7 Things You Are Doing Wrong with Your Product Descriptions

Mistakes

What if I told you that you could easily double your conversions without ever having to worry about doing a single drop of extra SEO or advertising? Mind you, you’d still need to do what you already do. This isn’t magic and won’t bring traffic to a site that nobody knows about but if you implement these ideas, you may well be able to double the number of conversions you get from existing traffic.

In addition, you can easily attract more traffic by making some specific tweaks to your page. Sounds good? Then all you need to do is to make your product descriptions sound like things people actually want to buy instead of being something boring that just offers a plain vanilla explanation of what the product actually is. Here are seven mistakes that you may well be making when writing your product descriptions:

Failing to Think about Who Your Buyers Are

So you’ve got a product, let’s say it’s a new kind of pocket book which can be biometrically sealed so that it becomes worthless to purse snatchers. I’m just throwing out an idea which is likely a bad one (I mean, once the purse snatcher has the thing, they have all the time in the world to get around any locking mechanism but work with me on this anyway).

Okay, now you have a problem. Who exactly is your customer for this product? If you’re like many entrepreneurs I’ve seen on the web, you probably are super excited about whatever it is that you have for sale and you think it’s the greatest invention since sliced bread or maybe even since the iPod.  You can’t imagine why anyone wouldn’t want to own one and you’re sure you’re going to make a bundle of money.

Reality check time. You need to create a “buyer persona.” Think of every crime show that you’ve ever seen (well almost every one that you’ve ever seen) and you’ll know what this is. Crime shows often have people who create a profile of a likely suspect in an investigation.

A buyer persona is no different except that instead of creating a profile of someone who committed the murder of the week, you are creating a profile of the buyer of the week (i.e. a profile of someone who is likely to want to buy your product).

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: you know who you want to sell your product to – going back to our imaginary purse snatcher proof purse, your target market is super geeky women who are afraid for their personal safety (again, this is probably a bad product idea). However, if that’s all you have to go on, you are no more likely to make money from your customers than the crime solvers are likely to catch a criminal with such a vague description.

This is dry as cardboard and doesn't take into account who the buyer persona is at all.

This is dry as cardboard and doesn’t take into account who the buyer persona is at all.

Remember those crime shows where the police investigator puts together a very detailed profile and talks about what the person’s childhood might have been like as well as whether the person lives alone or not, even sometimes going so far as to say what kind of clothing they likely wear? That’s what you need to do for your buyer persona.

In essence, it’s almost like writing a novel to create a buyer persona. Your persona needs to have all the attributes of a real person with thoughts and feelings beyond some vague interest in your product. When you have all these details down, you can then use that to craft your product descriptions to fit perfectly with the kind of person who would buy your product.

Writing Your List of Product Features Incorrectly

I see this constantly and it’s a crying shame because this happens to lots of great products. Yes, we all know that you are very excited about this new product that you worked so hard to create. We all know that you love all the esoteric features that you’ve added into your new product and you think that this feature is so cool.

Sorry to tell you but nobody cares even a little bit about what you think is cool or wonderful or whatever. When it comes to your customers, you have to remember that they are going to be the ultimate narcissists. They don’t care what it took to make this thing or about a dry list of features. They want to know what it will do for them.

In other words, as I say over and over again every time that I write about marketing on the Internet, you are in the solution business. Your job is to sell your customers a solution to their problems and to make sure that it makes their lives easier.

Effectively, this means that if you were to mention that your new word processor has an intuitive, real time spell check, you have just wasted your time and your customer’s time. On the other hand, if you were to say that the spell check uses AI to try to determine which word was intended and automatically suggest a correction, you have now provided your customers with a useful solution instead of something that you think is cool.

You should also be providing a list of benefits that your customers will get with your product as opposed to what they get with the competition. This means for example that you might compare the speed of your word processor’s spell check with the speed of the competition’s spell check. Or maybe the accuracy can be compared. Bottom line is to ensure that you are feeding your customer’s narcissism rather than your own and you will be fine.

Not Bothering to Think about Your Company’s Image

Another thing that many people do when they’re trying to write a product description is to forget that there are different kinds of companies out there which appeal to different kinds of customers. Some customers are going to want to buy a product from a company that sounds large and well established while others would prefer to work with a company which has a smaller profile and where they feel they can get personalized service.

Remember that buyer persona we created? Here’s where it can come in super handy. Your customer may be the kind of person who is going to prefer to have a personal relationship with the people that they make a purchase from. This would mean that they’re the kind of person who wants to see a description which sounds a little quirky and which makes them feel as if they’ve found a real individual to work with.

In other cases, you may have a customer who would prefer to work with a big corporation because that would make them feel safer about their personal information or other needs being taken care of. In this case, your product description needs to reflect the fact that your company is big and well established (even it’s just you and your dog in your spare bedroom).

The way that you accomplish this is to basically create a product description which trumpets the complexity of the various features that your product has and which makes it sound like you have a product which is well polished and established as opposed to one where you sound quirky and individualistic.

Again, that buyer persona is all important here because without it, you wouldn’t really know what will appeal to your potential customers so make sure you have it before you even begin.

Failure to Create Subheadings or Lists

As I said in a previous article here, people don’t really like to read every single word that you post on the Internet. In fact, the vast majority of people will read just a tiny fraction of whatever it is that you post in your product descriptions (not that you can slack off though since those most interested will read every word and will notice if your specifics don’t look so interesting).

Thus, in order to ensure that you can reach the widest possible audience, you want to ensure that you keep things in bullet points but also include either a link or smaller text below for those who want to know more. This way, you can keep your customers engaged and get more of them hooked on whatever it is that you have for sale. Here’s a screenshot of the Barnes and Noble Nook eBook reader:

Nook reader

Did you notice how they didn’t focus in this comparison on the technical specs (though they do that above, which is probably mostly to make it clear that they’re comparable in every way to the Kindle)? Instead, this list shows the benefits that each one will give you and makes it easy to figure out why the narcissistic customer (again, when it comes to your customers, assume they are narcissists in this instance) should want it.

There are also links on the same page where customers can learn more about the various features of the Nook so that those who want to know the nitty gritty of the details can find out exactly how each service works and why they should buy a Nook.

Failure to Edit

So you’ve written this amazing product description and you’ve taken into account the buyer persona that you created earlier. You made sure that the list appeals to them and not to you and made sure that the product description is easily scannable. Great – now you’re ready to publish, right? Not so fast my friend.

Nothing is likely to sink your fortunes faster than putting out a very drafty version of your product description. This is not the same as a blog where you may need to push out lots of content constantly. Your product description is going to be pretty static and will be the primary selling point for your product. This means it needs to be polished and refined.

Ideally, give yourself a day or two to forget exactly what you wrote and then come back to read it again. Another great trick is to read it out loud. Somehow, when you read out loud, you tend to notice mistakes and things that just don’t sound quite right which you would never have noticed had you simply read it silently to yourself.

If you can, get some feedback from random people (ideally, not your friends or family, who will want to please you. In fact, an editor is best) who can critique what you wrote and tell you why (or why not) it works. This will help you to tweak the product description so that it can get the maximum number of possible sales for you.

Be Persuasive

A while back, I wrote about one of my favorite books, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie. The book, along with a companion, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, has really changed my life. In both books, Carnegie mentions this idea (though not in so many words) that people tend to be narcissistic at their cores.

Mind you, being a narcissist in all things is a bad thing and nothing to be proud of (by the way, just in case anyone doesn’t know what it means, it means someone who is very self centered. It comes from the Greek legend of Narcissus. You can look it up elsewhere but it’s basically a cautionary tale about not being too self centered).

That having been said, human nature, especially when making a purchase is to ask, what’s in it for me? How do I benefit personally from this. This means that in order to make your writing persuasive, it should have a number of personal pronouns (I, You, etc.). These tend to make the writing all about your customer and less about your own interests.

Be specific as well rather than generalizing in describing the features that your product includes. So for example, instead of saying it has a great spell checker, explain that it’s got an intelligent AI which can automatically suggest appropriate words based on context.

Finally, always think about what your customer wants and not what you want and you will find that your writing is more persuasive for your trouble.

Don’t Forget about Google

Finally, while it’s important to write your product descriptions in a way that makes sense for humans, it would be foolhardy to complete ignore the SEO aspect of writing product descriptions. This means that you need to be clever about working in your keywords so that Google and the other search engines will pick up on what you wrote and present it as a relevant option for your customers.

The other side of that of course is that just like every other part of your website, your product descriptions should have ample high quality backlinks pointing at them so that you can ensure that you get the maximum possible benefit from the Google gods.

 

11 Services You Need In Order to Spy On the Competition

top secretI’ve always been a fan of shows that involve lots of intrigue and espionage. I love Scandal, The Blacklist and Intelligence. I’m also a huge fan of James Bond (well, James Bond before they decided to change the series and do the whole reboot thing). However, in this case, I’m not advocating that you get yourself down to Q branch or hire Olivia Pope to do something down and dirty for you.

No, these services are all perfectly legal and they do what they say they’ll do – let you see what your online competition is up to so that you can steal their best ideas (remember that while you cannot copy content from someone else legally, ideas cannot be copyrighted, only patented and the only if they offer something unique, which is why a good idea for advertising can usually be mimicked legally).

Here are eleven tools that you need to know about:

AdBeat

AdBeat – Okay, first the bad news, AdBeat is pretty pricey. The introductory version of the service costs $99 a month and it only monitors Google ads. The more robust professional version is $199 but it lets you monitor all kinds of ads that your competitors are using. You’ll get reports which tell you which ads are getting the most clicks for them and which ones are duds (thus you can then tailor your own advertising to match your competition).

There is a thirty day money back guarantee available from AdBeat so you can give it a shot and see what you think before you commit to plunking down a hefty chunk of money but to my mind, if you have the budget available, this is a really incredible service. By the way, once you try it, if you’re sure you like the service, you can get a nice discount by prepaying for a year of service.

Moat

Moat – This one won’t give you the kind of detailed, granular information that you can get from AdBeat which is why I put it second. However, if you are on a small budget, Moat is a free service that can provide at least some of the same benefits. In essence, you enter a brand name and it can then show you the most recent ads for that particular brand name.

The good news as I said is that it’s free and it can give you some basic knowledge of what your competitors are doing to advertise their services (see below where I tried a search for Microsoft). The bad news is that you won’t get detailed information on clicks, which ad networks they’re using or any of that other good stuff.

Moat

Keyword Spy

Keyword Spy – This is another paid service which is somewhat pricey. The basic service is $89 per month and the more advanced version is $139 per month. However, for that money you can get a wealth of information on your competition. Basically, Keyword Spy will tell you how much the competition is spending on their advertising, where they’re spending it and which keywords are getting them the most clicks.

The service will let you do a try out on a domain of your choosing (see below where I tried Amazon.com). You can also put in keywords and see some general information on what particular keywords are costing your competition as well as suggestions for additional keywords however the details are not available unless you sign up for the service. Still, it’s a great idea to check this service even if you don’t pay for it just to get a general idea of what your competition is doing.

Keyword Spy

SEMRush

SEMRush – This is an old but good one that I’ve written about in the past. The good news is that the basic service is free and functional. I’ve used it myself to uncover details about keywords that competitors might be using. However, if you want to add even more keyword search goodness, they do offer a paid version which starts at $69.95 per month.

The big difference is in the amount of information you can lay your hands on. The basic service (which by the way you won’t find mentioned anywhere on their site – they seem to be trying to push the paid options. However, it is definitely still available) gives you 3,000 queries a day and 10,000 results per query. By comparison, the basic, free version gives you 10 queries per day and 10 results. In other words, you can make use of it with the free option but the paid option is the one that a pro really needs.

SpyFu

SpyFu – These guys offer you an interesting data set. In essence, they promise to tell you which keywords your competitors ranked for organically as well as which ones they were using for AdWords and other kinds of advertising campaigns. They also provide this insight six years into the past for each of the various competitors you ask about.

Like most of the services in this roundup, they’re not free. The service is $79 per month. There is a more limited free option available but it seems to be more of a free trial than a long term option that you can use on a limited basis.

SpyFu

Open Site Explorer

Open Site Explorer – This is another one that I’ve written about indeed used quite a bit over the past few years. Ever since Yahoo shut down their own service, this is the most popular option for checking on backlinks. You can see where your own site is linked from as well as where your competition gets their links from.

Open Site Explorer also provides you with some additional information in the form of their own Moz rankings, which are a rough approximation of what the PageRank for particular pages and domains would be though it tends to be a bit more granular. The basic service is offered for free with a limited number of searches each day. If you need more or you want additional information, it does cost $99 per month.

open site explorer

 

Compete

Compete – In essence, Compete tells you where you or your competitors are in the online world. The service can offer you comprehensive analytics similar to what you might see on Google Analytics but you get the information for other domains, not just your own. The service seems like it has potential to be very useful in comparing yourself to the competition to see how difficult it might be to rank against them.

Compete

I tried their free service to see what I could get on Facebook and you can see the results of my search below. The more advanced pro service offers a lot more information and lets you export the information that you get from them. They are expensive though. The basic paid plan is $199 per month and their enterprise level plan runs $649 per month.

Google Alerts

Google Alerts – I know, you have probably heard of this service but I’m mentioning it anyway for two reasons. First and foremost, the service is completely free unlike most of the other services that I’ve profiled for this roundup. I thought I should offer at least one useful tool which doesn’t have a paid “pro” option.

Second and more importantly, most of us use Google Alerts to search for articles about specific keywords. However, you can just as easily use the service to search for information about your competitors by putting their names into the service, thus allowing you to keep close tabs on what they’re doing without the need to constantly visit their websites.

Social Mention

Social Mention – Okay, so I’m actually including two different free services, this one you may not have  heard of. In essence, Social mention will find any mention of your brand name on social media. This is incredibly useful, especially if one of your customers is trying to reach out and discuss a problem or merely mentioning that they liked your service.

Social Mention also provides you with some analytics, including telling you how often a mention is made for your company (or for that matter for the competition) and what kind of “reach” they have. It doesn’t really explain how they calculate this. I can see it being useful in the sense of spying on the competition by using it to find others who talk about your competition so you can contact them and offer a free review copy of whatever product you have for sale as well.

Social Mention

Fanpage Karma

Fanpage Karma is a pretty awesome service which allows you to see how your competition’s Facebook pages are doing. It can actually provide you with insights into how many people are visiting the competition’s Facebook page as well as how much growth they’re seeing and how often they get people posting on the pages.

The service does cost 49 euros for the basic service but there is a free 14 day trial available. There is also a “pro” option which will let you spy on not just your competitor’s Facebook pages but also on their Twitter account so that you can get complete analytics. That option is 99 euros a month.

Built With

Built With – Last but certainly not least is Built With. This service is great for people who develop and manage major websites. The service will let you see what other people are using to build their own websites, including the various pieces of technology behind them.

There are a number of cheaper options I’ve seen over the years, however, those mostly let you see which WordPress plugins are being used. BuiltWith does much more but it is pricey – the service is $299 per month so it’s mostly going to appeal to those running major sites or doing website development on a professional level. They do offer a free trial and according to their website, there is some kind of free option available as well but I can’t find any details on what the free option will do for you.

Seven Secrets Twitter Gurus Already Know

twitter

While I know I should be much more involved with Twitter, given the fact that I spend so much time writing about SEO and Internet Marketing. However, I admit that I don’t really know nearly as much as I ought to know about how to make it work for me. That’s why I decided to start doing some research on what it would take to become of the Twitter power users we all read so much about.

I looked through several different articles on what makes for a Twitter Guru and have tried to distill the knowledge I’ve learned here. Whether it works or not – well ask me in a few months and we’ll see where I’m at in my Twitter experiment by then.

Remember – You Are Having A Conversation

Twitter, more so than most other social networks is all about having a conversation, almost in real time with people all over the world. I think that may well be why they limit it to 140 characters – the idea is to keep your answers short and snappy, almost as if you were chatting in an online chat room with people from all over the world.

If you think of Twitter in this way then you begin to understand exactly what it takes to be a success on Twitter – people are looking to have a real conversation and not simply to put some thought out there to have it live or die based on the herd. So instead of spending hours crafting a pithy tweet, just dive in and find people you find interesting. Then respond to the people you’ve found and try to engage them in conversation.

Remember -- Twitter is basically a conversation

Remember — Twitter is basically a conversation

Is it hard? Sure it is. Then again, it’s no different from working a room at a party where you want to get to know some new people. You strike up conversations with people you find there and try to see if you have something in common. The advantage of course is that here, you already know what their most recent thoughts actually are about.

Be a Content Creator

The other side of all of this is of course that if you are always commenting on what other people have to say, you’re unlikely to actually attract lots of followers. You do want to create plenty of original content but again, you want to keep it timely. Remember – Twitter is basically like a gigantic chat room filled with people from all over the world so you want to chat about things happening now, not what happened ten years ago.

You can do this by keeping an eye on various news feeds and seeing what’s happening in your particular area of interest. When you see a news item which you think would appeal to those whom you want to reach out, tweet about it. Don’t spend too long thinking about it. Again, think of Twitter as being kind of like a chat room instead of a place to share well thought out and crafted blog posts. It should be spontaneous and free.

Use a Tracking Service

There are any number of different Twitter tracking services available which will allow you to keep track of particular hash tags and or of trending topics. These things can give you up to the second information on what the Twitterverse is discussing right now so that you can comment on whatever is hot.

Of course, you also want to try to initiate conversations (which is why I said above that you want to initiate content) but you can definitely focus on what’s going on now in order to push out some tweets and get into interesting conversations.

Speaking of Outside Services…

When discussing such outside services by the way, it’s useful to remember that there are a great many of them that will allow you to schedule tweets to be sent out. While I don’t recommend that these kinds of tweets be your only original content on Twitter, they do have their place, especially if you are tweeting for your business.

In essence, you want to put together a series of tweets which have some useful content to them and which will appeal to the readers of your feed. This is the one and only time by the way when it does pay to take your time and think carefully about crafting the perfect pithy tweet and making sure that what you write will resonate with the Twitterverse.

Speaking of Thinking Carefully…

Okay, now that we’re on the subject of thinking carefully, while it does seem that Twitter is the sort of place where you want to get your thoughts out quickly and avoid the whole overthinking thing, a bit of thought can go a long way. There have been any number of different Twittergate scandals of late where someone famous tweeted something really stupid and then had to backtrack on what they said.

Dr. Phil Twitter Faux Pas

Found this one on Starpulse.com. If it’s real (I have my doubts), all I can say is wow — big fail Dr. Phil.

If you are about to say something that you know is likely to come across as controversial, maybe it’s time to take a step back and remember that nothing really disappears on the Internet. Ultimately, once you put it out there, even if you delete the tweet, it is likely that you will find it coming back to haunt you if you had an intemperate moment at some point. So don’t think too much but do put a bit of thought into what you’re writing before you say something you’ll regret later.

Be a Person

I’ve mentioned this more times than I care to count but it still bears repeating because people always seem to forget about it when they’re trying to create their online personalities, especially for a business. You need to be a person in any kind of social media, not a corporation. With all due respect to Mitt Romney, corporations are not people too and they shouldn’t be thought of as such.

This means that when responding to people, especially on Twitter (which as I said is kind of like a giant chat room) you should try to sound like you are responding as a real human being and not as a corporate giant trying to play at getting into the interwebs. In essence, this means that you make connections with individuals and actually pay attention to what they’re saying.

Or to put it another way, as I told an ex of mine who insisted on discussing anything but what I was talking about, talk to me, not at me.

Don’t Be Afraid to Follow People Back

I know that there is this thing on Twitter where you are only truly a “guru” if you have many more followers than people you are following. However, that doesn’t mean that you need to refrain from following people back who are interesting. Don’t feel you need to do it as a courtesy to anyone who happens to follow you – especially since there are still a great many bots on Twitter. However, do follow back real people who are trying to engage in a conversation with you.

Bottom Line

Act like you want other people to act towards you on Twitter and think of it as a giant, global conversation and you’ll find that before long you too can claim the mantle of being a Twitter Guru.