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Writing Good Product Descriptions

I'm certain we all want to be successful with our FS Reloading project and help our customers understand our passion for quality reloading equipment and come to share it. To make this happen, a certain amount of revenue is required. And since all of our revenue comes from selling products, a basic understanding of how our various target audiences interpret and respond to product descriptions will be very helpful.

Product descriptions have two target readers, customers and search engines. To be successful, product descriptions must speak to both customers and to search engines.

Customer Needs

As you might imagine, customers are looking for products to satisfy their wants and needs but more importantly for us, customers are looking for products that make them feel good. Since customers are busy just like us, they want to find what they are looking for in the shortest possible time. Therefore customers are very much annoyed by irrelevant search results that serve only to waste their time.

Customers, just like everyone on the internet, have a tendency to scan rather than read pages unless they have a very deep interest, in which case they will drill-down through mountains of information. People are more likely to click links to related pages than to scroll through very long documents. A picture truly is worth a thousand words. The right picture is priceless. Still photos that convey action and feeling, and videos that show products in use are especially valuable in attracting and keeping customer attention.

Learn more about inspiring people to action. Watch Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action — 18:05

Some key quotes from Simon's TED Talk
"People don't buy what you do; they buy WHY you do it."
"People don't buy what you do; they buy what you stand for."
"The goal is not to do business with everyone who needs what you have; it's to do business with those who believe what you believe."
"When you talk about what you believe then you will attract those who believe what you believe."

Learn more, visit Simon's web site Start With Why.
Or buy Simon's book "Start With Why".
And find more inspiration on Simon's Blog.

Search Engine Needs

Search engines operate in a very competitive environment. All search engines depend on millions of happy, satisfied, repeat users. Therefore, search engines are constantly adjusted in an attempt to provide the most relevant search results possible for their users. To accomplish this goal, the rules they use to determine search relevance are constantly changing. Attempting to discover and exploit loopholes in those rules is therefore futile and in fact counterproductive.

Since a great deal of money is at stake, search engine operators know many people will use any means available to make their web pages rise to the top of the list. Therefore search engine programmers spend a great deal of time and money responding to spammers and scammers in an effort to weed out irrelevant pages. Search engines have no judgment, heart or feelings. They are just computer programs executing pre-set algorithms. Search engines rely heavily on HTML tags and context analysis to determine search relevance. Search engines consider articles copied from a web site and pasted in to another to be spam and try to eliminate such duplicate content from their search results. They consider articles containing no real information or detail to be not very relevant and so give such content a very low ranking.

We can capitalize on these facts by carefully writing our product descriptions to address the various needs of our two target readers, customers and search engines.


 

  IMPORTANT:   Google Product Feed Update April 22, 2014:

Google will down-check products sent to them that include marketing phrasiology in the description. Google wants product details like size, color, weight, function, etc.

Example 1 Google likes:

The 8" long, 5" wide, 2 1/4" tall ingot style bag can be used as a forearm or elbow rest, to raise the height of a rear bag, between the buttstock and the shoulder with heavy recoil long guns, as a heel rest for handgun shooting or even as a practical front rest.

Example 2 Google does not like:

Every hunter and shooter is looking for a versatile and steady shooting system that can be set up almost anywhere, and at any time. Whether you have minutes or seconds to set up for your next shot, the Caldwell DeadShot Shooting Bags are the answer.

Our feed program automatically sends Google the short description. Therefore when writing product descriptions, make sure the short description is like example #1, not like the example #2.

Promitional text like that used in example #2 is good to include in the long description since it is not part of the automatic product feed but does get read by Google and will improve the context of our product descriptions and thereby increase the organic search relevance of our product descriptions.

Include only information relevant to the item. Describe its most relevant attributes, such as size, material, intended age range, special features, or other technical specs. Also include details about the item’s most visual attributes, such as shape, pattern, texture, and design, since Google may use this text for finding the item. Google recommends we submit around 500 to 1,000 characters. The maximum allowed is 10,000 characters. Descriptions should follow standard grammar rules and end with a punctuation mark.

Do not include any of the following items in short descriptions:

  • promotional text such as "Free shipping"
  • BLOCK CAPITALS
  • a description of your brand or company.
  • Links to your store or other websites
  • Billing, payment, or sales information
  • References to internal categorization systems, e.g. "Toys & Games > Toys > Baby Dolls"
  • Comparisons to other products beyond the item you’re selling, e.g. “even better/faster/larger than X”
  • Details about other products, accessories, or similar items available
     

Do not include any of the following items in product titles:

  • promotional text such as "Free shipping"
  • BLOCK CAPITALS
     

 The following applies to Long Descriptions

For Customers:

  • Write in conversational English as you would speak to a friend rather than in technical shorthand.
  • Target writing to a Flesch-Kincaid grade level of 5 or 6. Learn about the Flesch-Kincaid readability test at Wikipedia. Test the grade level of your text at readability-score.com.
  • Short paragraphs are better than long paragraphs.
  • Short sentences are usually better than long sentences. If you must use a long sentence, make sure it is followed by a short sentence.
  • Use an outline style layout with large, bold headings as shown on this page.
  • The first paragraph should speak to the customer's feelings and touch their heart.
  • Latter paragraphs should speak to the customer's mind and justify their feelings.
  • Highlight important concepts within paragraphs.
  • Include a bulleted list of items that come packaged with the product.
  • Include a bulleted list of necessary items that are not included with the product.
  • Include a bulleted list of optional items that are not included with the product.
  • Repeat cautions and warnings in a bulleted list.
  • Repeat product features in a bulleted list.
  • Include links to related products.
  • Include links from other products.
  • Include links to more detailed descriptions and explanations of features.
  • Provide multiple pathways from the home page and from intermediate pages to every product.
  • Include elements of good visual design like generous white space, carefully chosen colors and fonts, images that increase understanding, most important items placed "above-the-fold", consistent layout and style, etc.
  • Include reviews of the product from other customers.

For Search Engines:

  • The manufacturer name and product name should be in the first paragraph.
  • Key search terms being used by the majority of customers should be in the first paragraph.
  • Search terms should be bold within paragraphs.
  • All image file names should include the manufacturer and product name.
  • All image alt-text should include the manufacturer and product name.
  • The product name should be at the top of the page enclosed in H1 or H2 tags.
  • Include at least one bulleted list of features.
  • Include at least two section headings with H2 or H3 tags.
  • Repeat the product name and manufacturer name 2-5 times.
  • Include as many links to related products and related information pages as possible.
  • Include as many links from related products and information pages as possible.
  • Include as much how-to-use-the-product detail as possible.
  • Include a list of features and benefits.
  • All links to and from other pages and products should be bold.
  • Include a highly relevant short description without HTML formatting to be used by search engines for their search result description.
  • Include a highly detailed long description with HTML formatting to be used by search engines to determine search relevance.
  • Bulleted lists should include a title with H2 tags and list items with BOLD or STRONG tags.

Consistent application of these principles will dramatically raise our position in search results which will bring many more customers to our site. Once customers arrive they will find our site comfortable and informative but even more important it will touch their hearts with feeling and passion. Then the comprehensive, intellectual detail will support and confirm their feelings which will cause them to adjust their behavior (see the 18 minute Simon Sinek video mentioned above for details). In this way we will achieve our objectives to change our readers for the better and provide the resources we need to continue and expand the mission of FS Reloading while at the same time better supporting the needs of our staff and their families. 

Product Description Headings

Following is the definition of headings that should be used in X-Cart short descriptions and long descriptions. They should appear in the order indicated. For example: "FEATURES :" always appear first, "WARNINGS:" always appear last. Listed colors are for reference only. The actual colors are fixed in the related "Marker" styles in each case. These headings should first be tagged with the Marker style of the same name to format proper colors and spacing and then tagged with H2 to format proper text size and weight.

  1. features:

    1. Color: black text on yellow background
    2. Frequency: On every product long description
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A bulleted list that explains the functions of a product—what the product does, how it works, why it works, important differences between this product and competing products, etc. This should be similar to the product description but in bulleted list format instead of narrative prose as in the product description paragraphs.
  2. includes:

    1. Color: black text on yellow background
    2. Frequency: On every product long description
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A bulleted list of everything included in the package.
  3. ACCESSORIES:

    1. Color: black text on yellow background
    2. Frequency: On every product long description
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A bulleted list of items not included in the package. These should be items that are not necessarily required for the product's function but that make the product easier to user, more effective, safer, more productive, etc. Product names should be linked to their respective long description pages.
  4. notes:

    1. Color: black text on yellow background
    2. Frequency: Only as needed.
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A description of issues related to the product written in narrative prose having complete sentences and paragraphs. These "NOTES:" should include other products that are not include but are required for proper function, clarification of operational issues like works or doesn't work in certain known conditions, pre-emptive answers to common questions customers have after trying to use the product, etc. Product names should be linked to their respective long description pages.
  5. Fs Reloading Reccomends:

    1. Color: white text on blue background
    2. Frequency: On every product long description
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A description of related products recommended by FS Reloading Staff to be purchased with the product for best results. More than just a list of possible accessories, this is the list of what we think a customer needs to be successful, happy, and content with their purchase. These are items that any experienced operator would think should be included but often aren't. For example: lube for steel dies, mold release for bullet molds, etc. This should be written in narrative prose with an explanation of why the recommended products are needed with links to the recommended products long descriptions.
  6. Photo Notes:

    1. Color: white text on blue background
    2. Frequency: Only as needed.
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A description of product photos written in narrative prose that includes explanation of photo details, disclaimers for related items shown in photos that are not included with the product, etc. Product names should be linked to their respective long description pages.
  7. Caution:

    1. Color: white text on dark amber background
    2. Frequency: Only as needed.
    3. Where: Long description only
    4. Purpose: A description of issues that may cause property damage, cause the product to not function properly, cause the product to function inefficiently, etc. but will not cause injury or death to the operator or bystanders. Written in narrative prose with complete sentences and paragraphs as needed.
  8. warnings:

    1. Color: white text on red background
    2. Frequency: Only as needed.
    3. Where: Both long and short description
    4. Purpose: A description of issues that may cause injury or death to the operator or bystanders. These are critically important issues that must not be ignored, that we must in all good conscience warn our customer of before they purchase the product.

 

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