros write ecommerce product descriptions in an extract from her new book Wordtracker Masterclass: Ecommerce Copywriting: Proven Strategies for Boosting Sales & Search Ranking.

If you want a challenge, try writing ecommerce product descriptions. Within a typical 60 to 70 words you must concisely convey the benefits and selling points of your product and include search engine keyphrases that engage your target audience … all while working within the constraints of your content management system (CMS). How do the pros do it? We understand that balance and organization are key.

Using this simple, seven-step process will allow you to quickly master the art of ecommerce copywriting. Once you do, you will be able to generate enticing copy that drives sales and boosts search engine positioning.

1. Familiarize yourself with the target audience

Amazingly, most people completely ignore their target customer when writing product descriptions. However, the site visitor is the key to how the copy is shaped, the tone it takes and which angle is used to communicate the benefits. For example, let's look at a box of gourmet chocolates.

If your target audience consists of gourmet chocolate lovers, you'll want to focus on the distinctiveness of your flavors, the quality of the ingredients or perhaps the luxurious texture. What if, on the other hand, your target audience consists - in part or in whole - of those seeking gluten-free treats?

It's not uncommon to find chocolates on the open market that are gluten-free. However, the added ingredients in gourmet chocolates may cause problems for those with celiac disease. They are regularly forced to stick with ordinary, plain chocolate candies and bars due to their condition. Since gluten-free items are the most popular, up-and-coming grocery products, you'll want to make certain this segment of your gourmet site visitors understands you have something that meets their dietary needs.

Knowing your audience as a whole, and understanding each segment is imperative to creating ecommerce copy that hits the mark every time.

2. List the biggest benefits of the product

The steps in this process are progressive. So, while still keeping your target audience and its needs in mind, make a list of the benefits which are most important to your customers. You may want to include various segments in your list.

Continuing with the example above, let's create a mini-list for a boxed collection of international chocolates.

  • Gourmet chocolate lovers - distinctive ingredients imported from across the globe.
  • Health conscious - organic ingredients, premium dark chocolate, high quality nuts.
  • Special dietary needs- gluten-free. Other collections available that are sugar-free, vegetarian, vegan and kosher.
  • All customers - 100% pure ingredients, no artificial colors, flavors or additives.
  • Gift givers - attractive, boutique-style gift boxes wrapped in a silk bow. Gift card included at no additional cost. Appropriate for both personal and business gifting.

3. Predict the future

Good copywriters look past the buying experience toward the future. After the customer purchases this product, how will his/her life be different and/or better? What will the specific end result of their purchase be?

In the case of gourmet chocolates, the end result for those purchasing for themselves might be breathing a sigh of satisfaction as these divine confections melt in their mouths. For gift givers, the end result could be impressing the recipients (whether business or personal) with a truly distinctive collection unlike any they have ever received.

Whatever the end result, it is important to give your site visitors a glimpse into the future so they can see how purchasing from your company will make their lives better.

4. Know the limits of your CMS

Content management systems (CMSs) can be frustrating at times. Before you set out to write product copy that's 150 words long with a catchy headline, you'll want to verify what can and cannot be accomplished within your system. Some have limited room in the copy field. Others force the headline, pulling from information you enter into the product specifications. For example, the headline on each product page would be automatically fed from the title of the product.

Knowing what quirks must be overcome will make the process of writing copy much easier. A few common areas to check include:

  • Maximum word or character count in the product copy field.
  • Additional fields below the fold (if you run out of space in the product copy field, then you can add a link for "more information" that drops the reader to a space further down the page.)
  • Forced information (headlines that are automatically inserted, product copy automatically fed to the category pages, etc.)

5. Incorporate search engine keyphrases

Depending on your site design and your CMS, your product descriptions could conceivably be hundreds of words long. Generally speaking, however, you're most likely looking at around 60–80. That doesn't leave much room to incorporate keyphrases.

While longer web pages benefit from the use of multiple search terms, I recommend sticking to one keyphrase for short product descriptions. Start with the framework of your page including the title tag, description META tag, file name, page name in the navigational structure, breadcrumb trail, forced page headline and other elements. Then move on to the content. Use search phrases in the:

Headline - if your headline isn't forced by your CMS, make a point to include your keyphrase provided it doesn't detract from the message. It is usually very simple to incorporate a keyphrase into a headline, but - if for some reason it just doesn't flow - leave it out.

Product image caption - too many ecommerce sites simply shove "Product #12345" below graphics. Instead, underneath the hero shot of your product, enter a short, keyword-rich sentence that briefly describes the item. This assists your visitors with learning about your product and gives a little nudge to your rankings.

Product copy - even within 60–80 words, you should be able to comfortably work your search term in two or perhaps three times. Read the text out loud. If it sounds redundant, take out one instance of your keyphrase.

6. Write the copy

It's time to put all the pieces together. Look back over the previous five steps. We have our target customer, benefits, end results and keyphrase. Combine everything you have to create a compelling product description that will capture lots of clicks.

While there are dozens of ways to write copy for any given product, here is one version of sample copy for our gourmet chocolate product above. Our keyphrase is gourmet chocolates.

Tour the World with International Gourmet Chocolates

Do a little culinary globetrotting with our collection of gourmet chocolates. Only 100% pure ingredients from across the globe are used. Organic Hawaiian coconut, Australian macadamia nuts and other exceptional treats blend with the richest dark cocoa from West Africa for distinctive gourmet chocolates that truly indulge the senses. This assortment of 16 truffles is gluten-free, elegantly packaged for personal or business gifting, and wrapped with a silk bow.

7. Tweak, test & track

Satisfied? You shouldn't be. There is always room for improvement. Change a word or two in the headline. Alter the focus to one particular segment of your audience. Gradually make small tweaks to your product descriptions and test them against the original version of the copy. Track your results in order to gain the best conversion ratio possible. This is an all-too-often skipped step that - when done correctly - frequently brings about tremendous gains.

Once you understand the components of good product copy, it's easier than you think to put together descriptions that garner more sales. Keep this simple outline handy and you'll quickly gain speed when writing high-converting ecommerce copy.

Karon Thackston is author of the newest e-book in the Wordtracker Masterclass series: Ecommerce Copywriting, available now. Get yours today at www.wordtracker.com/ebooks/ecommerce-book and discover the proven strategies for boosting sales and search rankings on ecommerce sites.

Ecommerce Copywriting"

About Karon Thackston

Karon Thackston is President of Marketing Words which provides SEO & web copywriting services plus professional copywriting training.

Copy not getting results? Want to learn to write natural-sounding SEO copy yourself? Check out Karon's complete copywriting course, keyword optimization guide, and other books today.

If you prefer, contact Marketing Words for a web copywriting quote.