So you’ve optimized your ecommerce site’s Home page and main category pages for relevant keywords, and your on-page content is compelling. Nice job! The Home page and category pages are some of the fundamentals of on-site SEO, and optimizing these first will draw visitors looking for a wide funnel of your items. However, before you decide you’re done with your on-site content and move on to the weird and wacky world of off-site, you have one last monster to tackle: product page optimization.

Since many ecommerce sites sell hundreds or even thousands of products, optimizing each product description for SEO can feel as daunting as it is critical. Start with the following five tips, and your products will be searchable superstars in no time.

1. Ditch the Manufacturer-Written Product Descriptions

This is perhaps the most important item on this list, and it’s also the biggest trouble spot for the ecommerce industry at large. You already know that having no content on your product pages is, well, a “no.” Users rely on product descriptions to learn about the item and make an informed decision. So rather than send their users off with no information and an inability to make a purchase, many ecommerce sites rely on manufacturer descriptions, which contain all the relevant product information they need in one easy cut-and-paste package. Unfortunately, duplicating content from other websites – yes, even product descriptions – will put you on the train to Penalty Town. Instead:

2. Create Unique, Conversion-Focused Content for Each One of Your Products

Manufacturer descriptions usually aren’t written with conversions in mind. As you begin writing your own product descriptions, think about what would compel your customer to purchase the product. What can it uniquely offer them? How can it make their life better or easier? What features does the product provide that similar products don’t? Does your shop offer the product at a lower price than the competition, or provide other incentives like free shipping? Try a few different calls to action and description styles, varying your word count, to see which type and amount of copy converts the best.

If you sell thousands of products and it’s simply unfeasible to write individual descriptions for each product, then it’s time, my friend, to:

3. Design a Strategy for Tackling Duplicate Content

Even seasoned SEOs argue about the best way to handle copious manufacturer descriptions, because there’s not a perfect solution. We strongly recommend biting the bullet and hiring someone to help you with your copy; there are a ton of great services out there where you can pay by the word and get this done for a relatively low cost, like Textbroker or Upwork. Barring that, the general consensus is to hold on to the manufacturer descriptions if they contain important details or product specs, but until you can get around to writing a unique one, keep the product page out of the search engines with a NO INDEX tag or by blocking it in your robots.txt file. That may sound like counter-intuitive advice, but if you’re using a duplicate product description, your odds of ranking for that product are low anyway – and come with the extra burden of flirting with a penalty.

What this means is that your product categories had better be as well-optimized as possible, so that people can find your site via category searches and then navigate to the products they’re looking for.

Then, set a goal of rewriting X product descriptions per month, unblocking each product from search as you rewrite it. Wondering which ones to start with? Here’s a fun trick:

4. Prioritize Your Products to Optimize and Perform Keyword Research at the Same Time

As you decide which products to focus on first, you’ll probably consider factors like which ones bring in the highest revenue, which ones adhere best to your personal priorities for your ecommerce shop, and which ones are already popular (absolutely optimize these rather than blocking them! You don’t want to lose that momentum), and which ones should be popular but aren’t. All of these are critical factors, so definitely address these first.

Once you’re done with that, it’s time to bust out your keyword research skills. All other things being equal, the products you’ll want to tackle next are the ones that have the highest search volume and the most reasonable amount of competition. Test out a large number of the brands and models you sell in Google Adwords’ Keyword Planner tool to check on volume, finding the products that are getting the most widely searched, and then cruise the SERPs to scope out who’s ranking. You’ve found your new targets. And speaking of keywords:

5. Product Descriptions are an Excellent Place for Long-Tail Keywords

Long-tail keywords are those searches that are so specific that their search volume is negligible, but the people who do make those searches are in it to win it. And by “win,” we mean "buy". From you. If you get one person to land on your product and convert, that’s better than 1,000 people landing on your product and not converting. A product’s model and product number are the obviously places to start with long-tail keywords, but also think outside the box and choose descriptors or qualities people might be searching for.

Are there other things to pay attention to as you optimize your product pages for SEO? Absolutely. Unique, keyword rich meta data, high-quality product images with alt text, customer reviews, social media integration, and usability are also essential. But without unique product descriptions, a penalty my render all your other SEO efforts useless. So, what are you waiting for? Go start writing!