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Product Descriptions That Work in 3, 2, 1…

Use these tips for writing a 'script' that sells.

Before the Internet made online shopping possible, we pretty much always purchased everything in person. We used our hands to pick up an item and our eyes to inspect its quality. Maybe we set the item down and picked up a competing product to run another inspection-test for comparison.

In the past 15 years, virtual shopping has undoubtedly set firm roots in our economy, but the experience is still inferior to the knowledge we can gather by holding the product in our hands. This is why writing a solid product description is so fundamentally important.

Whether you’re selling on eBay, Amazon or another website, the attention you place on the product’s description could very likely be what makes or breaks your sale. Sure, a quality set of photographs is essential, but pictures don’t always tell the whole story.

Use the tips below as a guideline for writing a description that will help feature your product in a manner that sells.

And we’re on in 3, 2, 1… action!

Three plots for a star product description

  • Cast your words with care. Writing a good description is a balancing act. You need to describe your item thoroughly, emphasize its value, excite the potential buyer—and be brief.

    When we’re in a store looking at a product, we ask ourselves a lot of questions about the product. It’s up to you to consider what those questions might be regarding your product and then try to answer them in your description. This might include technical details, quality and how long it’s been used, what flaws are on your product and what makes your product a better deal than your competitors.

    It’s better to be truthful about your product because it helps build a sense of trust between you and the buyer

    It’s better to be truthful about your product because it helps build a sense of trust between you and the buyer. Honesty adds a little more value to your product, too, and factors into the mysteriously complex mathematical equation buyers go through when deciding on the value of a purchase.

    Also, to help excite a potential buyer, use a few words in your description—like “incredible” or “brilliant”—that will help generate enthusiasm. You might also tell a story that adds value to the product. Did you wear the shirt to a Michael Jackson concert? Has the book traveled through 26 countries with you? Let your customers know.

    The description you give is the heart of the matter when trying to sell a product in a virtual environment. It serves as a substitute for the ability to hold a product in hand, and answers those questions that will help a buyer determine why they must have it. In all this, though, your description must be concise because this technologically advanced society has been trained to absorb information at increasing speeds, and we don’t want to be burdened with word-heavy paragraphs while shopping.

  • Let keywords take the spotlight. Using the right keywords in your description can help guide the buyer to your product.

    Keywords are descriptive words that consumers type into the search box to locate an exact item to buy. Search engines will scour your item descriptions to find the keywords to match what the consumer is searching for.

    Obvious keywords would include brand name and basic features (e.g. Canon EOS Rebel T31 Digital SLR). Stephanie Inge, an eBay specialist and seller for more than 13 years, points out the importance of using only those words that are relevant to what you are selling, to avoid “keyword spamming.”

    Start by listing out all the words you can come up with that describe your item and which terms you think a customer might use to search for it. Then incorporate those words into your description. Inge suggests using resources like the Google Keyword Tool or eBay’s Bay Estimator to get ideas.

  • A good editor is a writer’s best friend. It’s OK if writing isn’t your strongest suit. What is important, though, is to produce a description that’s free of basic errors. There’s just something about poor spelling and grammar that can turn buyers off. Sure, spelling and grammar may have no connection to the quality of your product, but it’s human nature to see the way you write as a reflection of your product, or of your character as a seller. It’s kind of like picking up a brand new camera that has a good layer of dust on it.

    But don’t fear. If you’re selling on the Internet, chances are you have access to a word processing program that can check your spelling and grammar for you. Focus on what you want to say and then run a spelling and grammar check through the document. Another option is to ask a friend or family member to read what you’ve written and have them make any appropriate changes. Read “Content Writing Tips for Non-Writers” for more editing ideas.

Two adversaries to your success

Sprinkle a little of your personality in with the description and engage your buyers on a personal level
  • Stealing words from another: It might seem easier to just copy and paste a product description from another website, but don’t do it. First of all, it can count against you in the search engines. Second, it robs you of the chance to describe the product in your own voice. And buyers notice that.

    Do yourself a favor and write original content. Sprinkle a little of your personality in with the description and engage your buyers on a personal level.

  • Destructive creativity: Another weakness some sellers have is the desire to design their description with colored text, mixed font sizes and centered paragraphs. It might be fun to “pretty up” your words, but in doing so you damage your professional image, and force the buyer to put unnecessary effort into reading the description.

    “Colored text is fine, as long as no more than two colors are used,” Inge says. “Too many eBay sellers use multicolor fonts throughout and it just looks hideous, and is a big turn-off.”

One up-and-coming actor

The mobile surfer: If you haven’t caught the wave yet, now is as good a time as any to recognize that mobile shopping, or m-commerce, is standing in the spotlight right now. What does this mean for you? Well, when you’re writing product descriptions, you need to keep in mind that mobile shoppers are of a different mind than computer shoppers. They move faster as they browse and are less likely to spend extra time researching products.

Whatever it is they’re shopping for, they want it, and they want it now. That aforementioned balancing act plays front and center here. You’ll want to say everything that needs to be said, but it needs to be short enough to maintain a mobile user’s attention span.

Inge suggests using bulleted lists to organize key descriptors. This technique is optimized for mobile browsers, and makes it easier to read on small mobile phone screens.

… And, that’s a wrap!

If you follow these guidelines for writing product descriptions, the script for your product should receive thumbs up from the audience.

About the author

Sarah Brown
Sarah Brown is a freelance writer who writes about e-commerce and small businesses. She recently graduated from Chico State with a journalism degree and is also a budding online entrepreneur, having launched two Web businesses and her own line of handmade products. Opinions expressed here may not be shared by The Online Seller and/or its principals.

  • Diane

    I’m a beginner, again. You gave pertinent information I can use on my very first listing. Thanks.

  • Rebecca

    It’s also important to point out that stealing other seller’s descriptions is an eBay violation, and could get you suspended.

    • Matthew

      Good reminder Rebecca. More than a few times I found someone would copy my auction word for word & even use the photo’s that I took. It’s been said… ‘Imitation is the Greatest Form of Flattery’! But I would simply send them a friendly reminder note & they make fast changes. :))

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