Product description copywriting: you’d be hard-pressed to find any copywriter who said it was their favourite kind of job. It’s often monotonous, labour-intensive work that’s limited in creative scope and driven by the need to accommodate product specifications and – in the case of online content – SEO considerations such as specific keyword phrases.
But, that’s not to say that product description copywriting is without value. On the contrary, clear, concise and accurate product descriptions are the backbone of many an e-commerce site and print brochure.
In this post, I’m going to help you understand some of the potential pitfalls of product description copywriting, and the things copywriters can do to avoid them.
The problems with product description copywriting
It’s boring and time-consuming
You’ll hear it said all the time that there are no boring subjects or content types for copywriters. It’s just not true: I defy you to find me a single copywriter who wouldn’t feel a bit daunted at the prospect of writing a few hundred product descriptions for a client.
And because product copywriting can be time-consuming, businesses are often tempted to find a super cheap copywriter to get the job done quickly. It’s understandable, but it doesn’t get good results.
It’s a stop-start job
It’s hard to get into the swing of things with product description copywriting. No sooner have you started writing about one particular item than you’re off on the next one. And what’s more, you may need to do separate bursts of research for every item you’re writing about. It’s a faffy job at the best of times.
It’s easy to be repetitive
When you’re on product description 22 of 300, it’s easy to switch on to autopilot. You find yourself thinking of neat little turns of phrase, only to discover you’ve already used the same combination of words twice before.
Repetition is bad for your readers: they’ll notice it, bad for your brand: it makes your products look samey and boring, and bad for SEO: Google hates duplicate content and consumers may struggle to find your product among the others out there.
How to solve product description copywriting problems
Like it or loathe it, there’s no denying that product description copywriting plays an important role in e-commerce websites, brochure sites, retail platforms and catalogues.
And, as with any other kind of written content, quality makes a difference: well-written product descriptions are engaging, informative, search-engine optimised (if online), and accurate, capturing the right information in a small amount of space and perhaps even selling the product’s plus points to its target market.
So how to solve those problems we’ve just looked at?
My advice to copywriters tackling product descriptions is as follows:
Do your research
Any product description copywriting project is going to need research – that may entail nothing more than looking at a list of specifications and photos. But, if you really want to get to know the products you’re writing about – and the brand/s they belong to – get yourself online and have a nosy.
Learn what things do, how they fit together, what competitors say about them, what customers like about them. Know your products and you’re more likely to have something to say about them.
Get a thesaurus open
There’s only so many times you can describe something as elegant, beautiful or stunning, or forward-thinking, innovative and ground-breaking. You need synonyms, my friend – alternatives to the words you find yourself coming back to over and over again.
The good thing about product descriptions is that they don’t need much in the way of adjectives (describing words) – people are there for the facts and the specs. But make sure the adjectives you do use aren’t always the same ones. People notice – trust me.
Use editing software
Following on from that point, there’s word-processing software you can install to help highlight things like clumsy phrasing and repetition. It’s well worth getting some downloaded and installed on your machine so you can get on with writing content and edit it quickly and effectively once it’s drafted.
SfEP director and technical writer John Espirian suggests trying Grammarly’s comprehensive (and free) editing software and Intelligent Editing’s PerfectIt software which, at the time of writing, is $99. Online editing app Hemingway is also recommended, highlighting six problem areas with text, including words that can be swapped out for shorter, simpler ones.
Take regular breaks
This is a must for all potentially monotonous work: make sure you take regular breaks. The quality of your written content will deteriorate, the longer you spend at the keyboard doing one thing, so take a break or change it up.
If the product description copywriting is part of a wider website writing project, tackle X number of product descriptions before switching to a different type of content for the site, such as a web-page or blog post. Splitting the job will stop your writing getting stale.