We’ve all heard that “content is king”, and it’s just as true for an e-commerce site as it is for a news site, blog, or any other website. But one of the common myths in e-commerce is that it’s good enough to throw up a two-sentence description and a bland image from the product manufacturer, and all is well.
However, if you’re actually trying to SELL something, or to drive traffic through search engines, or both, it’s incredibly beneficial to take a look at beefing up the content on your site’s product pages.
But HOW do you add more content?
Most e-commerce sites start with the manufacturer’s description. There’s nothing wrong with using this, in most cases, but you don’t want it to be the only content on the page. The truth of the matter is that many of your competitors will have the same product and the same copy on their pages, too. So if you include the manufacturer’s description, take one of two approaches:
- Label it as such: Include a section of your product page specifically for the “manufacturer’s description” and label it with that phrase so that customers know what they are reading. Include your own description as well, and keep them separate, so that people can easily see what you wrote versus what the manufacturer wrote. See the following screenshot from Amazon (UK) who clearly distinguishes between the two descriptions.
- Rewrite it: If you don’t want to label it as such, make sure to do a thorough job rewriting the text so that it doesn’t appear to search engines to be the same content as found on other sites.
Your Own Description
Much better than canned text is a hand-written and thoughtful description of the product you’re selling, along with a convincing argument for its purchase. This is the time to list not only the features of the product, but to detail how it can be used and what its benefits are. Most of the time, the manufacturer’s description doesn’t do a good job of selling, so here’s your chance to really woo your customers.
Something to note about implementation: if you’re going to include separate descriptions for your own copy and the manufacturer’s, it’s a good idea to store them separately in your database. The reason I suggest this is for when (or if) you start an affiliate program and need to provide a product feed to your affiliates. You can give them the manufacturer’s description in the feed, instead of your custom product copy, so that the content you worked so hard to complete doesn’t get spread across the internet. You can also use the same approach when you list your product on marketplaces like Amazon and Ebay, and comparison shopping engines like Nextag or Shopzilla.
Customer reviews are considered the holy grail of user-generated content on an e-commerce site. Why?
- Customer reviews are inevitably unique, because people don’t typically submit the same review to multiple sites.
- They give other customers a sense of third-party endorsements – which is why it’s good to include even negative reviews from customers.
- If reviews are provided regularly, search engines see this as fresh content and are likely to give the page a boost in rankings, to crawl the site more often, or both.
Zappos.com is a company that really puts customer reviews to work for them. In addition to displaying the reviews on the product page, they have enough volume to also show recent reviews on higher-level brand pages. Here’s a snippet from their Reef Sandals page:
The downside of customer reviews is that they are hard to generate, especially for a site that is still working to build traffic and sales. You don’t want to write a fake customer review, because it’s not ethical, and they can often be easy to spot. So if you’re not getting them yet, ask your employees to contribute a review, publish it on the website, and note that it’s an employee review. With their permission, you might even list the employees’ names or qualifications with the review. (For example, if you’re selling textbooks, list their major or degree subject.)
Although it won’t be seen as an unbiased opinion, like customer reviews often are, an employee review still provides unique and fresh content for your pages. It also gets a person’s voice onto the site, and if a customer feels a connection with a person, they are more likely to make a purchase.
At this point we start to get into some of the lesser-used strategies, one of which is a question-and-answer section. Although not applicable to all products, a Q&A section can be developed based on customer inquiries that come into your call center or email. Chances are, if one person took the time to contact you to ask a question, there are ten others who wondered the same thing but didn’t bother to ask (or buy).
A Q&A format is nice because it starts to put words into the customer’s voice. People who read the questions can often relate, thinking “I wondered that myself” or “Good question”, which creates a more personal experience. It also has the added benefit of reducing customer inquiries, because they are more able to find answers to their questions up front, rather than relying on one-to-one communication.
If possible, think in advance what some common questions might be, and provide answers to them as soon as you list a new product.
If you sell a product that comes with documentation, include the contents of that documentation on your website, after getting permission from your vendors. PDF documents are scanned and indexed in search engines, and there’s a good chance that this kind of content can bring in visitors. Granted, they may already own the product in question and are looking for support, but they may be interested in buying accessories, related items, or additional quantities of the item as gifts.
Restaurant Equipment Solutions, a site that sells restaurant supplies, does a great job of providing digital copies of documentation for their products. Here’s a screenshot where I’ve labeled the different documents that can be viewed for one of their refrigerators:
Ingredients or Specifications
Many products lend themselves to having descriptions that include their ingredients on specifications. Ingredients and even nutritional details can be specified for food, vitamins and supplements, and health and beauty supplies. Specifications are extremely useful for many products, but especially for electronics and computers, which need to interface or interact with other equipment.
Other Content Specific to Books
If you sell books, there’s even more information you can include on your product pages or in separate documents. An excerpt is a great way to let customers get a feel for the contents of a book online. Editorial reviews give opinions by professional critics, and help better detail what a book contains. The information from the book jacket gives an overview on the book, and information on other titles in the same series or by the same author. And the “about the author” section provides customers with information about the author’s education and background. All of this information is worthy of consideration for adding to your website.