5 SEO Sins for Ecommerce Product Descriptions

When it comes to your product descriptions, finding a balance between SEO objectives and appealing to customers can be a challenge.


Far too often, online business owners tip the scale towards SEO, which not only creates a less-than-perfect customer experience, but can actually hinder your SEO gains in the long run. Whether you’re stuffing keywords like it’s a Thanksgiving turkey or using manufacturer’s copy, taking a good, long look at your SEO product descriptions is a worthy effort now and into the future.

Have any questions about this topic? How about additional tips or advice? Share away in the comments section below!

Happy selling!
-Matt Winn, Volusion

About 

Matt Winn is Volusion’s Senior Brand Manager, where he helps oversee the organization’s branding and communications efforts. Matt has created hundreds of articles, videos and seminars on all things ecommerce, ranging from online marketing to web design and customer experience. Beyond being a certified nerd, Matt is an avid college football fan, enthusiastic home cook and a self-admitted reality TV junkie.

40 Responses to “5 SEO Sins for Ecommerce Product Descriptions”

  1. Jessica

    Hi there,

    This was a very useful video thanks. We launched our site in Oct 13, we’ve had around 20 orders so far without really doing much but I want to get on top of the SEO. I will consider getting an SEO Audit and even potentially looking at signing up to one of your SEO strategies but to start with I wanted to make sure I do everything I can do myself to help things along.

    We already have an established interior design business and this is now a new avenue for us selling product online and not services. I am trying to relate each product description to the customer for example – in the same way I would convince an interior design customer to have a certain lamp in their room. Is this the right thing to do?

    We have some items that are duplicating content in the titles such as brand names – ‘Andrew Martin Wallpaper’, ‘Andrew Martin Chair’. Is this OK. Also I have always spent time inputting words into the meta tag keywords box, I read earlier this has become obsolete – is it worth entering anything here?

    Looking up words on Google Keyword Planner sounds great and I will certainly be doing that, just to be clear are we looking to use words that have the most searches yes? And should every single product have a separate key word focus or can some of them be the same key word? For example we have lots of the same types of product – wallpaper, table lamps, t light holders etc…

    I see you’ve taken a look over some other sites in the comments, I’d really appreciate some feedback if you cast your eye quickly over ours – http://www.designcall.co.uk

    Many Thanks!

    Reply
  2. Karenina Kliber

    My website http://www.ohperfect.com has been out live since May this year and I have had only one response! Have I done something wrong? I would really appreciate your thoughts on my website please.

    Kind regards,
    Karenina

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Karenina, in order to start driving organic traffic to your site you’ll need unique content. Ideally this content will be written with your users’ best interest in mind. You have an assortment of un-related products on your site. What is the strategy behind this assortment? How does this help your user find a product that provides for a particular need or want? When I review your site I see a lot of manufacturer product descriptions. Google and other search engines have already indexed this content from more authoritative sources such as Amazon.com. You’ll need to think about your strategy for presenting your products in a useful way and write unique content or else you will continually trip the SE’s duplicate content filters.

      Regards,
      Nathan

      Reply
      • Karenina Kliber

        Thank you Nathan for your kind response. Could you explain in more details or give some examples please. It would be very much appreciated. All this is new to me.

        Many thanks.

        Karenina

        Reply
  3. Areli

    Hi Nathan. I launched my fashion jewelry website http://www.trendi737.com about a week ago. I was wondering if you can take a quick look at it and give me any pointers on what I can possibly change for it to get a good ranking. Like others who have posted, I’m having a hard time not duplicating workds and would like to catch anything I’m doing wrong before it’s too late. Thank you!

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Areli, thanks for the comment. If you are a new brand I recommend developing a content strategy that’s optimized for both customers and search engines. It’s very common to launch a new brand without an underlying content strategy. It’s necessary though in order to compete for organic rankings in a crowded market such as selling jewelry. You have to be able to identify your target market. Its not just anyone searching for jewelry online. That’s too broad at this point. Identify and get in the shoes of your customers and make sure that conversation translates to your online store through content. Also, website design goes a long way in the fashion industry – perhaps more than any other. Doing things like spending a little money now to get a beautiful site design and a custom logo can help users remember your website. Here is a rather inexpensive jewelry template from Volusion. I don’t mean to just push paid templates here, your content is the most important thing to focus on. Check out these articles to help establish your brand as well. Hope this helps!

      Regards,
      Nathan

      Reply
  4. Nathan Joynt

    Hi Doreen, thanks for the comment. It’s a common issue to have a variety of very similar products with similar features, if not the exact same. It’s difficult to stay creative with unique product descriptions. I always recommend focusing on the benefits of the individual products and not the features. Typically there will be differences there. Also, is there a way you can develop content outside of the product pages and then link to them? Often you can get that content to rank organically. I hope this helps.

    Regards,
    Nathan

    Reply
  5. DOREEN

    Hi! I’m working on optimizing the FooDoodler’s website and am having trouble with duplicate content due to the similar nature of products on the site. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.. Thank you!

    Reply
  6. Ronna

    I posted a question several days ago. It was never answered and now it has been removed. What gives?

    Reply
    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi, Ronna. Are you referring to this comment? I’m sorry it took a little while for us to get you a response, but I assure you that your comment was never removed. It just hadn’t been published yet because of our comment moderation policy. Thanks for contributing!

      Reply
  7. Ronna Moore

    On my site http://www.fairyhomesandgardens.com I have over 60 fairies that are all by the same artist. In the product title of every single one, I start with the individual name followed by “Cicely Mary Barker Flower Fairy” So is this a no-no? I am trying to go back and give each one a unique descpription, however, beneath the image I was listing the features such as what the fairies are made of and their packaging. The same on every one. “The fairies are constructed of Polystone and hand-painted. Each Flower Fairy has a gold loop for hanging and an attachable wire pick to stand the fairy. Their size varies from 3 1/4″ to 4 1/4″ high depending on their position. Each is individually packaged in its own window display box with a biography of Cicely Mary Barker on the side.” More duplicate content. Before I spend more time on my product descriiptions and features, I would like to know what I can do right in this situation. Yes, I am working on replacing manufacturers images with my own. Many thanks

    Reply
    • Alison Garrison

      Hello, Ronna. The naming convention you describe for your fairy figurines is 100% a-ok. As long as each one is unique and accurately descriptive, it’s fine to have some overlap in the terminology. Likewise for the description. You can use the same technical specs for each fairy, but I would recommend also including a unique description specific to each page.

      Best of luck!

      Reply
  8. Snigit

    I am a newbie currently trying to build up my e-commerce site too. The thing that troubles me now is that, I am about to add hundreds and thousands of products into my site.

    How do you suggest me to write description for all the products? If I write one by one for all the products, it will take forever before I could launch my site. Can you suggest me a good way for this, ’cause I also care about my site’s SEO benefit.

    For now, I really can’t think of anything else beside copying manufacturer’s description and just making slight adjustments, so that I could launch my site soon.

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi there, thank you for your comment.

      Back in Feb, I responded to Rachel (see the response above) who seemed to have a similar issue. The bottom line is that if you want to earn organic rankings, you need to have unique, valuable content on your product pages. If you are publishing content that can be found on numerous other websites, you will find it very difficult – if not impossible – to benefit from SEO. If you can’t add unique content to every one of your product pages immediately, develop your category pages with unique content. Typically these pages will rank better than product pages anyway – especially if you are just launching your site.

      Regards,
      Nathan

      Reply
  9. Sanjay

    Hello,
    Anyone please let me know how to add Meta or Title for mobile in Mcommerce ?

    Reply
    • Gracelyn Tan

      Hi, Sanjay. At the moment, you can’t edit or add meta information for your mobile store. However, be on the look out for big mobile store improvements later in the year!

      Reply
  10. Nick Grimes

    Hi there I am currently selling a range of outdoor clocks and the brand is Westminster. I have set up the product category as outdoor clocks but every product within this category starts with Westminster in the product title. e.g Westminster tatton clock, Westminster mollington clock, Westminster chester clock…. they are all different products but are from the same brand is this ok? or is it repeating the brand too much?? thanks…

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Nick, feel free to leave your domain and I can take a deeper look. If you haven’t already, I do recommend using Google’s free keyword research tool to see if people are searching for the various types of Westminster clocks. It’s likely a good thing you are including the brand name on the individual product pages because that’s literally what they are. Often, I find it’s easier to drive traffic to the category page and rely on it to do it’s job and direct people through to the right product page. So, you can use the keyword tool to also understand search volume for “outdoor clocks” on your category page as well. The search volume will likely be higher for this type of short tail keyword and if you are able to rank well for it, again, you could then theoretically direct that traffic to deeper product pages. Best to be optimized for both scenarios. Hope this helps, thanks for responding!

      Reply
  11. Dawn McGruer

    Hi our site http://www.thesocialmediaacademy.org has just been re-skinned by a volusion partner and we worked on our SEO at this time too but don’t seem to reap any further benefit – Any suggestions on what we may need to do? One thing I am aware of is we have a lot of keywords in the SEO section of each product and category can this be damaging or is this a good thing?

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Dawn, yes you have too many keywords per page. Try to optimize each page and the content on that page for one focus keyword.

      Reply
  12. Rachel

    We have approximately 10,000 products on our site and we mainly dropship all of them from the manufacturers. It is very difficult to make up unique product descriptions for our products as we have never seen them ourselves. We need to rely on the manufacturer descriptions to accurately describe the product. How can we do this and avoid duplicate content like you mention above?

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Rachel, if there is absolutely no way you can optimize thousands of products with unique content, one thing to do it prioritize your products by top sellers, top traffic, perhaps both. Can you at least write unique content for these products? From here you can link down to other similar products through text links. Another option is to write unique content about the types of products you sell. A lot of people will do this through a blog, for example. The traffic you earn from this content can be sent through to your product pages through text links. One more option is to create videos for your product pages. You can host them on Youtube for free and easily embed them into your Volusion store. This may seem odd, but sometimes people can talk about the features and benefits of their products without using them and having to write it out. From here, you can pay to transcribe your video content and place those video transcriptions on your product pages. I’m getting into some very advanced stuff here and I’m definitely sensing a common theme with all these questions. Look for a new blog post covering all of this very soon!

      Reply
  13. Linda Coughlin

    Great tutorial – very helpful, thanks so much! I wanted to drill down a little more on your response to Tatyane – is it okay to include a phrase in all listings like 100% organic cotton (or in my shop’s case Ranger products always 20% below MSRP) as long as the rest of the description content is varied? I guess I am asking how many words/phrases does Google look at to determine if it is duplicate content. And if you can’t use the same words, how do you convey the message to your customers when you have 1000 products listed and there are only so many variations?

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Linda, yes it’s perfectly ok to include common features, or in your case, price points. There is a lot of debate about what the duplicate content to unique content ratio should be. In my experience, I always shoot for 80% unique content on each page. You can use something like copyscape.com or just eye it. One more thing to consider if it’s a common phrase across all your products is to make it an image. SE crawlers will not see the text within the image as duplicate. I hope this helps! I know it’s a lot of work – that’s why we say SEO is a marathon and not a race.

      Reply
  14. Mark

    Hi Roan

    We are a online petstore trying to break into the UK market. Our sales and traffic are still low. We have over 2000 products on the site http://www.petfactory.co.uk. Do I need to have meta tags description on every product of looking at my site is there some thing important I am missing. Thanks mark

    Reply
    • Nathan Joynt

      Hi Mark, yes, you’ll want to have 3 main things: 1) Unique content/copy on all your product pages ideally targeting the one main key phrase you want each individual product to rank for in organic search. 2) A unique title tag for each product page with the main key phrase in the beginning of that tag. 3) A unique and compelling meta description for each individual product page. Again, include your main key phrase in your meta description. Before you write any of this, you’ll need to perform keyword research to ID what key phrases to target.

      Reply
  15. Roan Lydon

    Hi Matt,

    To make my website (Frogkreek.com) more compatible and or competitive
    in Goggles ranking,
    How many words should be posted too?
    Meta Tag Title
    Meta Tag Descriptions’
    Meta Tag Keywords
    I watched your video, read some of your comments on Saturday Feb. 2nd.
    I put my words into the 3 Meta tags areas; just think it could be better,
    Since I’m not getting any sales.
    How important is a site map?
    I set up my storefront, which to me is a lot like a sitemap

    Also, is it best to put your Meta tag information by categories,-sample yoga products – mediation products – relaxations products Pilates products etc. Also, is it necessary to put Meta tags information in every product on the website; I will have 100 products soon?
    The information for each product comes up when you go into Advance Information, when working on Volusion product menu. FYI- I’m not tech and I’m putting this together by myself. Your video was great!
    Any help would be appreciative.
    I’m taking Sunday off for the Super Bowl – GO San Fran 49ers, a little humor!
    Roan Lydon
    Frogkreek.com

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Hi Roan, looking over your site quickly it appears there are several things you’ll need to do. For the best long-term results, my advice is to contact us for an in-depth SEO Audit. To answer some of your questions though, there are 3 big things you can do right now:
      1) Each page of your site should only be targeting 1-3 main keywords that are closely related. For your homepage, these keywords may be yoga products, yoga supplies, yoga accessories.
      2) You’ll want to check the search volume for these keywords using Google’s keyword research tool and make sure there is static on-page copy covering these keywords. Currently your homepage lacks static copy on a group of tightly focused keyword topics. Notice how all three keywords above are semantically related?
      3) Write your title tags and meta tags to include your keywords. For your homepage, this may look something like:
      Title tag: Yoga Products, Supplies & Accessories – FrogKreek Yoga.
      Meta description: FrogKreek offers a huge selection of yoga products, supplies and accessories at the best prices online.

      After you have completed your homepage, move through to every other page on your site using the same process, but different keywords. Your keyword selection for each page should be based on the content of that page. It’s a long process and again if you need additional help, an SEO Audit is invaluable long-term.

      Reply
  16. Jonathan

    The challenge arises when you have a large catalog, like 50,000 products (like many other sellers) … how do you write unique content for all products then?

    For ex. the BIC pen can come in 3 different colors, but the only difference is the ink. Now this just a small example, product lines like this one can extends to the hundreds and thousand; so, how can this be done, without losing your marbles?

    Google should really cut a break on distributors that are alike, and rather focus on customer reviews (which Volusion is great at offering within our sites). Who is the better seller? What sets customer service apart from the other?

    I see that are trying to make that different with PALs, but they should also make that the heart of natural ranking for us.

    Reply
    • Thearica Burroughs

      I agree with Jonathan. I have several “like” products that the only difference is color. It gets frustrating trying to write unique content for 81 shades of pearl cotton 8 for example!

      Reply
      • Nathan

        Hi Johnathan and Thearica, does my answer to T above help your situations? Certainly happy to explain more in another blog post if you think it would be helpful.

        Reply
  17. T

    I work for a company that sells several versions of the same, or very similar products. How can I avoid duplicate content in product descriptions if the products are nearly identical? For example, we sell pH calibration solutions, which are exactly the same product but maybe different sizes. It seems like in order to accurately describe the product, I ultimately have to use duplicate content. Thoughts?

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Hi T, I think of size as an option to a particular product. Obviously I don’t know your exact situation, but if you have a series of product pages that are the same, only difference being size, it may be more beneficial to combine your individual product pages into one over-arching product page where you are allowing users to then choose what size they need from there. Perhaps at this point you can explain why a particular size is better for a particular application. Consolidating pages can boost the value of the final page because now your incoming links are concentrated to one URL making it more authoritative. This helps Google better understand this as the single most important page to rank for the keyword: pH calibration solutions. If this is not an option for you, consider canonicalization. If need be, Volusion SEO services can further assist you with this on your site.

      Reply
  18. John Schiff

    Hi Matt, Great tips on SEO for product descriptions. How do these tips relate when filling in “Meta Tag Keywords?” Also, I have manufacturers’ names and part numbers in the item’s Title, do I need to put it in the Description too for Google to “like” it?

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Hi John, the meta keywords tag has become obsolete, meaning the major search engines no longer consider this tag for ranking purposes. I still use the tag in cases where I want to understand what keywords I’ve optimized the page for – more for reference than anything else. I recommend focusing on your title tag and meta description tag. Place your most important keywords there. Understand that these are what will be displayed in search results. Manufacturer titles are rarely optimized – it’s safe to say never. Do your research to make sure you are using keywords your target audience is searching for. Read this for more info on using keywords.

      Reply
  19. Tatyane Martins

    How do you not repeat the information if all your products are made of the same material?

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Hi Tatyane, this is a good question. Often merchants become fixated on listing the features/details of their products, and that only – 100% organic cotton, adjustable waistline, made in the USA, one size fits all, etc… If the features of all your products are more or less the same, try expanding the content to call out the benefits of each product. There is always something unique about each of your products and if people are purchasing your items it means there is at least one emotional or logical reason why. Discover this and put it in your content. You’ll likely sell more product too. Sometimes the best way to discover this is through customer reviews, or by just asking people why they buy it on Twitter or Facebook or the like.

      Reply
  20. Jeff

    I run ECOM for a business that more or less requires manufacturers descriptions on the site – the information is too valuable not to include in helping people choose a product. So we do include that, as do all of our competitors. HOwever, we do write our own descriptions as the default “main” description and offer the manufacturers info in a seperate tab. Does this hurt our SEO to have both descriptions (our own and manufacturers?)

    Reply
    • Nathan

      Hi Jeff, it’s important to understand that Google has a filter for duplicate content. Google explains: “Duplicate content on a site is not grounds for action on that site unless it appears that the intent of the duplicate content is to be deceptive and manipulate search engine results.” To a certain extent, duplicate content is a natural part of sharing content on the web. My advice is to expand on the duplicate content as much as possible (which it sounds like you are doing) to avoid being filtered out of search results. Use something like copyscape.com to understand what percentage of your content is duplicate. If any particular page has a high percentage, say over 30%, work on expanding that content. Working on a strategy to increase the amount of user generated content on these pages (in the form of customers reviews) is a sound practice as well. Hope this helps!

      Reply
  21. Ydeveloper

    We all know there is a relationship between SEO and Content, so for ecommerce site, if the descriptions for products are written interestingly, then it will be great for site to easily search and rank by Google.

    Reply

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