How to write engaging, informative, and persuasive product descriptions

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce

Today we welcome a new guest, Lightburn SEO Analyst Taylor Belmer. During today's chat, we will be exploring how to write engaging, informative, and persuasive product descriptions. We'll break down shopping algorithms and how they're weighted, and we've got some practical advice for increasing product visibility across channels. 

Hosted by:

Andy Winthieser
Partner
Nora Lahl
Partner

Today’s Topics:

  • Generic and brand-driven keywords
  • The problem with duplicate content
  • Minimize iterations with thoughtful UX design
  • Focus on features and benefits
  • Avoid filler statements
  • Infuse descriptions with brand voice
  • How to create a roadmap for success

LOOK & LISTEN 

Welcome to Beyond the Cart, presented by Lightburn. This is a podcast all about ecommerce. Where we share some of our experiences building, managing, and promoting direct-to-consumer brands. I'm Nora. And today, instead of Andy, I've got a guest with me, Lightburn SEO analyst, Taylor Belmer, and I will be exploring how to write engaging, informative, and persuasive product descriptions. We'll break down shopping algorithms and how they're weighted. And we've got some practical advice for increasing product visibility across channels. Lots to talk about. So let's get started, Taylor. Hi. Hi. Thank you for joining me. Thank you for having me.

Yeah. So you're our SEO analyst at Lightburn, but you've also got some background that's really applicable to this, right? Yeah. So I worked for a Big Box Retailer. That's located here in Wisconsin and primarily the work I was doing there was working on the product detail pages, which most of the work I was doing was within product descriptions. 

First things first, I want to talk to you about is how product keywords are kind of different than like more generic keywords. Like how do we think about those differently? Yeah, totally. So when you think about product pages, we have to think about first the users coming to those. And obviously, the purpose of that is that they're looking to buy something, right?

Generic and brand-driven keywords 

So when we think about generic keywords, like for example, if we think about like men's shoes or men's basketball shoes, that's pretty generic casts are really wide net, versus something more specific like Nike Air Foamposite Ones. Those are really specific shoes that indicate that a user's looking for that specifically to hopefully then buy that product. Yeah. So that's going to really depend on the product, right? Like, so Nike air Foamposite.  Yeah. That rolls off the tongue. Yeah, totally. It's really natural to say that. But that's probably something like a sixth-grade boy is searching for and knows and- Sure. it's anything that comes down to like that specific feature detail, something like a model number or a SKU attached to a product keyword, is going to be more... Like that product focus versus just generic. I want a shirt type of. Yeah. So, If we use Billbury west, for example, we're not going to be probably dealing with product specific. Not too crazy. Right? Because the main focus across that site is going to be with the Adirondack chairs and that's really a general keyword. We would put that definitely in that generic keyword category versus if we named them something specific or had a model number to attach. Yeah. And then hundreds of thousands of people, as soon as we launch, we're going to be searching for those folks. For sure. That is- That's how this works. Only to expect, if only it was that easy. Oh yeah. So lucky Nike has some brand to help them out with that. 

So when we're thinking about those keywords, like how are we getting those onto that page? Like what's the art of that? Oh yeah, the art. For my process, it's all going to come down to keyword research from the start. It starts with that balance between the generic and the product-specific focused keywords. Right? So we know that the Adirondack chair is going to be a general one. That's going to be on the pages, but then where do we go from there? How do we get visibility in the search engine result pages? How do we know what people are looking for? Yeah. And so what would you say there's... Obviously, you've got the description. Right. It all starts with the title, right. That's where people are going to be initially clicking, whether that's from search results or within the website itself. And that's what gives the most specific high-level information for that user. And then additionally, on the page, we have a product description and that is meant to give users the information they're looking for. But also give the search engines, the information they're looking for to serve these pages to the users. 

Yeah. So I have a question for you actually about the product titles. Sure. We didn't plan for this, but I've been wondering… so I have been going down this like ethical fashion journey. I've been trying to buy stuff that's sustainably made. So you're looking at lots of like niche retailers online. Right? Which is really great because I can bring some of what I learned from that back to what we do. But one thing that really annoys me as a user is when product names are not descriptive of the product. Totally. So you often see it with like, let's say a clothing line, a dress is called like the Anna, the Elise, like that does not help me know the features of that. Yeah. So would you say that's also hurting you from an SEO perspective? Yeah, it definitely can. So I think you hit the nail on the head with like, us being that customer, you want the information you're looking for on the page. So calling something, an Anna a dress is not helpful. I want to know what style of dress it is. Maybe what it's made out of. One best practice when we're crafting page titles, is to really at all costs try to avoid some of those filler terms. Unless if that's the key differentiator from another product, that's very similar. If you don't have keywords that are important to the product itself, like for example, if someone wants a short sleeve dress and all you're calling, it is an Anna dress you're missing out on that opportunity to gain that traffic for that customer to come into your site and purchase the product they're looking for. Yeah. So not only are you missing that traffic maybe, you're also confusing the user once they're on the site. Totally. Which I think it all plays into the user experience too. I think it used to sort of feels like SEO and user experience were at odds.

Yeah, exactly what you're saying. SEO and user experience are coming closer and closer to being almost one in the same. I don't want say that but it actually is so close. It starts at search. It does, yes. You can overlook that. And it's definitely something that Google and other search engines look as a ranking factor. And so when we're crafting this content on the product detail pages, whether it's the title or the description. The number one best practice always keep in mind is just focusing on the user, focus on your ideal customer. Who do you really want to target to get onto your site to purchase your product? 

Ultimately, if you're not speaking to the user or the humans, you're kind of wasting your time a little bit because you're not going to be ranked as high or maybe even seen at all in search engine results.

The problem with duplicate content

So one thing that you mentioned a little earlier that I wanted to get into is duplicate content, which seems pretty obvious to me, but I think we see it a lot. So can you explain a little bit about what that is and what the problem is with it? Yeah. Duplicate content is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It's content copy or text on your website that has either been literally copy and pasted across multiple different pages on your site, or content that is very similar. So maybe you did copy and paste be changed a couple words. It's so too close. That not enough of a change. Yeah. And it confuses search engines that are crawling your website. And the negative effect of that is that if search engines are confused, they can abandon your site and therefore you get no visibility in the search engine results.

Shopify did a study last year, and they linked a Nielsen Norman Group report, which is like big wigs in the UX Space. And they talked about how 20% of all unsuccessful purchases are because of the lack of product information. What? And I think that really relates to duplicate content. But then also something to consider is duplicate content isn't just an issue within your own website. For example, a lot of big ecommerce websites will use descriptions and or promotional copy that they get from product manufacturers and distributors. And if you're copy and pasting that on your site, imagine how many other websites are also using that same content. So you don't stand out amongst competitors.

Yeah. We see it a lot, especially with retailers that have other manufacturers. We're burdening them with, give us all this content, like we are launching on this date and that can feel overwhelming, I think. And so they'll give us manufacturer content, try I totally understand why it's happening? Yeah, totally for sure. But we got to educate them on why that's not the best idea or that we've got this layer of rewriting it and that's where you can bring in those keywords, those product keywords or generic. And really that might make the difference. Right? Yeah, totally. And there's nothing wrong with using that as like a kicking off point or using some of those exact, maybe phrases that they give you because in some situations for brand purposes, you might have to word something a specific way. And if that phrasing is also on another website, that's fine. The phrasing is Okay. Yeah. We're talking like full paragraphs being exactly the same. Think about it as like plagiarism when you're in college. And you get dinged on an essay, it's kind of the same thing in Google's eyes, so. Yeah. Even if you've got permission from the manufacturer, it's still going to cause a problem. It's just not helpful. Yeah. And I think one way that you can avoid that is look at ways to maybe break up that information that you're getting from the manufacturer. Do you have maybe FAQs that you can recopy that content into, so that it's shaped differently. Yeah. That's a great example for sure. Do you have any other suggestions for how to go about rewriting content that you have that maybe is duplicated. Let's say that dress. You know there's a short sleeve and a long sleeve and a sleeveless and your content is almost identical. How do you go about that rewrite? Yeah. So I've actually experienced it in the past, with a big retailer that I'd worked for. There was often times that we would have great example, like the same piece of clothing in very similar style, but maybe there's a different graphic, or a pattern or a color. Often the challenge that we ran into was, yeah. How do we write short sleeve dress any other way, we've done every word. And that's kind of where it gets to like, is the juice worth the squeeze on like adding a little flare word, like calling it the Anna dress and whatnot. And at that point it's not really hurting you because you need it to be different. And differentiating from duplicate content is more important than, at that point kind of telling the user exactly what Anna means in that for instance. 

Minimize iterations with thoughtful UX design

That said, there's a lot of... Actually, this is a great example of where UX comes into play with SEO. So there's been a lot of advancements with user experience design and how we can actually, for lack of better terms, package a product page to show maybe multiple swatches of a color. That right there is a great way to get around that need for writing like short sleeve t-shirt red.  So yeah, it's one page. Yeah. It's one page. And while this is kind of straying from focusing on the keywords. It just kind of shows how everything needs to work together. And keep in mind SEO, best practices for keywords, but also use experience design on these pages. 

Focus on features and benefits 

Another again, would be highlighting the features of the product. And then the benefit for the customers. Skincare is a great product to use as an example for this, if a product just said it's fragrance-free. Okay. Well, that's great. That's a feature of this. Who cares? But what is that going to do for me, right? Yeah. Who cares? Again this is a great way to inform the user, but also get more keywords on the page, fragrance-free awesome. Can we add a description as to what that's going to do for me as a customer? Yeah great. For people with allergies and sensitivity. Exactly, sensitive skin. 

Avoid filler statements 

Also, avoiding filler statements. Excellent product quality. Okay but what does it mean? We've all seen those like word salad descriptions. Yeah, and like, look we've all done it at some point but it's something to keep in mind and to avoid. It's not always better to have more words. It's the quality of the words on the page. Justifying if and when you use superlative words, like talking about something as being the lightest, the greatest, the best. They just come off as insincere and quite frankly, salesy, which is ironic because you're trying to sell a product. But again, if you're focusing on the user, I think we all are conditioned even in ourselves being customers to kind of just disregard those things and think it sounds insincere to move on to the next product or frankly, business or company. And so it's just really important to try to avoid those, unless if you really have the proof. Like if you know you're number one in that category by all means let it rip, do it. You know what that reminds me of is that like we went into this just rabbit hole because we had something from Aldi that had won some sort of American chef's greatest cheese, blah, blah, blah. And it was some like governing body of cheese experts. So we were like, this sounds weird. We researched it. It's funded by Aldi. Oh, great. See-

They added their superlative. They created it. Won this like top award for Delaware Work. Is that why you bought it? I mean, we had already bought it and they were like, what is this cheese group that we've never heard of? It was hilarious. And we're like, what kind of operation does all they have going? You got really suspicious. So I don't know if everybody, like that's how they spend their Friday night. I don't know ma'am. But I think at the end of the day, it's just avoid them honestly. I think in the past it was always important to be like, these are the best shoes you can put on your feet. Well, because people were Googling best shoes to put on my feet. And now that's just not how People search. Right. It's not how people search. And even if they do the Google algorithm or algorithms more accurately, are smart enough to identify what the user's search intent is and then give the relevant content. So that's taking you, if I say best shoes to put on your feet, totally natural search. That hundred percent. I search at all times. So that's going to take me to like consumer reports or something. It possibly could. Right. Because it doesn't really sound like in that you're actually looking to purchase. I don't have intent for buying. You are just looking for information, right? Like if I had searched like comfortable women's size nine shoe. You're ready to buy. That is so specific because I'm looking for what. I want and comfortable is a great word to put in there because people want to know and that's important. So, that's something to keep in mind. 

Infusing descriptions with your brand voice 

There's other best practices to when you're creating like the descriptions to really kind of bring in your own brand voice and cater to the user. And not just focus specifically on, we have to get this keyword in that description. Painting a specific like picture or imagery of what your life's going to be if you own this product. Oh, it's so inspirational. Or like when you're sitting in that Bilberry West Adirondack chair. You're in good company. Because Andy can't say it easily. So It's such a hard word. When you are sitting in that Bilberry West Adirondack chair, how comfortable and great your backyard will look and you're with your friends and family, like that are a great way to try to be persuasive and sell your product. And it doesn't necessarily encapsulate the specific keyword that you quote unquote should have on that page. But it's sort of wrapping it around with this picture or your painting. Exactly. I'm glad you brought up brand voice because I think that is a really great way also that you're kind of telling a story of how the product was developed, can sometimes be part of that. Or to differentiate is that you've got some sort of story around, we did so many tests on this, or we started with 50 patterns and we narrowed it down and that's really compelling. And it's telling your brand story as well as like how do we develop these Products. Yeah, totally. I think if there's anything from this conversation is that SEO is like super vast. And a lot of it is around language and words and how we best understand what people are looking for when they're using language and words. I think people underestimate just how creative the work is. Like it really is creative writing through a particular lens. Yeah. It really highlights the understanding of language as a whole. Bringing your brand in your own voice and using more conversational words that maybe isn't exactly how someone searched or looked for something, still matters because it's how real people speak. Yeah. 

Creating a roadmap for success 

The other thing I wanted to know was just kind of what is that pace? Let's say we've got we get a site and it's got a few hundred excuses, nothing crazy but enough. And we've got either just like we're missing keywords or some duplicate content. How are we getting from there to, we are satisfied? Like what does that process look like? Yeah. Well fortunately for me in the job security is that SEO is literally constantly changing and it's never a one and done task. And that said it's a lot more lengthy of a timeline to see some turnarounds than say for example, like paid search and PPC. You can tell if that's working pretty quick. Oh yeah. Our team is in there constantly. Day by day things can change and it can be similar in SEO as well when algorithms change. But usually what's happening is it takes a lot more time to see some changes. And that's for various reasons it could be that Google just hasn't crawled your site in a while, your changes just haven't been registered yet or users haven't found it to start giving Google some signals that they're engaging with your site, plenty of different things can be going on. Yeah. So it's sort of that, like you're running that long game but you're still keeping an eye on the shorter turnaround. Right, totally. And it's just like kind of having that roadmap of what... Maybe you're taking on 25 product descriptions a week and then you're tracking those pages that have changed over or not. And you can start to see pattens. Yeah. Like one great way to test, it would be if you know, you have a high traffic or high performing product page that you want to make changes to. Because there's more traffic coming into that one. It can be sort of like your test page to see if things are working versus maybe another product page that isn't visited as frequently. You might not prioritize that one ahead of the more frequently visited products.

Yeah. Start with the stuff that, the most bang for your buck. And then move forward or maybe sometimes you have to balance with what's going to be easier for you to do. There may be some that just are going to be a real slog to fix up for whatever reason you just don't have as much content. There's not as much story to tell. So that's an okay approach too, I think is like, get that momentum going although, I guess that's like a personality thing. Like maybe there's something you needs to get through the hard ones first and then.

Yeah possibly. I feel like at the end of the day there really isn't, I guess a black and white, like this is the right way to approach it and you have to do it this way. It's more, something's better than nothing you keep going. Yeah for sure. To at least just start is the most important and then batching it out from there, I think is a great approach. Yeah. That's a really good point. I thought of one other thing with the duplicate content that I think a lot of what we've been talking about on this podcast is manufacturers getting into direct consumer. A thing that we see a lot is that we have manufacturers who have products on like a non shopping site and then we're going to be setting up the shopping experience. 

And there's a reason that they're separate but you run the risk of having duplicate content. And so saying, well just pick it up from our wholesaler site, isn't going to cut it. It seems simple. Well we've already got these products we've already like written all that content and put it together. It has to be different enough. Right? Or you're finding a way that they're feeding off of each other. Or you have something set up where you're telling search engines that they're shared content in a way.

Totally. There are definitely ways around it. I think first and foremost, just being descriptive in the text and giving the information that relates to, I guess the specific experience. It's probably a different user, right? So you're talking about buying a handful of things instead of a pallet. And what are you doing with it? Are you reselling it? So you're going to say this is perfect for putting on your end caps versus this is perfect for using in your backyard whatever.

Right, and totally. And like using that content that already exists on the other site, isn't a bad way to start off this process. I mean, they say like not to recreate the wheel for a reason, it's a great way to pull some of those important pieces that come over. But again, it's always about focusing in, on the intended user. And obviously someone who's buying a pallet full of things, isn't looking to probably buy individual items. And so focusing the messaging more specifically. Taylor, would you say that you do not have to use those descriptions? You don't. I'm sorry. I had to, we were just talking about eating things. I don't even know where to go with that. I'm sorry. You can give that duplicate content right out the window. We're not going to use that. Sorry we were defining eating. Talk about English language and the importance of understanding it. So yeah, I think we touched on like a lot of really good, useful how to get started. 

Top takeaways 

The takeaways that I'm hearing from this are that you got to avoid duplicate content. That is huge. If there's like one big message, seems like that's the thing. Yeah. From the content side of SEO and with like the saying is content is king. Duplicate content is the ultimate enemy. We want to avoid it all costs. Yeah. And then you don't have to do it all at once. You can launch a new site without having it all fixed and have a plan for the evolution of it, taking it in stages. Right? Yeah. Which, I think sometimes our job is just to be like therapist to our clients. Like it's going to be okay, we'll get there. Yeah. And this is a perfect example of that, where it can feel overwhelming. Yeah. And while, 

Like, I think I've very heavily emphasized that duplicate content is not great. And search engines like Google do not want to see it. We also have to keep in mind that Google crawls like a bajillion sites every second. And no offense to your new site, it's beautiful and great, but you're probably not going to get like yedded off to the side because you had duplicate content from the start. Google probably won't even realize right away. It's just something that over time when it sits with that duplicate content is where it's going to hurt you. And that's why it's so important to take care of it as soon as you can. But the ultimate goal is just eventually do it. Yeah. I always say is the new site because we're... Often are launching a new site. That's how this conversation is starting. Is the new thing better than what you have today. So even if it's still duplicate content, is everything else about better? Is the checkout process smoother? Well then it's probably a good idea to go ahead and launch. And have a plan for a fast follow or a phase two and that maintenance and that ongoing just a tending of the garden. Yeah. And I think that really highlights also why in new website builds and launches, it's important to highlight bringing in people like an SEO and the digital marketing team early in the process so that you can get ahead of those things before launch. But again, if it happens at launch, it's not the end all be all it can evolve and be fixed.

Yeah. And that's okay. So embrace the imperfect. And then just always having a plan for like ongoing, what are we doing next? What are we doing next? And that's probably going to be auditing the site on a regular basis. And doing comparisons of what worked, what didn't. Yeah. And having that long game planned out. Yeah. Three questions to keep in mind when you are crafting this product detail page content, it would be. what problem does this product solve? What do the customers gain from purchasing this product and what makes this product better than your competition in every other site out there? Ma'am stick that on a post-it up on the wall when you're on rewriting. Sunset. Yeah, on a sunset with a kitten. And look up to that kitten, falling into those three questions. When you're writing this, like- Ultimately when you say it out loud, it kind of feels basic and like common sense. But it's really easy to forget. When you're really focusing on specific key terms, you feel like you have to pack into the content. That's where things can get a little slippery and then you just kind of lose your brand and your voice and the point of why you're trying to get people to buy this product. Yeah. I think this is a perfect example of where like to me, people probably feel like SEO is this dry technical subject. It can be.

Oh it is. I mean, it's so much more it's so rich. I just really appreciate you joining us for this today. It just makes me, I want to go write some product descriptions. Oh great. I've got plenty for you. Well, we got to get working on bill very west because we finally got our product line nailed down. We can name them all the Anna and the Elise in the- Oh great. No we won't, don't worry. So thanks so much for joining me today Taylor. Thank you for having me. It was awesome. 

- - - - - - 

Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was produced and edited by our very own Staci Tischer and it was recorded in person for the very first time with our pal Ray Fister at 5th Floor Recording Company. 

Our music is the song Let's Go Go Go by Tigerblood Jewel. Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your audio, and you can always learn more about ecommerce at lightburn.co

And we'll see you next time on Beyond the Cart.

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