October 27, 2009
How To

Drive Search Traffic with Better Product Descriptions: 5 Steps

SUMMARY: Having high-quality content on your site is fantastic. But creating it is less exciting – and a lot of work.

Find out how an apparel retailer manages his team of writers to build high-quality product descriptions. The keyword-rich descriptions have helped make natural search the top driver of site traffic. Includes tips for finding and managing writers.
When Eric Deniger, CEO, Working Person’s Store, first launched the clothing and footwear retailer’s website in 2006, he wanted more than just "run-of-the-mill" product descriptions.

"We want to make sure that we maintain a position of technical aptitude in the marketplace far beyond the retailers who copy and paste the bullet points from the manufacturer’s website," Deniger says.

What Deniger had in mind was creating high-quality descriptions for every product sold at Working Person’s Store. The site’s keyword-rich approach uses conversational descriptions that can be customized for different user demographics.

Although implementation required a lot of work, the strategy has paid off handsomely: 71.93% of the site’s traffic now comes from organic Google search results, and the website has become the company’s primary revenue source. Deniger now employs five contract writers and considers the website the company’s most effective marketing channel.

Here are the steps Deniger’s team took to build its content operation:

Step #1. Develop a high-value content strategy

Deniger’s strategy would not have worked had his team not focused on writing high-quality descriptions. They wanted each product description to:

- Be voiced for the brand

The team worked the predominant characteristics of each brand into the descriptions. For example, the Wrangler clothing brand is more likely to appeal to customers in rural areas, Deniger says, so the team’s Wrangler product descriptions often reference horses, cowboys or Western culture.

Likewise, customers who purchase Dickies-brand products often reside in urban locations and work in manual trades, such as construction or auto repair. Therefore, product descriptions for Dickies-brand items highlight aspects of these hands-on work environments.

- Show technical aptitude

The team creates descriptions that explain how a product’s features can benefit the working person, rather than simply highlighting a list of features already provided by the manufacturer.

"My view is [this level of detail] simply cannot be accomplished with four or five bullet points," he says.

- Be conversational and witty

The team’s descriptions are typically 300-500 words, and are written in a casual, conversational, often witty tone (see creative samples below). Keeping them concise, yet full of relevant information, helps the company connect with customers and build trust.

Step #2. Gradually hire more writers

At first, Deniger wrote and published product descriptions in addition to his other responsibilities, and, after a few months, he noticed good results in natural search. But with approximately 25 new products added to the company’s inventory each week, he realized the team needed more help.

"You can only write about so many work boots before you get that creative fatigue," Deniger says.

- Go to college campuses

Deniger’s team found that college students could be a valuable resource, as they are often strong, evocative writers. The team worked with employment offices from several nearby colleges and universities to find copywriting interns, and also asked the offices’ employees for student referrals.

- Don’t overburden

Initially, the team wasn’t familiar with content management and therefore "burned out" writers by asking them to write more copy than was feasible in a given week. Now, each writer is responsible for a more manageable 15 descriptions each week.

"It’s tough to do good work when you’re kind of burnt," he says. "Now we’re very cautious not to ask anyone to do too many descriptions because we want the quality of the work to remain high."

- Start small

The team hired each writer individually, and gradually scaled back Deniger’s contributions while increasing new writers’ output. This ensured adequate time to train new writers while avoiding imbalances with responsibilities or workload.

Step #3. Hire a manager

After building a team of freelance writers, Deniger hired a manager to maintain and improve content volume and quality.

The content manager:
o Maintains a content schedule
o Sets writer deadlines
o Edits descriptions
o Gives writers feedback
o Reviews all content before it’s published

When the content manager first receives a product, the supplied manufacturer description is immediately posted to the website, to ensure that the product is readily viewable to customers. Once the team creates, reviews and optimizes a new description, they update the content and replace the manufacturer copy.

Step #4. Hire a quality photographer

Deniger’s team initially used a similar approach to hiring a photographer that they used for hiring writers -- with little success. They contracted amateur photographers who regularly submitted poor, low-quality work.

"Photography is a different animal. You need someone who really understands [what I need] when I say that I’m trying to tell a story with the images," says Deniger. "I gave the interns every shot in the world, but I needed someone who was passionate about the product."

- Experience counts

The team eventually hired a full-time photographer who held a master’s degree in the field, and produced significantly higher-quality work. Deniger believes professional photography better captures a product’s features, which creates a more complete, user-friendly shopping experience.

"If someone opts to not read the text for a jacket, they need to see that it has a Velcro pocket, or it ties at the waist, or it has a double zipper."

Step #5. Optimize the content

The team’s high-quality descriptions and images were vital to its strategy, but would not be as effective without a solid search engine optimization (SEO) program.

After the content manager reviews a piece of content, it is delivered to an SEO team that ensures it has the following before publication:
o Proper keyword distribution
o Related keywords
o Optimized title, heading, text formatting, linking, etc.

Useful links related to this article

Creative Samples from the Working Person’s Store’s product description strategy

Target Internal Site Links for Improved SEO: 7 Tactics

AVID Commerce: Helped with the team’s site optimization

Working Person’s Store

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