By Luke Carthy
Product descriptions are one of the most debated components of eCommerce SEO, as creating and maintaining them can be hugely resource intensive, particularly if you sell thousands of products.
One of the most common questions when it comes to product descriptions is, “Should I invest in writing quality and unique product descriptions for all of my products?” Now, as with all good SEO questions, the answer to this one is, “it depends.”
In a perfect world, the answer to that question is always going to be “yes!” However, we also must juggle time restrictions, maximize budgets, and invest energy into the aspects of eCommerce SEO that are likely to deliver the greatest returns.
Let’s dig into that question a little deeper and determine which situations are most advantageous for investing in quality, unique product descriptions. In this guide, we’ll cover:
Why an unoriginal product description is better than no description
Defining content frameworks by researching your business vertical
Reviewing and improving your product description performance
An unoriginal product description is better than no description
Before we dive in, though, let me just make this one point very clear…
Regardless of whether you invest heavily into your product descriptions, having no description at all is absolutely the worst option—especially if you’re serious about growing sales and optimizing for conversions.
Having no production descriptions at all is a red flag for visitors potentially looking to buy from you.
Sure, in some cases (particularly when your visitors are at the end of the purchase funnel) a product’s description may not be hugely influential to their purchase decision. In fact, they may add to cart or even purchase without reading the description at all.
That being said, the absence of a product description is generally intrusive and can send a clear and off-putting message to potential customers.
Additionally, most site search solutions (particularly the native systems you get with Wix, Magento, Shopify, etc.) will look at product descriptions when searching for relevant content. Not having descriptions at all can potentially make your product(s) much less discoverable—even for returning customers that you may already have built a relationship with.
Let’s now dive back into the question of whether you should invest in creating unique and well-written product descriptions.
How to gauge your investment in descriptions
Are you reselling products from established brands or are you selling products/items from lesser known brands (possibly including your own)?
Let’s take a look at a few examples.
01. Selling branded TVs
Let’s say you’re a retailer that sells the latest TVs and home entertainment from household brands such as LG, Sony, and Samsung.
As a reseller of these particular goods, visitors that are planning on purchasing from you are most likely at the end of the purchase funnel; meaning that they may have already watched videos, read reviews, compared and shortlisted TV models, and visited the manufacturer’s websites to understand more about the item(s) they’re looking to purchase.
My point here is, by the time these visitors have made it to you (the retailer), they’re usually already well versed in the specific TV they’re looking to buy.
For cases like the example above, this means the quality and informativeness of your product description isn’t always as crucial. To be clear, I’m not recommending that you skimp on product descriptions at all in these cases, but where budgets are squeezed and priorities are each fighting for attention, always take your ROI (return on investment) into consideration.
Many of the biggest retailers, with seemingly limitless budgets and teams, such as Currys, Best Buy, and so on, will often invest in creating unique product descriptions with a brand-specific tone of voice. They may even take it a step further by summarizing key features, highlighting what they like about a specific item, and/or offering expert perspectives.
Investing in unique and quality product descriptions would be ideal here (and lots of retailers do it). However, a well-written product description here is going to have less of an impact on conversion than in the next example.
02. Selling your own range of premium candles
If you’re selling your own items (or reselling goods from lesser-known brands) then potential customers are more dependent on product descriptions to get the information they need.
In cases like this, there will be fewer product reviews or comparisons for audiences to reference. Manufacturer websites (if any) will likely be less informative and there will be much less external content in general. This is when creating informative product descriptions that educate the customer can provide the most value for your business.
Even if the products you’re selling are relatively niche, you shouldn’t take shortcuts by, for example, copy/pasting the description from the manufacturer or writing generic descriptions that could apply to multiple products in that category.
Your product descriptions need to be comprehensive, engaging, and, of course, informative to allow potential customers to feel confident when making their purchase.
Now that you have a better idea of how much to invest in your product descriptions, let’s get into optimizing them.
Design your descriptions to highlight key information for customers
Your product description content could be well written and super informative, but visitors will often skip it if it’s simply a wall of text or the design makes it difficult for them to jump to the information they’re looking for.
It might sound obvious, but be sure to break up content using headings (H2s, H3s, etc). It can also be helpful to leverage tabs on the product page to break down the description into sections/topics (as shown in the example below).
I’m a fan of this content breakdown over at Fanstereo (shown above). Not only does it include a lightweight summary of the product, they also use accordions to organize the content and make it more digestible for potential customers.
In particular, the key features and the “what’s in the box” information tabs do a nice job of keeping the page (and user experience) clean while making important information readily available. Doing this can really break up content (particularly when it’s fairly comprehensive) and it allows visitors to quickly jump to and focus on what’s important to them.
Another reason accordions/tabs/sections work well (particularly on mobile devices) is they prevent the content from dominating the page and forcing other potentially conversion-boosting elements out of view (e.g., product recommendations or merchandising elements).
Research your vertical to define content frameworks
Creating informative, engaging content that helps increase conversions starts with doing research specific to your vertical. You can perform this research manually or use keyword tools, if you have access to them.
The manual approach
If you don’t have SEO tools at your disposal, no problem! You can easily surface the same data albeit on a smaller scale.
Simply searching on Google for the brands/products you sell can surface many insightful questions. One valuable place to look is the “People also ask” box (shown above), which frequently appears for informational and commercial queries.
As you search more queries, you’ll surface more questions and potentially begin to identify patterns and questions that frequently appear. Take note of these details, as they’re likely to come in handy when you’re working on your descriptions.
Researching with tools
For this, I like to use Ahrefs’ keyword explorer to identify important questions that people are asking/looking for in your specific industry. Additionally, Semrush has a similar keyword tool that you could use.
In this example, let’s assume I’m working with a retailer that sells running shoes.
Simply throwing “running shoes” and close variant keywords (keywords that are closely related or are synonyms) into Ahrefs, then selecting ”Questions” (in the Ahrefs interface), we start to surface all of the important questions that people ask and search for within the running shoes vertical.
We can then use this search data to define the sections of content to focus on for all our running shoes.
Some pull-out examples include:
How to clean / care for running shoes?
What foot shapes are they suitable for? (There’s healthy search volume for people looking for shoes for flat feet and other conditions so this would be particularly helpful content)
How many miles should these running shoes be expected to last?
Are these shoes suitable for men, women or both?
If all of your product descriptions for running shoes at least cover these four questions, they’ll be informative and address considerations that people are likely to need answers to before making a purchase.
You could even take this a step further by targeting actual keywords with unique product descriptions for each item. This way, you’re also likely to maximize organic traffic and rankings for product-specific search queries, too.
Review your product description performance and reiterate
Heatmap tools like HotJar, CrazyEgg, Microsoft Clarity (which is free), etc. allow you to look at visual representations of how customers behave on a group of URLs instead of just individual pages. This allows you to review many more data points at once and build a much clearer picture.
In this specific case, consolidating all clicks and scroll behavior on every single product page into a single heatmap can be a powerful way to see how visitors and customers are engaging with your product content at scale.
Additionally, the more you segment your heatmaps, the more granular you’re able to get with your insights. For example, you can segment by device, country, and view data for people that have made purchases to identify the elements of your product description that are working and the ones that need improvement.
These additional ways of reviewing and filtering the data can really help you uncover more opportunities and learn more about your audience’s needs. I recommended reviewing heatmaps before and after optimizing descriptions so that you can get an accurate indication of the results of your work.
Lastly and as a final bonus, optimizing your product descriptions can pay dividends when helping your visitors find products via your site search too. The more informative your descriptions, the more helpful your site search can be for your customers.
Informative product descriptions help you educate customers and stay on top of the competition
Chances are you’re not the only retailer selling your product. That’s why it’s important to differentiate and add value where you can—the product description being a prime piece of real estate for that purpose.
Even if you’re the only retailer that offers a given product, you’re likely competing for potential customers on a Google results page that contains various search features. You never know when your product description might be used in one of those SERP features. If that happens, a well-written description can invite users to your site, or the lack thereof can cause Google to point those users towards one of your competitors.
Luke Carthy - eCommerce Consultant
Luke is a well-seasoned eCommerce SEO & CRO consultant, online store founder and international speaker with years of hands-on and strategic experience. Luke delivers double / triple-digit growth for global eCommerce brands and growth-hungry startups. Twitter | Linkedin