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How Copying Product Descriptions is Cheating Your E-commerce Business

When you have an e-commerce business to run, the logistics involved can be overwhelming. Lots to juggle when you have to anticipate what customers want, maintain an inventory of hundreds or thousands of products, hire and schedule staff, pack and ship orders in a timely manner, and keep your e-commerce website up-to-date.

It seems like a no-brainer to take advantage of using the product descriptions that the manufacturers provide you. With everything else you have going on, it probably didn’t occur to you that this could actually hurt your online business.

What’s wrong with using manufacturer product descriptions?

Let me show you what happens when you just cut-and-paste those manufacturer product descriptions onto your site. Here’s an example of a leading manufacturer’s bike shoe copy:

Next, I copied that exact description and pasted it into Google’s search box and here’s what came up:

Here’s what else I want you to know:

1. The manufacturer came out on top for their copy. Why? Google recognized that they were the original source of the copy because the manufacturer used a canonical tag, which tells search engines to index their copy first before any content that’s duplicated. Google rewards originality.

2. In the middle of the first page, you’ll spot a couple of outliers who did not use this manufacturer’s product description.

3. Then there were pages and pages of stores that came up with the exact same verbiage.

It pays for your e-commerce business to go rogue.

The next time you’re offered a new product description from a manufacturer, don’t treat it like a piece of inventory that you automatically stock on the shelf. Never, ever use it verbatim. Think of it as a piece of clay that you can shape into something better. You can. Look at everything else you’ve accomplished with your e-commerce business.

Now, take a glance at those product descriptions with a more discerning eye. All too often, manufacturers go with a “just the facts” approach to writing content. They list the features of a product and leave out the benefits, which would actually make the copy more compelling and persuasive.

10 ways to write better product descriptions that drive sales.

1. Look at the manufacturer’s copy and brainstorm what’s missing from it.
2. What do you or your staff love about the product?
3. Why did you decide to stock it?
4. What problem does it solve?
5. How would you sell it to different customers face-to-face?
6. How you could you infuse it with warmth and authenticity (without sounding like an informercial)?
7. Give it a thorough edit. Don’t just change a word or two. Google will see right through it.
8. Include the brand names and model numbers in brief titles and subheads for better search results.
9. Be verbose enough for Google to notice: aim for 150-250 words.
10. Be concise enough to keep consumers engaged.

Deep down inside, we all know copying is just wrong. In grade school, it meant a bad grade or a trip to the principal’s office. With an e-commerce business, it results in low search engine rankings, especially if you’re not mindful of all the other best practices of search engine optimization. I highly recommend taking a deeper dive into this subject by viewing Google Q&A on Duplicate Content. (Prepare to have quite a few “ah-ha” moments.)

If you just don’t have the bandwidth or the writing skills to take this on yourself, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me for help. It’s time to outsmart your competition by being an outlier.