Success in e-commerce: product texts that sell

Good content is not only important for magazines, blogs, and news sites, but is also necessary in the highly-competitive world of online business. Online stores need to frequently come up with new material in order to stand up to their competition, both in the fight for customers and for the best position in the search engine results pages (SERPs).

Professional product descriptions are a rather important basis for any content strategy in e-commerce. But what makes a good product text? Do you write it with the search engine in mind, or is it better to concentrate on the customer? We introduce the most important types of product texts, clarify their importance for search engine optimization, and give tips on how to win over Google as well as potential customers.

Why are good product texts so important?

The first Panda update was rolled out in 2011 and changed many online business rules, not least in e-commerce. Since this Google algorithm update, it’s become even more important for websites to contain qualitative, valuable content in order to rank well. Websites with weak content and over-optimized pages are downgraded by Panda, whereas good sites benefit from the update. The requirements are clear: no duplication, no external content, and as much unique, high-quality content as possible.

Many online stores and comparison websites faced a major problem when the update took place. If content was actually found on their websites, it was usually just product descriptions taken from the manufacturer’s website. The Google algorithm identified these texts as duplicate content and downgraded the sites. Stores should therefore try to stand out from the competition. If you use this knowledge and invest in good product texts, you will have a crucial advantage when it comes to placing top in the search engine results.

Types of product descriptions

Product descriptions do more than just describe products: there are different ways to present the most important information to prospective customers. The majority of stores tend to use descriptive texts. For most, the most important feature of a product text is that it must be informative and describe the product in as much detail as possible. Depending on the product and industry, a purely informative text might not be enough. Here are the different formats:

  • Descriptive product description: this is the classic format of a product text. These kinds of texts can be found in online stores across all industries. These descriptions provide discreet and neutral information and demonstrate all the product’s important features and functions to the customer. 
  • Appellative product description: in the case of appellative (or persuasive) product descriptions, the product is promoted, rather than just described. The texts are often judgmental, the style is more narrative, and more embellishing language is used. The texts usually address the customer and request that they do something, such as 'Order today' or 'Product X will inspire you'. It’s similar to what you see in classic TV or radio advertising.
  • Argumentative product description: argumentative descriptions can be used to win pragmatists over. These texts get to the point and mention the qualities of the product, rather than offering flowery descriptions, as is the case with appellative texts. Bullet points are frequently used to present the facts and arguments in a quick and clear way.
  • Narrative product description: storytelling is one of the many buzzwords in online marketing, and is also used when writing product descriptions. The writer adds a personal touch and the customer, in turn, gets a feeling for the product when reading. Instead of arguing with hard facts, this type of text speaks to the customer on an emotional level. By addressing their needs and sparking their imagination, this should win the reader over.

Good product descriptions: what’s included

It doesn’t matter whether a text is descriptive or narrative; there are some requirements that are the same for all texts. They should be accurate, unique, and contain all the necessary information.

What belongs in a good product description?

The classical structure of a product text begins with a detailed product description in the form of continuous text (approx. 200-300 words). Afterwards, you can reiterate the most important points in a list of keywords. Many store owners also show special features and highlights as bullet points. The use of subheadings and key points is important because readers are often quite selective in the parts they choose to pay attention to – pages are usually skim-read, long paragraphs are skipped, and bullet points are used as orientation points.

The most important content elements of a product page include:

  • Dimensions, size, weight
  • Technical details
  • Additional information e.g. instructions, manuals
  • Links to related products or accessories

An important issue is the use of relevant keywords or keyword combinations. Relevant keywords should appear in the text, but make sure you don’t over-optimize! If you fill the texts with too many keywords (known as keyword stuffing), you will find yourself penalized by Google.

The best tips for good product descriptions

When on the topic of product texts, you often hear talk about Google and the advantages of producing high-quality texts when it comes to a placement in the search engine results. Although you should concentrate on your position in the SERPs (Search Engine Results Page), you shouldn’t forget that these texts are being written, first and foremost, for the user.

Even if the user has found their way to your web store through the search engine, the battle has not yet been won: the user needs to be inspired and be 'converted' from a potential buyer into an actual buyer. Product descriptions, along with high-quality product photos, are important for the visitor to decide whether they want to make a purchase or not. Well-written texts that inform, support, and convince, are crucial for an online store’s success. With these tips, you can write good product texts that actually work:

1. Address the target group correctly

You should see eye to eye with potential customers– this should also be reflected in the style and tonality of your product texts. For direction, take a closer look at their buyer personas. If you want to appeal to an audience of specialists, you have to use the relevant technical jargon. If your target group isn’t specialized, ensure you give the basic information and use simple, comprehensive language, explaining any specific terms if you need to.

Flowery, emotional descriptions are appropriate for stores selling clothes or cosmetics, but when it comes to IT or electronics, the style should be more objective. It’s important to stay consistent, so it could be worthwhile to create a standardized style guide explaining the tonality and how to address readers. It is also possible to make this guide available to all writers. Decide in advance whether you’re speaking to readers in a formal or informal way and use this tone throughout your texts.

2. Highlight benefits and USP

Imagine yourself as the salesperson and make it clear why visitors should have your products in their home. Convince the reader that they have a clear advantage. Explain the benefits and, above all, the special features of your product.

Answer the following questions in the text:

  • Why should the customer buy this product?
  • What differentiates it from other products?
  • How does this product make the customer’s everyday life easier?
  • Which problems can the product solve?

Ideally, your product should have a strong USP (Unique Selling Point), since a clear and unique selling point is important to generating high sales figures for your product. But be careful: in order to win over potential customers, many writers rely on superlatives. You should tread carefully when using comparatives in product texts such as 'better', 'faster', or 'bigger', or strongly evaluative adjectives like 'wonderful', 'fantastic', 'excellent'.

3. Value instead of empty phrases

Users want to be entertained, informed, and inspired – as a result, creativity plays an important part when creating product descriptions. When writing these texts, it’s easy to end up using flowery phrases similar to ones found in the fashion and beauty sector. Instead of writing 'absolute eye-catcher' or 'summer must-have', you should ask yourself why this product is actually a must-have. Following this logic, focus more on the explanation, since this is where the real added value comes from.

By writing creatively, you paint a picture for the user. Write actively and very detailed, avoid empty phrases, using appropriate and meaningful words instead.

4. Substantiate instead of generalizing

Among the many advertising phrases, there are numerous other no-gos that should be avoided in product texts. These include, but are not limited to, filler words and filler sentences, as well as blanket statements and generalizations.

There aren’t many products 'for every taste', 'that make everyone happy', and 'are useful in all life situations' so writing statements like these makes no sense. It’s better to be more specific and write about the special features. The user wants to feel as if they are being spoken to on an individual level. A product described as 'ideal for amateur athletes with stressful jobs' speaks to the reader more than, for example 'this product makes professionals happy'.

A typical mistake is writing things that are obvious, so make sure you focus more on the specifics and avoid redundancies. The fact that you can drive a convertible with the roof down doesn’t need to be mentioned, just like you don’t need to mention the fact that a winter jacket keeps you warm in winter.

5. Stay positive!

Don’t say directly what a product is not, doesn’t do or can’t do. Obviously it’s helpful to know that these particular shoes don’t rub and cause blisters, or that a dress doesn’t cling to the wrong places. Even though these are advantages, the reader might not see them that way due to the negative wording. Instead, try to mention that the comfort of the shoes is down to the particularly comfortable and innovative soles. Saying that the dress flatters the figure and loosely surrounds the body sounds more attractive that mentioning the reader’s problem zones and making them feel self-conscious. In short: stay positive!