7 Disastrous (and Avoidable) Product Description Mistakes
There are lots of really awful product descriptions out there.
You know the ones. Some are spookily silent about the product, others give you so much information that your head explodes – or they shout at you in CAPITAL LETTERS and a multitude of exclamation marks!!!
Given the fact that everyone is buying stuff online at the moment (and I do mean everyone), here are 7 mistakes to avoid when writing product descriptions.
1. Copying from the supplier
It’s amazing how many product descriptions are lifted straight from the supplier’s website.
Copying product descriptions is a big fat raspberry – a major no-no. Suppliers don’t understand your target market. Why should they? Suppliers’ product descriptions are not meant for the general public. They’re aimed at retailers.
The first rule of product descriptions is to understand your buyer persona. Who are they? Why do they need your product? What problems does it solve for them? Always use the exact language of your target market. How would they describe your product to a friend?
And here’s another problem with copying product descriptions:
Google will notice. Search engines will treat them as duplicate content and demote your website product pages.
You don’t want that to happen.
Pro tip: Check out user forums. It’s a great way to learn the language of your target customer. You’ll discover what they most need from your product, their worries about buying it… and what annoys them about your competitors’ products. Ker-ching!
2. Running out of steam
Yeah, I know. I’ve been there. Writing thousands of product descriptions is like climbing a mountain with a rucksack of boulders. It’s hard work – a time-consuming slog that saps your energy, drains your soul and… OK, I won’t go on about it.
Maintain your enthusiasm. Try and avoid writing too many in one sitting, because if the descriptions sound knackered, why would anyone buy your products?
Pro tip: Each time you get to a new product, take a deep breath and focus on its benefits. Every item you sell has a tangible benefit – whether that’s saving time, saving money, protecting the environment, freeing up space, improving your appearance, boosting confidence…
3. Spelling or grammatical errors
Now, I know what you’re thinking:
Do people really notice spelling and grammatical errors in product descriptions?
Yes, they do (sorry). If your product descriptions are full of mistakes, your reputation goes down the drain. Take a look at this.
Would you buy that “highly valuable pendant for all formal event”?
Nope. It makes the seller look dumb – and even worse, untrustworthy. They haven’t paid attention to the detail.
Pro tip: Before hitting `publish’, run your product descriptions through a spelling and grammar checker. Then proofread them backwards, sentence by sentence. You’ll notice errors without being distracted by the content.
4. Being unemotional
According to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman’s book `How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market’, 95% of our buying decisions are driven by emotion.
Interesting, isn’t it? Human beings are not as logical as you might think.
Apparently, it’s all down to the Limbic System, sometimes called the `reptilian brain’, just underneath the cerebrum. It’s where our emotions, memory and value judgements originate.
Anyway, that’s enough biology. Basically, the Limbic System tells us what to pay attention to. It helps us make decisions.
You can take advantage of this in your product descriptions. Here, let me give you an example:
The description appeals to the emotions of a dog owner – it’s `as gorgeous as your dog’ – and it sparks the reader’s imagination (`When it’s sunny, you‘ll need sunglasses’).
Notice that this description avoids the obvious. Rather than using the tired, over-used phrase `excellent quality’, it implies the quality by describing the `soft, supple’ leather, and its comfort against a dog’s neck.
Pro tip: Use strong adjectives that appeal to the senses – words that tell a reader how they’ll feel once they own the product. And did you notice the word `you’ throughout that description? Use it all over the place. It’s one of the most powerfully emotional words in the English language.
5. Not enough (or the wrong) detail
A picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Well, yes… and no. Obviously, potential customers want to see a picture of the product that interests them – but pictures don’t provide detail. Customers need words to determine whether a product suits their needs.
Remember what I said about buying decisions being determined by our emotions? Well, after that, we back up our decision with logic.
While paragraphs are excellent for appealing to a reader’s emotions, bullet points are where you put the logic – the noteworthy features that seal the deal.
How can you tell if a feature is noteworthy? Say the words `so what?’ to yourself. It helps you to focus on why your reader should care about the feature.
For example, `This hand blender features 1000-watt power, low-vibrate motor, anti-suction technology, 12 speeds plus turbo button.’
`You can prep with ease, and spend less time in the kitchen.’
Ah, now you’re talking. In short, it’s all about the benefits (yeah, them again).
Here are a few examples of features and benefits:
|Cotton and linen blend||Soft and cool|
|9 oz size food bag||Fits easily into your handbag|
|Hand-sewn shoes||Durable all-day-long comfort|
Pro tip: Use bullet points for the short, snappy details that tell a customer what’s included in the price, what your product does and how that benefits them. When you list a feature, ask yourself how it solves a problem.
6. Sounding stiff and formal
Stiff formality doesn’t sell. It will have your customers running to your competitor’s website quicker than you can say `utilises flibbertigibbet solutions’.
Like all website content, product descriptions need a friendly, conversational human voice.
Here are a few tips:
Pro tip: Read your content out loud. If you stumble over a word, replace it with one that’s easier to say. If you run out of breath, replace a comma with a full stop. And start a new sentence.
7. Using the wrong words
Some words are tediously over-used in product descriptions. I’ve already mentioned `excellent quality’ (yawn). Apart from anything else, why would anyone believe you?
So, which words should you use instead? The top 5 most influential words in product descriptions are these:
You see these words all over the place in advertising copy – for a good reason. Simple, arresting words instantly trigger Limbic System activity. We’re hard-wired to respond to them. Yep, instantly (see what I did there?)
How about some more power-words? According to David Ogilvy, the 20 most influential words for product descriptions are:
If you’re struggling with product descriptions (or just running out of steam), I can do the hard work for you. Get in touch here.