For In-House and Outsourced Copywriters

eCommCopy_01

When using resources to hire freelance writers like TextBroker and Upwork, sometimes the the hardest part is explaining what it is that you want. This is why we standardized our best practices and writer’s guidelines for eCommerce copywriting for Inflow clients. You are free to use any or all of this in your project / job description when hiring freelance writers, content agencies or even when training in-house staff.

Ready? Let’s get into it.

Optimizing Category Pages

We believe unique category page content is important to help those pages rank for short and mid-tail keyword phrases you might expect categories and sub-categories to rank for (widgets, blue widgets, discount blue widgets, etc.). Most sites have come around to this by now, but are continuing to write the content for search engines, state obvious facts, keyword stuff and depend on punctuation to drive their points home. Want an example? Here you go:

Welcome to our blue widgets category, where you can find our blue widgets for sale and stuff your face with more blue widgets anytime you have a hankering for more blue widgets!!! Ready to shop for blue widgets? Well, you’ve come to the right place because we have BLUE WIDGETS below!

While keyword research (and usage) is an important part of the process, the content should always be more concerned with providing value to the page, such as helping a shopper decide which brands, price ranges, or sub-categories to investigate next. What if you were the customer? What would your questions and concerns be? Answer them.


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Category Page Optimization Details

We offer the following specific guidelines to copywriters and clients (who are doing their own copywriting) to ensure that we get a relatively consistent end result. We’ve found that, without providing these specific guidelines, both copywriters and clients cannot easily read our minds. Go figure!

Keyword research – to be conducted using Google Keyword Planner to find the following keyword types, and used by copywriters within elements of the category page.

  • Primary Keyword – this keyword has the best combination of relevancy and search volume.
  • Secondary Keyword – this keyword has the 2nd best combination of relevancy and search volume, and should be rather unique from the primary keyword.
  • Tertiary Keyword – this keyword has the 3rd best combination of relevancy and search volume, and should be rather unique from the primary and secondary keywords.

Meta Title (under 55 characters, including spaces) – Target primary keyword first, then secondary keywords, needs to accurately describe category

Meta Description (under 150 characters, including spaces) – Target all keywords, action-focused, mention core benefit(s)

H1 tags On-Page Title (typically 2-5 words) – This is the category name, which should target the primary keyword phrase and be very specific. For example, “Men’s Outdoor Hiking Boots” instead of just “Men’s Boots” if the specific products are all outdoor hiking boots for men.

Basic Descriptions (75-100 words minimum atop product grid, add extra 200+ words of content to the bottom of product grid if possible) – Target all keywords once (primary, secondary and tertiary keywords) and target multiple keywords with one usage where possible (such as when the primary keyword is part of a longer secondary keyword phrase). Boldface the primary keyword once using <strong></strong> tags.

Interlinking – link to 1-3 related categories/sub-categories contextually within the category description.

Category Maintenance – The client should maintain categories by fixing broken links (from other pages) as categories/sub-categories are deleted.

General Tips:

  1. The purpose of introductory/descriptive content on category pages is to help users understand what types of products are available in this category, the benefits to them and to be clear about the category topic (using researched keywords such as big purple widget or large purple widgets for a category page that sells particularly large purple widgets).
  2. A secondary purpose is to assist with navigation, which is why it’s suggested to link to 2-3 related categories/subcategories.
  3. To bring attention to a popular product or time-sensitive promotion related to this particular category. As things change (popular product removed from site, promotions end, etc.), however, the category description needs to be maintained in order to stay up to date.
  4. The category page introductory/descriptive content can also be used to build the brand’s credibility about the topic at hand within the user’s mind. For example, if “Brand X” is the largest retailer for “big purple widgets,” then that should be expressed in order to build buyer confidence and potentially increase conversions.
  5. Avoid usage/overuse of exclamation points as they tend to trivialize the content. Also avoid putting words IN ALL CAPS since it reads as if you are shouting at the potential customer. The words and user benefits, as they are written, should make points clear to the customer on their own.

Optimizing Product Pages

red ferrari

via Auto Ferrari

Product pages are a completely different animal, compared to category pages. Almost always, you don’t have to do keyword research for product pages. Guess why. Yep, the product name is the keyword (including brand/make/model/color etc…). These are highly converting pages, so make them read naturally, make them compelling (focus on the benefits to the customer) and make them unique. Be specific in your descriptive details. Get excited, damnit (but hold the exclamation points). You want someone to buy this product? Earn it.

You’ll typically have many more product pages than category pages, so this is where most eCommerce sites can separate themselves from the pack and convince Google’s algorithm that their product page content (and overall site) is of higher quality than competitors. If your CEO disagrees, then ask him to start putting 85-octane gas in his Ferrari. You’ll probably get fired. Don’t do that.

Product Page Optimization Details

Keyword research – to be conducted using either Google Keyword Planner or Google Suggest to quickly find a “generic keyword” and used by copywriters in conjunction with the product name (which is the primary keyword) within the various elements of the product page.

Meta Title (under 55 characters, including spaces) – target product name then generic keyword and at end. If room is available, the brand name can be added to the end as well. However, Google will only show the first 55 characters in its search results before ellipses are used. Example: “2015 Nike Air Jordan – Basketball Shoes | Foot Locker”

Meta Description (under 150 characters, including spaces) – target product name and generic keyword, action-focused, mention core benefit(s) to the potential customer.

Headline 1 On-Page Title – simply use the product name.

Interlinking – do not link to any other page from within actual the product detail/description content.

Product Detail Description Length Options:

Basic Descriptions (75-100 words) – This is for standalone short descriptions and should use the primary and generic keyword 1-2 times.

Standard Descriptions (130-200 words) – Ideal for long product descriptions where product pages have both a short (top of page) and long (bottom of page) description. The first paragraph (25-50 words) could be used as the short description, and the full description can be used as the long description. Use product name and generic keyword 2-3 times.

Premium Descriptions (250-500+ words) – This is for clients’ top products, so they should dive deep into the details and benefits of the product. Use product name and generic keyword 3-4 times. Answer common questions about the product, such as “What does the fabric feel like?” or “What kind of material was used in its construction?”

General Tips:

  1. Focus on user benefits. The content should be written with the user’s perspective as the focus, not the store/website.
  2. Use bulleted lists where it makes sense to illustrate user benefits.
  3. Do not embed images into the actual product description, however, adding video (only of the specific product) can be a nice complement and usually increases conversions.
  4. Avoid usage/overuse of exclamation points as they tend to trivialize the content. Also avoid putting words IN ALL CAPS since it reads as if you are shouting at the potential customer. The words and user benefits, as they are written, should make points clear to the customer on their own.

Product Page Examples

Standard Product Copy

Short + Long Descriptions – This is probably more typical of a product page, in which there is a short description followed by a tabbed area with lots of bullets/specs: The short description is only 34 words, and is repeated in the long description area below. The entire long description, which includes the short description, is 136 words (excluding the boilerplate disclaimer in bold).

Main Description + Tabbed Content – Here is a product from Gaiam with typical content. 100 words in main description area. 300-400 words in the other tabs.

Expanded Product Copy

Expanded Descriptions Including Tabbed Content – Here is a product from Gaiam with expanded content. It is one of the best sellers on the site with competition from Amazon. 172 words in main description area. 300-500 words in other tabs.

Expanded Descriptions with User Benefit Bullets and/or Word from Author – Here is a product from North Light Shop that focuses on user benefits at the top of the product page along with a word/excerpt from the author to add unique value to the product page compared to any other store where this product is sold. 412 words.

Expansive Product Descriptions – For high end products (and in a more ideal world), a product description may be as expansive as the ones found on Crutchfield.


Download our pocket guide for an expanded version of this article including bonus content on writing compelling copy for boring and difficult products.

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