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Selling pens to search engines: why quality SEO copy is essential for e-commerce sites

spectre dvd cover
At Akira, we build a lot of e-commerce websites, and we're always keen to discover new and better ways to help online store owners improve their site's visibility in the search engine results.

Nine times out of ten, this boils down to the need for well-written text that people and search engines want to read, and more importantly, converts a reader into a buyer.

The majority of our e-store owners don't actually make the products they sell. They are retailers selling well-known brands, and offer a whole catalogue of products to choose from.

The manufacturers provide pre-written descriptions and photos, so the temptation is just to copy and paste in the standard description, sit back, and wait for the orders to roll in.

Which they won't, for one simple reason...



standard descriptions don't stand out

There are hundreds, probably thousands of websites out there with the exact same product descriptions o them, word for word.So how can Google tell which are the good sites that deserve top ranking, and which are dull, copycat sites?

Better customer experience

The answer is, customer experience. Google and other search engines have their own 'shopping list' of features they look for in order to sort out the e-commerce sheep from the goats. That shopping lists designed to work out which sites offer the best customer experience. This may seem a rather 'fluffy' way to assess a website, but there are plenty of data-based indicators search engines can use, such as the:

  • bounce rate of your website
  • stickiness of your website
  • clarity of information
  • quality and quantity of information

E-commerce websites bounce rates

Bounce rate is a biggie. It's the number of people who go to a page on your website, quickly say "Nah, not what I want" and click off again pronto. Yes, some will have just wanted to find your telephone number, but the majority simply haven't found what they were looking for.

Online store stickiness

Stickiness is the time people spend browsing your website. Most people may only read a couple of pages, spending on average just a couple of minutes reading.  However, if you're selling something, you want them on your site for much longer than that. After all, it's tricky on even the best e-commerce sites to find what you want and buy it in under two minutes. (Try it on Amazon or eBay and time yourself!)

Sell like Amazon, not eBay

Talking of Amazon and eBay, these websites really make it easy to buy stuff online. What sets them apart of the quality and quantity of information on each item. During a recent Google update that tackled the issue of poor information, eBay got slapped - hard. That was due to all the basic listing written by ordinary people selling their items from home. Often these are very short, badly written and have all the persuasive charm of a slap with a wet fish. Here's a genuine listing from eBay UK for a "Spectre 007" DVD:

"New in the box"

That's it. Not very inspiring? What's more, the title of the item simply says

"James bond spectre dvd"

How dull.

Compare it with the next eBay listing which was for the same DVD:

"SPECTRE DVD 007 James Bond Daniel Craig Region 2- watched once"

That's more like it - it tells me a lot more in just one sentence. The description that follows isn't extensive but it is more informative:

SPECTRE 007 DVD in Excellent Condition-Watched Once from New.
Pal Region 2.
From a smoke free home
Please see my other items, I am having a DVD clear-out.
I always give P&P discounts to any bidder who wins more than 1 item.

Note the formatting. It's written in short lines that are easy to read, and tell me what I need to know. No wonder that the second listing had 2 bids within a couple of days and the first (a Buy It Now) was still languishing on eBay a couple of weeks after being listed.

Do it the Amazon way

Now compare those eBay listings with this Amazon listing for the same Spectre DVD (click on the link to view).

This is so much better - a long 'Product details' list followed by a concise plot summary in the Product Description. What's more, if you don't want to read all the blurb you don't have to - you can add the DVD to your basket at the very top of the page with a single click.

Tell your customers all about it

You should apply the same principles to your e-commerce website. Successful e-commerce sites offer more than just the standard text. They offer detailed information that's carefully focused on their customer's needs and expectations. They also make it easy to read, and persuasive too, so people want to buy.

This often comes down to establishing the right tone of voice for your e-store website copy. If you're selling an item of technical equipment, your customers are going to want to know the specifics that make that item the ideal tool for the job they require. Always list features, and qualify with benefits. Office supplies stores are past masters at this, even when selling products as straightforward as office pens. Here's a sample pen listing from Staples.ca:

  • Soft latex-free rubber grip
  • Smooth-flowing gel ink for effortless writing
  • Water-based, acid-free, archival-quality gel ink
  • Refillable
  • 0.7mm tip
  • Black
  • 8+2/pack

Notice how they list the features, but the second line also sells a benefit. Also note this is a nice, easy to read bullet list. Search engines love bullet lists!

Lists can sell luxury - almost

Here's another example of a itemised list that's part of a product listing for a luxury cashmere sweater at LondonW11 (one of our clients):

  • 100% Italian cashmere
  • made in Italy
  • silk lined cuffs
  • shaped cut
  • long sleeve
  • oval neck line
  • total length 64cm

It's clear, concise but doesn't describe the experience, so important for describing luxury goods. When you're selling a leisure item, your customers are going to want to know how it will enhance their lives, how it will make them feel, how impressive it will look.

So, you need to tailor your product descriptions to suit. That's why, on the LondonW11 website, the bullet list above appears AFTER an innovative "Cat Walk" section written by site owner and designer Eva-Maria Khan on what makes this sweater so special. 

"Color and shape cannot be separated in fashion. This urban iron grey shade brings out the best of the luxurious cashmere yarn and is such a wardrobe staple color which blends in perfectly for an elegant or casual occasion. The tone-on-tone silk trimming of the turned up cuffs give this cashmere sweater adds glamour with ease. … Pair this elegant cashmere jumper tone on tone with a grey flannel trouser and high heels for an effortlessly chic office look or with your favorite denim and boots for a luxe off duty look. Each purchase is gift wrapped in our signature box and sent to you for free within the EU."

It's unique text written with the customer in mind, it's informative and helpful, and as a clincher it even tells you about the free postage at the end. It also contains a few primary keywords too - 'luxurious cashmere', 'cashmere sweater', and 'cashmere jumper'. You may not have even noticed the keywords when you read the copy, but the search engines would have. Full marks, Eva-Maria! (We taught you well...)

More text, more often

With an e-commerce website, you should seize every opportunity to include high quality text with a gentle sprinkle of targeted keywords. One of the easiest ways is to put text on a Category page, either to introduce a product range, or at the top of a list of products. You can also include an FAQ page to answer all those questions clients always have, and write a blog to add new interesting information to your website on a regular basis - and keep people coming back for more.

Hate writing? Don't panic…

Does the thought of all that writing and rewriting fill you with dread? You are not alone, which is why at Akira Studio we can write all your e-commerce website sales copy for you. We can also help you format your website pages for optimum sales, or build you a new mobile friendly online store if yours is several years old and is creaking at the seams. Call us to discuss. 

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