Copywriting for SEO: How to Be Sure Your eCommerce Copy Converts and Ranks
15 minute read
Published on August 28, 2018
Powerful eCommerce copy must do two things well to work for your bottom line.
First, it must include strong keyword optimization and content that captures the intent of what consumers are looking for online and capitalizes on and satisfies that intent. If your copy does this, you benefit from:
- More time spent on page
- Higher rankings in the search engines, which in turn leads to increased organic traffic
A second factor of strong eCommerce copy is that it provides the consumer with all information required to make a decision at whatever stage of the customer journey they’re at, whether they’re just doing research or ready to make a purchase. The goal is to encourage them to take the next step towards a purchase.
Ultimately, great eCommerce copy is copy that converts at a high rate.
Devin Stagg, the marketing manager for Pupford, an eCommerce dog food and supplements brand, puts it like this: “Even if you get organic traffic from Google, the user experience is what will get you the purchase, and that is all that matters.”
But how do you combine these two factors — strong optimization and user-centric content that converts — on the page? In our experience, the easiest way to do this via eCommerce content is with a mixture that includes:
- Product descriptions
- Brand/Category descriptions
- Buying guides
Each of these types of content tends to target consumers in various buying stages, which means they come with different keyword requirements and content intent.
We’ll break down each of these content types, providing some advice on how to get started with each one by looking at companies who are hitting it out of the ballpark with both keyword optimization and stellar content.
Product descriptions tend to target buyers in the final stage of the funnel. These consumers are ready to make a purchase, they just need to be convinced that your specific product is the right choice.
And if you think what you say about your product on the page doesn’t make a difference, think again. Alongside detailed images and user reviews, consumers rank product descriptions as a top influencer in whether they will make a purchase online or not.
Before you can influence those consumers with cleverly written marketing copy that satisfies their questions, you have to get them to your page. That makes keyword optimization the first step to creating great PDs.
Matt Sklar, a writer for evo, a sports and outdoors eCommerce retailer, says his team always begins with keyword research. “Even if we think we already know the answers, we validate with data. This helps to see how searchers really talk about a topic,” he says.
Keyword formula: Optimizing thousands of PDs quickly
Keyword research is important, but it’s not always easy for companies with large catalogs and sites. And while keyword research is always valuable, there are some tips and tricks you can integrate into PD writing that we’ve learned from working on millions of product descriptions over the years.
Organic searchers who are in this stage of the buying journey tend to search using variations of the product and brand name. You can use this knowledge to build a formula for coming up with keyword variations for your PDs.
Keep readability and actual user behavior in mind when you use these formulas. While they work 90 percent of the time, sometimes you have to make a call to leave part of the product or brand name out because it’s too clunky and not likely to be searched for by a user.
For example, the technical name of a toy, including the branding, may be Mattel Barbie Doll Princess fashion set. Following the formula in the image, you’d also throw in a descriptor: Mattel Barbie Doll Princess pink and blue fashion set.
That’s a mouthful, and most people are going to search for a Barbie Doll fashion set because Barbie has enough name recognition to stand on her own. Keep this in mind when integrating keywords into your product descriptions, or the user experience gets a little hairy.
Where should keywords go in PDs?
Once you figure out what keywords to use in your eCommerce content, slot them into the page title, metadata and first paragraph of your PD. For short PDs, that’s really all you need. If your PDs come in on the longer end (100 or more words), you can also slip a keyword into the last sentence or paragraph as long as you keep readability in mind.
Write quality product descriptions
Matt Sklar’s evo team might start with keywords, but the end goal is high-quality content. “We write content that seeks to answer the searcher’s question. It is Google’s goal to serve users the best and most helpful content, and they are continually improving in that regard . . . So, we always set out to create the best content on the internet for a given topic,” he states.
Takeaway: Product descriptions aren’t throwaway content just to attract search traffic. They mean something, and you should write them like they do.
Plus, you get double benefits of doing so. The impact of great eCommerce content extends beyond just the impact it has on conversions. It also leads to visitors staying on site longer and interacting with more elements, which signals to Google that your site has a good interaction rate. This can indirectly influence rankings through the RankBrain algorithm, pushing your page up in the SERPs.
Some quick tips for creating quality product descriptions include:
- Understanding the appropriate length
- What type of information will users expect to find in the description?
- How many details are covered in tables or easy reference points on the same page?
- How complex is the product? A 200-word PD about shoelaces is overkill; a 20-word PD about a SmartTV is unlikely to provide enough information.
- Creating variety on the page
- Don’t just upload a wall of text.
- Include media, such as photos and videos.
- Make use of headers and bullets, especially in longer PDs.
- Keeping your target audience in mind
- If you’re selling computers to general home users, you’re going to write about them differently than when selling laptops to gamers.
A look at eCommerce content that performs: Best Buy
Best Buy has its PD game down, which is saying a lot, since the company has tens of thousands of products to handle. Here’s an example of a PD page for a self-charging robot vacuum.
Not only is the copy optimized for key SEO terms, it also serves compelling content for each buyer stage at an appropriate point. The text is broken out between various forms of media, including images and spec tables, and the blurb directly under the image provides the keyword and several major selling points for the product.
Look at the results for Best Buy’s page. For this one product description, the company is ranking for 88 different keywords in the US index, which is worth an estimated $1,600 per month.
And Best Buy achieves this simply by following good protocol for creating product pages and descriptions.
Category pages are a step up from PDs in the hierarchy of an eCommerce site. This is the page where all the robot vacuums are listed, for example. You might have different levels of category pages, all depending on how your consumers are likely to search for various products.
For instance, if you sell vacuums, you might have category pages for bagless vacuums, pet vacuums and robot vacuums, because all of these product groups solve a different set of problems for consumers.
Category pages are great for individuals who are at the awareness and consideration stages of the buying journey, because they provide more information about specific types of items without delving into certain models. Customers in this part of the buying journey want to see different options and get answers to questions about functions, benefits, sizes, colors and other factors.
Category pages are one of the first pages visitors who land on your homepage will click to, and they’re also where most of the general or broad keywords searchers use in Google will land. In either case, you’ll want to help users satisfy objectives to learn more about this category of product so they move toward the desire stage, which is where they might make a purchase.
Category page content can reside above or below the product lists that go with the category. Content that might be included in a category page includes:
- Discussion about different brands
- Information about the different types of products (or sizes, colors, styles)
- Answers to common questions about the product type (ex: How do I buy the right size glove?)
- Use cases for various products (ex: use cases for Dutch ovens versus stock pots within a cookware category)
Determine keywords for category pages
As with PDs, you’ll need to start with keywords. The difference is that keywords for your category pages are broader; users aren’t looking for a specific Barbie or even a white, bamboo queen sheet set. They’re looking for Barbie accessories or queen sheet sets.
You can begin keyword research using SEMRush’s keyword research tool, Moz’s keyword explorer or your own Google AdWords account. As you compile lists of keywords, consider their intent: keywords that match the intent of finding out more about a specific type of product will likely have the highest return, though other keywords can be valuable and may be peppered into category descriptions as secondary or long-tail phrases.
Where do category page keywords go?
Include the primary keyword for each page in the title, metadata and heading. Because category pages tend to be longer than PDs, consider including the keyword (or secondary keywords) toward the beginning and end. If you can use subheadings to break up the content, use a keyword in at least one of the subheaders.
Patrick Delehanty, the marketing manager at Marcel Digital, notes that the keyword or relevant phrasing should also go in the URL for the category page. This is actually good advice for any type of eCommerce page. “Make sure that [the URLs] contain important product names and keywords that are relevant to the audience,” says Delehanty.
A look at CDs that perform: Dick’s Sporting Goods
Check out Dick’s Sporting Goods’ page for canopy tents and pop-ups. You’ll find the category description content at the bottom of the page, where it provides answers to common questions about products in this category and links to more eCommerce content (specifically relevant buying guides).
The page ranks for 2,400 keywords and enjoys monthly traffic worth nearly $45,000. This includes 223 keywords ranked in the top 3.
Buying guides are ideal when you’re trying to help visitors who are at the early stages of the buying decision. They’re also perfect content for retailers that sell complex products.
They can be located in your site’s main navigation, and often retailers will include them in category pages as additional resources. In the previous section, we saw how Dick’s included links to buying guides in its canopy category page content, and Best Buy also includes links to buying guides in its CDs.
Buying guides don’t just talk about what types of products are available and what the features and benefits are; instead, they start by educating the reader. That may include some discussion about feature and benefits, but it’s not the goal.
Thomas Jepsen, the owner of Contractor Quotes and a marketing and SEO veteran, says certain phrases about the product’s intent or solution are sometimes easier to rank for than the product itself. And that’s a big benefit of buying guides.
“If, for instance you’re selling polyurethane, this product helps protect floors, which in turn makes them last longer,” says Jepsen. “Sit down and think about all the ways that people may be searching for relevant information regarding your product and create content for it. For polyurethane, the content you might want to create includes: What is the best sealant for floors? How do I apply Polyurethane to my wooden floors? How do I make floors last longer?”
This is the type of content that might be relevant to your buying guide. It’s also the type of thinking you need to do when performing keyword research to understand what might lead people in the earliest stage of the buying journey to your page. They’re either looking for information on an overall product type or looking for a solution to a problem without any specific product in mind.
Elements of strong buying guides
Buying guides are longer than PDs and CDs typically, so you need to break them up with headers, bullets and various forms of media. The best buying guides include high-quality images, infographics and even videos. They also answer specific questions for the reader.
Tip: If you ask a question in the format of a header and then answer it in a clear, concise manner, your content could be scraped for display in Google as a featured snippet, making your buying guide page even more valuable in the SERPs.
A look at buying guides that perform: Best Buy
Here’s Best Buy’s buying guide for 4K televisions.
In addition to having a great design, strong images, video and useful navigation, the content here is stellar. And you’ll notice one thing — this content all addresses questions someone who is at the early stages of their buyer’s journey would have:
- What is 4K?
- What is upscaling?
- What is high dynamic range?
- What 4K content is available today?
- Can you stream 4K content?
By addressing these questions in depth on its site, Best Buy keeps visitors in its ecosystem and can direct them to category pages or even product pages as shoppers get closer to making a purchase decision. Plus, the retailer can track and retarget these visitors with relevant ads for 4K televisions.
As you might expect, there are a ton of monthly searches on Google from people looking to learn more about 4K televisions. Best Buy is capturing a huge chunk of that traffic.
In total, Best Buy’s buying guide ranks for 507 keywords, 55 of which are in the top 3 results. SEMrush estimates the monthly value of that traffic at over $30,000.
General Advice for Writing Great eCommerce Copy
Whether you’re pounding out PDs or getting into the nitty gritty with buying guides, a few tips hold relevant across all types of eCommerce copy. Check out this advice from experts in the field.
- “Create an outline for yourself. It’s the easiest way to hit all the important topics and not get lost along the way,” says Tyler Tassinari, a digital marketing strategist at Three29. (This is valuable advise especially for buying guides.)
- “It’s important to remain focused on providing benefit to your readers,” says Lee Dussinger, a senior content strategist with WebTek.
- “Keep an eCommerce-specific SEO checklist that you review before posting [content],” says Nicolas Straut, a content marketing associate with Fundera.
- “Avoid duplicate content on item and category pages by creating different descriptions and titles for each page,” says Stacy Caprio of Accelerated Growth Marketing.
- “Readers in the online world are often distracted and busy. So use short paragraphs, great sub-headlines and bullet points,” says Syed Irfan Ajmal, growth marketing manager at Ridester.
We know that’s a lot of advice to apply to your pages, and putting Caprio’s tip of unique content on each listing to work can seem like a daunting task. That’s why we offer professional eCommerce content creation services, which let you work with experienced project managers or writers to populate your PDs, CDs and buying guides with high-quality, relevant text.