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Words That Sell
Words That Sell

Write product descriptions that get noticed and drive sales

As a maker, you need an elevator pitch. A traditional elevator pitch is based on speed and impact - communicating the essential reasons why your prospective customer should buy your product, and doing so in the span of a short elevator ride. An effective elevator pitch requires the salesperson to convey a compelling, powerful message in as few words as possible.

For your online sales, an elevator pitch operates in much the same way, except yours is a several-sentence product description. Much like that salesperson in the elevator, you want to use your pitch to get your message across, before the doors open, attention turns elsewhere and the opportunity is lost forever.

Product descriptions may be short, but they're critical to your ability to move inventory. And there's more to writing good product descriptions that get noticed than meets the eye. Here's how to do it.

Answering questions

Often, when those who sell their products online write product descriptions, they extol the advantages and benefits of their products from the creator's point of view. Shelley Hunter, a blogger with, says that's not the right approach.

"First of all, you need to know what people are searching for," Hunter says. "You're not just trying to appeal to potential customers, you're trying provide answers. If someone is looking for glue that binds well with plastic, and you sell that glue, that's the audience you want to find. They have a problem, and you can solve it for them."

In other words, effective product descriptions answer the question, "What's in it for me?" from the customer's point of view. "How will this make my life easier? How will it make me feel better? How will it improve my life?" says Brittany Bly, founder of Pop Shop America. "Remove yourself from the position of seller and try to envision yourself as the shopper. Why, as that shopper, are you going to be interested in spending money on this product?"

Words and phrases

In the age of search engines, some online sellers try to cram as many keywords as possible into their product descriptions in an effort to get search engine traction. But the result is often a description that is barely readable - a transparent and blatant attempt to stuff key words and phrases into just a few sentences.

"It's very difficult to write for search engines in a way that sounds like natural language," Hunter says. "You should focus on the communication aspect first, and try to make it readable for human eyes, because that's what you're writing for, not search engines."

There could be an opportunity to work popular search terms into a description, but only if they fit the tone of the description. "If you're going to use key words, go online and look at the recent past on the various social media channels that you'll be using to sell products or drive traffic to your personal site," Bly says. "Look at popular hashtags on Twitter and Pinterest. Look at Google search rankings, which is a powerful analytics tool that's available free of charge."

"Will you be casual or more formal?" Hunter says. "Will you use first or third person? You need to develop a style for your descriptions and match that each time. That's especially important if you start using multiple people to write the descriptions, which is always a possibility if you grow." Here are some other tips from Hunter and Bly.

  • Use short paragraphs and bullet points. The more the text is broken up, the easier it is for readers to follow.
  • Include essential contact information in the description, including shipping policies and a contact number or email for questions.
  • A picture is still worth a thousand words, so include three to five photos of the product, including environmental shots of it being used as intended and close-up shots for detail. Name the photo files with an accurate description - don't leave them with a generic "IMG_XXX" tag. Services such as Google Shopping will reject photos that don't have a description in the file name.

Writing good item descriptions is both an art and a science. By keeping the above information in mind, you can help ensure that your products will get noticed in a crowded and competitive online marketplace.

Key tips and takeaways

  • Focus on communication, not keyword usage - make your descriptions readable for people, because that's what you're writing for, not search engines.
  • Use a consistent voice in every description to help establish your brand.
  • Make sure your photos are high quality and use your descriptions to call out specific product details.

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