A recent article by the Nielsen Norman Group – 3 Tips for Better Product Descriptions on Websites – got me thinking about product content. In particular, I want to talk about the first tip the author provides – ‘answer questions.’
As a retailer of video security products, I am often surprised by how little information some competitor websites provide about the products they sell.
How do they expect customers to be able to make a purchasing decision based on so little information? These are products that cost hundreds, maybe thousands of dollars, so the customer’s decision to buy is not taken lightly.
As we develop content for new products, providing enough information to answer customers’ questions is a key area of focus for me. This is an ongoing process, but I thought I would share where we are today.
Of course, product content starts before you even get to the product page itself. We try to make our product meta titles descriptive, factual, and SEO-friendly, without spouting a bunch of jargon.
We also try to make them unique and avoid using any special characters (e.g., ‘ for feet or ” for inches) which can cause display issues.
We used to target 65-70 characters for meta titles. Given the recent changes to how Google presents SERPs we now aim for 55-60 characters, with the understanding that although some of the meta title might be truncated on a SERP, at least all the content will be used for ranking purposes.
Here’s an example for a 4-camera surveillance system:
Alibi 4-Camera 3.0 Megapixel Outdoor IP Security System with 8-ch NVR
In the meta description we try to answer the initial, high-level questions a searcher might have – “Is this a product that I might be interested in buying? Does it look like it could solve my problem?” – so that they will at least click through to the product page to find out.
A good meta description works in conjunction with the meta title, building upon it. Therefore, we avoid repeating what was said in the meta title and instead call out the most important features of the product, while trying to make the copy engaging and informative. And unique. All in 155 characters!
Writing good meta descriptions is hard. Anyway, here’s an example for a surveillance camera:
960H image sensor delivers 700 TV lines of high-resolution video. 2.8 mm wide angle lens covers more area. 65 ft Smart IR array provides 24×7 security.
Finally, we’re actually on the product page. We try to write product names that are descriptive without being overly long and jargon-filled.
We try to follow a consistent format in how we build them so that users can differentiate between similar products when viewing them on a category or search results page. And, of course, they should be SEO friendly!
Here’s an example for a surveillance system:
Alibi 4-Camera 3.0 Megapixel 65â€² IR IP Video Security System with 8-Channel NVR
Here, we summarize the main purpose of the product and/or call out its unique selling point. Building off the product name, it should make the reader interested enough in the product to want to learn more.
Writing these is hard, and we still have work to do on improving ours. Here’s an example for a network video recorder:
Easy-to-install 8-channel SwitchBox NVR provides plug-and-play IP surveillance without the complexity
Underneath the sub-heading, we list the main features of the product, answering the question “At a glance, what are the most important things that this product does?” These should not just be ‘speeds and feeds’ but should be benefits oriented.
Amazon is a great example of best practice in writing key features (check out the Amazon Fire TV product page). Here’s a sample of how we do it for a security camera:
- 2.8 mm wide angle lens covers more area
- Integrated IR array lets the camera see up to 65â€² in the dark
- Smart IR technology reduces over-exposure of the IR LEDs at the center of the image
- True 3-axis gimbal offers flexible wall or ceiling mounting and easy camera angle adjustments
Our product descriptions are typically broken into several parts: an overview, more detailed information on key features, and videos.
In the product overview we describe the main features and benefits of the product, expanding upon the list of key features and including any other relevant points. Here’s an excerpt:
The camera features an integrated IR array to see up to 65â€² in the dark and uses Smart IR technology to reduce over exposure of the IR LEDs at the center of the image and prevent washing out the subject at closer ranges.
We also include a list of what is included in the box, in order to answer the question “What will I actually receive?” In addition, we call out the product warranty, our money back guarantee, and our technical support promise – answering the question “Am I covered if there is a problem?”
I think we can do a better job here and provide more information, most likely broken off into a separate tab on the page. This is an area I plan to look into going forward.
We currently write our product descriptions as straightforward prose, and I am looking at how we might reorganize this content to be easier to scan, perhaps by introducing sub-headings or by breaking it up into more clearly defined sections.
Features and Capabilities
Below the the product overview we list the key features of the product and explain in more detail what each one does. The idea here is that this content builds upon and reinforces the information that we have provided in our summary list of key features and in the product overview.
If you understand what a certain feature does, you may have all the information you need from the summary list of features and/or the product overview.
But, if you need a more detailed explanation, it is available here. Here’s an example:
We are gradually increasing the number of videos that we include with our products. Not surprisingly, developing video content is quite challenging, but we understand the need to do so and the value they provide.
These videos focus on explaining what the product does and its benefits, along with providing samples of the types of video footage it can provide.
We were using YouTube to embed our videos, but we have recently moved over to Wistia in order to have more control over how our videos look, and for SEO.
I am looking into how to include videos along with our product images at the top of the page, but I do like including them in the product description area so that I can provide an introduction and more context to what is being shown in the video.
Like most electronics retailers, we provide detailed product specs on a separate tab. Rather than simply provide a long list of specs in no particular order (which is surprisingly common), we have organized them into logical groupings – for example, lens specs, recording specs, physical specs, etc. Here’s an example:
On a separate tab, we provide access to product data sheets, manuals, quick start guides, software downloads, and so on. This makes it easy for someone who really wants to dig into the details about how a product works, to do so. For example:
Questions and Answers
We introduced the ability for customers to ask questions a few months ago, and it has proved to be very popular. It provides additional information about the product that would be impossible to include in the main description.
It also serves to showcase the knowledge our our product managers and technical support team (who answer the questions), and provide confirmation that we are not just another reseller of other people’s products. Here’s an example:
Our process of developing good product content is an ongoing journey of revision and improvement. By focusing on answering customer questions (and by learning from those who do it best) we try to ensure that what we write is relevant and useful so that the reader has all the information they need to make a purchasing decision.