A picture is worth a thousand words, but a good product description is worth a thousand sales

Tips and guidelines for writing product descriptions that sell.

When you're in tune with your business, you know your products, and you know them well. You know what they look like, how much they cost, what they do, how many fit in a carton, and even what they smell like. Your customers, however, likely don't. They know what they need, but they don't know if what you're selling matches those needs. You might be providing a basic description of a product that only goes as deep as giving a slightly intelligent name to an unintelligible SKU, or you might be bombarding them with technical specifications that go above and beyond any details the customer would ever need to know...But are you selling the product with your product descriptions? Where is the happy middle ground? How do you write to your target audience? Are you writing copy that benefits both your customers' understanding of your product as well as their ability to find your product using search engines? Hopefully, we can help shed some light on that.

One of the first steps to writing good copy for products is to be clear, and concise. Your customers value their time. If your product were a whale hunt, they'd be looking for the back-cover blurb of Moby Dick, not the entirety of the novel. Don't say to your customer "Get your widget today!" You don't want them to get a case of your product. You want them to buy a case of your product...and that's the message you should send. "Buy widgets now, just $9.99."

Avoid superlatives. Unless you have quantifiable data backing up your claims that your product outperforms every other competitor, or your product is a stun-gun, then it isn't "best in class," or "stunning." Describe it as it is. Is it durable? Say so! Is it small and compact? Say so! Choose adjectives that are both accurate and positive. Speak in terms your customer will understand. Your goal should be to sell them a product without overtly pointing out that they're being sold to.

There's also a "secret" list of rules regarding the way we describe things that almost every English speaker knows, but has never been taught, and likely isn't aware that they know. When describing anything, the most usual pattern of adjectives is generally:

  • opinion
  • size
  • physical quality
  • shape
  • age
  • color
  • origin
  • material
  • type
  • purpose

Getting your description out of order reads extremely unnaturally. Take this extreme example:

"Round French large unusual enameled cooking yellow iron all-purpose antique pot"

That sounds completely off-putting, doesn't it?

"Unusual large enameled round antique yellow French iron all-purpose cooking pot," reads far more naturally, despite still being an extreme example of adjective usage. As the Cambridge Dictionary's guide to grammar points out on a smaller level, "amazing red coat," sounds much more natural than "red amazing coat."

Now that you have a general approach to how you should talk about your products, it's time to think about what you should say about them. Start by asking yourself "Who is this product for?" Define your customer well. Are they the parents of young children with developmental disabilities? Are they automotive enthusiasts who rebuild classic muscle cars? Are they office administrators in the public sector looking to resupply their employees? Tailor your product descriptions to the person you want to have buy the product.

What are the product's basic details? Include only what matters to consumer decisions. Research your market, and your target customer, and find out what questions they ask about your competitors' products. Do they need to know the range of temperatures a jacket will keep you warm in, but not how much it weighs? Do they want to know which colors are available, but not how many zippers it has? Again, give as much information as is necessary and desired, but do not get down to the molecular level unless your product and audience warrants it.

Consider how and where your customer will or should use your product. Is it a check or form meant for business use, or is it a roadside flare for emergency use on roads. Focus on your product's features and strengths, and attempt to convince the customer of its performance in its intended role. Avoid jargon unless you're certain that your buyers will understand it, and use it. Even if they know what the terminology means they may not use it in search engines when trying to find your product to begin with.

When it comes to finishing up, don't just write your product descriptions and call it a day. Review them and revise them at least once. Make sure that every sentence is on target for your buyer, your product's intended use, and its intended environment, and be sure that you're accurately describing its strengths and value to the customer. Keep the overall description scannable, and short enough that a customer can get through it without feeling like they're reading a novel. The average reader in the US reads at a speed of about 200 words per minute. That's about 3.33 words per second. To put that in perspective, this article contains a little over 900 words, and would take a person reading at that speed around 5 minutes to complete.

To recap: Keep your wording concise. Be honest, and be clear. Pay attention to what you're saying, and tailor your product descriptions to your audience and your products. Carefully review your work, and change what needs changing. Following these simple rules, you'll be writing better product descriptions in no time!

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