SEO Tips For Large Ecommerce Websites: Product Descriptions

Product descriptionThe current sensitivity of search engine algorithms is frightening. Here we look at one element of how Google ranks webpages and how it can affect the visibility of your products within Google and Bing.

On a small, home office, scale the quality of your website can be easily fixed. You are more likely to have expert knowledge of what you’re selling and can quickly rework product descriptions, however, on an almost ‘enterprise’ scale resolving these issues can become a significant hindrance to growth.

Reducing the current whims of Google down to its simplest form, Google essentially wants to provide their users with listings of the most relevant and useful pieces of information or products. The goal, therefore, is to ensure that all of your products solve every conceivable customer product query possible. A battery, for example, may have different voltages, life, sizes, maintenance requirements, capacities etc. A product page for a motorcycle battery, should, therefore clearly display all this pertinent information as well as a true, sentence-based, description of the product? It should also provide installation instructions so that a customer can easily install and make use of the item.

Fragmented Nature of Searches
There are many reasons why it will be to your advantage to follow this directive. The first is the very fragmented nature of how people search. Even back in 2012 16% of Google searches on a given day have never been searched for before, which equates to 947,520,000 worldwide. The implied logic is that you should try and account for this and provide information much further into the ‘long tail’ of searches and allow Google to return your website for those obscure searchphrases.

Greater Relevance and Conversion Rates
Another clear advantage is that you will have a greater chance to rank for more product-specific search terms. Out of ‘tennis rackets’, “wilson tennis rackets’, ‘wilson tennis racket 23 inch’ and ‘Wilson Roger Federer 23 Junior Tennis Racket’ which do you think would convert at a greater rate? Solely optimising for ‘tennis rackets’ may get you greater volumes of traffic, but if you could optimise for specific product names and features then you are likely to convert at a much greater rate. And the two aren’t mutually exclusive.

Generic search terms such as ‘tennis rackets’ are great if you are trying to attract people at the genesis of their product research path, but for more ‘bang’ for your ‘SEO’ buck it is often much easier to work on product-page specifics than to try and target the highly-competitive, generic, phrases.

Adding Value
Consumers have a greater volume of information available to them than ever before. Much of the information, however, is produced for SEO for Google algorithms several iterations previous. If you can add value, answer questions, solve any possible barrier to purchasing conceivable then you are not only going to earn the trust and respect of customers, but also increase the chances that they will share your company, website or product to their network via social networking and word-of-mouth.

Making ‘Friends’
When people follow you on Google+, or engage elsewhere, then your posts will be prioritised within the Google search rankings, having great product descriptions, along with great products will give them a reason to connect with you and repeatedly be offers your content by Google.

A Little Birdie Said
One change to Google recently is called the ‘Hummingbird’ update. This effectively is Google trying to improve the search results offered based on a user’s past search history and if you can offer content that appeals to people’s tendency to iteratively make their searches more relevant then this will help you get more search traffic. They are also trying to look at long-tail searches and return more solid, useful pages.

Google is also looking more at the relationship of words. Using words on a page that are often associated then this can help with rankings. Google Correlate is a very useful way of determining what people also search (interested in) for a given search phrase. It should also be helping you in many other ways, which we will be exploring in the future.

But How Do I Do It?
One a per product basis the solution is fairly simple:

  • You can use a keyword suggestion tool such as Ubbersuggest to see what people are searching for related to a product name.
  • You could even search for it in Google to see what people are looking for as Google will suggest similar search terms at the top and bottom of the results page.
  • You could use Quora to see which questions people are asking about your products.
  • You could look at your search data from Analytics (what’s left) or Webmaster Tools, or from Google Adwords testing.
  • You could search twitter for a product name
  • You could add an “ask us a question about this product” feature.

There are many ways to enhance product pages. The issue is scale. If you have several thousand products then understandably this could become an issue. The secret in these situations is to take your product offering in bite size pieces and test.

If you are two or three months away from the main buying period for a particular line, systematically go through the ones that you know could potentially have high sales volumes and margins and on every one of them ask yourself if they could be improved. Establish if you have the latest information regarding compatibility, features, are there any spelling mistakes, could you add enhanced product photographs, do you have demonstration videos, Are there any broken links? The most important question to ask, however, is the content unique? If you’re using manufacturer’s descriptions you will very much likely to need to write your own. You can’t keep chasing your competitors on this, but also take a line of your description, paste into Google and put quotation marks around it. If other sites have often copied your descriptions it could be worth amending them.

You could second members of your wider team to be responsible for particular product groups and give them an opportunity every month to see if they could be improved – create product specialists within your company and reward them for enhanced sales for those products.

Keeping Track
You would also want to have a record of which products were improved, by whom and when. If your tech team is able to export a data base of products then you could use that, or you could use Screaming Frog to crawl your site for them.

Monitoring Performance
A great tool for monitoring keyword performance is Advanced Web Ranking, and if you’re going to take it seriously, you might like to get some proxy IP addresses. Break down your product list into different campaigns and monitor them.

Tell Me Again: Why?
Search engines are becoming increasingly sensitive to poor or average content on the internet. Having manufacturer’s product descriptions or very short descriptions could be doing your website some harm. Offering great, useful content will also not only help your search engine performance directly, but also indirectly via social shares and links.

Actionable Tips:

  • Look at your priority products and establish if the content present on their pages is as useful as it could be. Do you have all the features and benefits listed? Is the product photography up-to-scratch? Do you have any product spec sheets or videos to add?
  • Look at which product pages do not get any organic traffic and establish if that is because the information isn’t good enough.
  • Get a list of all product pages, prioritise which need to be improved, when you’ve worked on them and any KPI data (such as organic visits on a given day)
  • Either track those pages for search terms by hand (via Chrome Incognito) or using software.
  • Ensure that you have social sharing options present
  • Continue improving those priority pages, but ensure non-priority pages at least meet a minimum standard.

Image © Chocolatiers

  • Tony

    I have jumper on the residential proxy train for market research and it was really a lot of help. Having an ability to check the SERP’s via all the exit nodes around the world is so powerful!