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Why Isn’t My Website Ranking?

Reaching the top spots of the search engine results pages can improve your company’s exposure, establish you as an industry authority, and deliver the kind of ROI you want to see.

So why isn’t your website ranking at the top yet?

That’s the million-dollar question that every company has asked itself at one point or another. Unfortunately, there isn’t a million-dollar answer.

Or, at least, there isn’t one single million-dollar answer.

Your website might be struggling to reach the top for any number of reasons. So, if it feels like you’ve been at it for a long time without getting the best results, consider these possibilities:

You Haven’t Given It Enough Time

According to this Google Webmaster video, you need to be patient when it comes to SEO.

There’s no way around it. SEO is not an overnight process.

Things need to be done, and they need to be done in order. (It will do you no good to build a bazillion links if they all go to a website that isn’t able to convert the traffic.)

It takes time to research, create, and implement a strategy and begin producing content.

Then it takes more time for Google to realize changes have been made, and then you have to wait for the search engine to determine if you are really providing new value.

We’ve linked the above video before, but we like to back up our claims like this whenever possible.

In it, she states that, in general, it takes four months to a year to first implement improvements and then for you to start seeing results.

In other words, time is something that you can’t avoid. It’s hard, but SEO requires patience.

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Your Keyword May Not Mean What You Think It Should

This is our experience with the term “SEO.”

That keyword is obviously important for us (which we discussed in our blog about increasing traffic more than 200%). At one point, though, our homepage couldn’t be found for that term at all. We didn’t do anything to the page to make it drop out of the rankings, it was just gone one day.

So, we really started looking at the environment of search results page for that word.

We had been ranking on the second page for a long time, only ever able to crack #10 on occasion. And then it disappeared.

Our blog page, however, didn’t.

Turns out, when you really look at that first page, it’s easy to see that Google does not believe people searching for the term “SEO” are looking for a company to do the SEO for them.

Instead, they’re trying to provide as much information about what SEO is or how it is done.

That’s why (not including paid results) nearly every result on the first page is a guide to SEO, a discourse on what SEO is, and whether you need it.

Google itself is currently hogging at least 2 spots on the front page.

So, for a while, we were of the opinion that we simply couldn’t rank our homepage on the first page anymore. It’s simply not what Google considers an appropriate answer to the query of “SEO”.

Ranked 5

(Of course, just to prove us wrong, Google began ranking our homepage again. We’re currently the only agency site that ranks on the first page.)

The point of all this is that you may want to rank a certain page for a certain keyword, and despite all the good SEO you do, it never quite seems to break for you because the word means something different to you than it does to Google.

Take a closer look at the first page and see if maybe the types of results Google wants to show are different from the kind you want to provide.

Your Website May Look Great, but It’s Beauty is Only Skin Deep

You’ve paid a lot for a well-designed and very modern website. Everything about it looks great. You check it out on a daily basis just to appreciate the design a little more.

Why doesn’t Google appreciate it the way you do?

It’s possible that your design may look great but hasn’t accounted for every SEO angle.

There could be any number of things holding you back, including:

  • Duplicate content
  • Insufficient content
  • Old, untouched, stale content
  • Confusing navigation
  • Split keyword focus, so there are multiple pages that could rank for a given word
  • Incomplete basics, such as metas, alt tags, and schema markup
  • No blog or other way to continually refresh your content

You Have Gone Unnoticed by the Web at Large

Links are still a thing, and probably always will be. And while there’s a bajillion ways to get them, not all of them are worth having, and some could be detrimental.

You need a good portfolio of links from various sources. Some should be no-follow, some should be from really good sites, some should be just normal sites.

Buying links is out of the question. Link schemes, also bad. It’s important to find natural ways to increase the good links and avoid the ones that may raise flags for Google.

Of course, links could be a problem in another way, too.

For example:

You’ve Been Noticed by the Wrong Part of the Web

Some people may start using some unethical tactics on your website.

They don’t actually need a reason to do this. They may simply choose your website as a target to inject malicious code. Or they may start scraping your blog and republishing all your content. Or they could start building countless links to your site from questionable websites.

Google is pretty good at spotting a negative SEO attack, but you don’t want to risk the kind of penalty that could result from it, so stay on guard.

And this brings us to our next entry:

Google May Have Put You in the Penalty Box

A Manual Action penalty can completely remove your website from Google’s search results.

If you’ve previously ranked really well and then dropped significantly (if not completely out of the rankings), you may be on the wrong side of a penalty.

The only thing you can do is check the Google Manual Actions report and start correcting the issues.

If you have received one of these reports, it means a human reviewer has determined that your website is no longer compliant with Goggle’s guidelines.

What could cause a Manual Action? According to Google, you could be penalized if the reviewer determines that you have:

  • A hacked site – Someone has uploaded and hidden malicious content on your site.
  • User-generated spam – Spam comments on forums or blogs.
  • Spammy freehosts – A significant portion of the pages hosted on a service are spammy.
  • Spammy structured markup – Markup on the page is outside the guidelines, like making some content invisible to users.
  • Unnatural links to your site – If you have a lot of links deemed artificial, deceptive, or manipulative (including buying links or participating in link schemes), you may be penalized.
  • Unnatural links from the site – Same as above, but now they’re coming from your site.
  • Thin content with little or no added value – Your pages need to offer some real value to users.
  • Cloaking or sneaky redirects – I.e., showing different pages to users and to Google.
  • Pure Spam – This includes most of the stuff already mentioned, just more aggressive and overt.
  • Cloaked images – Manipulative use of images in order to get more clicks.
  • Hidden text and keyword stuffing – These are oldies but goodies, and apparently it’s still enough of a problem for Google to list it here.

You’re Treating Your Website Like It Exists in a Vacuum

SEO does not exist in a vacuum. It lives right here with its neighbors: content marketing, social media, PPC, and many other online endeavors.

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We’re not just trying to sell you on our other services, here. Online marketing is simply a far more holistic strategy than it once was.

Elements like time on site, number of clickthroughs, number of mentions around the internet, and engagement on social media all figure into your rankings.

Granted, some of them affect your rankings more indirectly than others, but they all play an important role.

Google is looking at more signals than just those you’re putting out on your website.

We’re not saying that posting regularly on Facebook is directly connected with better rankings. We’re saying that building a community on social media will lead to more people visiting your site, clicking your links, and reading your content.

And all of those things can lead to more than just better rankings.

These days, though, the most common reason your website isn’t ranking is probably:

Your Competition Is Doing More Than You

You’re not doing SEO in a vacuum.

Search engine optimization is no longer a secret technique that your competition has never heard of. It’s an integral part of modern marketing, and for every link you’re not building and every blog you’re not publishing, your competition is.facing the competition

So, if you start to think you don’t need it, or if you start to think you’ve done enough, then there is someone working really hard to show you how it really should be done.

If you’ve been dipping your toes into SEO, you may start to see a little movement up the rankings. However, the simple fact is that those who wade out into the deeper end of SEO are going to see more results than you.

Remember, when you start doing SEO, it isn’t you against Google. It’s you against all your regular competition. And you’re all aiming to set up shop in a very limited space.

Even Small Changes Can Make a Difference

You may be thinking that there is a lot to do to start climbing to the top of the search engine rankings.

And you’d be right.

However, that’s just more of a reason to get started now. You can begin by making some small and simple changes to your website, even before you start thinking about whether you should hire an agency or go in-house for your SEO.

If you’re not ranking yet, you may just need to give it a little more time.

Or…

You may need to dive into a serious overhaul of your website.

Either way, examine your current situation, start small, and begin making the changes you can.

You may be surprised how much they help.

 

SEO doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Download this ebook and see how all these components fit together to help you build your rankings.

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How to Make Your Website User Friendly by Reading Glossy Fashion Magazines

Lots of differnet vogue magazines. The most visible cover features Rihanna on its cover wearinga veil and a hat like in the roaring twenties.

This is a contribution by Daniel Bishop, freelance writer and editorial consultant. I added some text formatting, added the images and edited the post a bit for clarity.

Over the past decades, the emergence of websites, online journals and magazines has made printed media occasionally seem like something obsolete and out-of-date. However,

as much as 69 percent of Americans still read actual printed newspapers on a regular basis. In UK, this number climbs up to 74 percent.

Furthermore, paper ads provoke greater emotional reactions in readers than the digital ones and people generally tend to trust printed media more.

Therefore, print is still far from being dead and it has been around for so long that it’s safe to assume that there are some tricks to learn from it.

Indeed there is a whole lot digital media could learn from the rules and practices applied by their printed counterpart.

This goes for

  • writers
  • columnists
  • editors
  • designers

and everyone involved in the creation and development of digital content.

More specifically, we will take a look at how user experience of the websites can be improved by studying what’s done right in good old glossy fashion magazines.

In spite of the fact that these are very different media in terms of

  • approach
  • form
  • revenue models

there’s several important lessons taught by traditional magazines that can improve user experience in the digital realm as well.

Lots of lossy magazines lying around probably dozens of copies each. They mostly seem to deal with style and fashion.

Strict editorial policy

The first advantage of printed magazines over digital ones is the simple quality of content.

For the former, there’s a limited amount of articles and stories that will make the cut on a certain week or month, while in the digital world such a limit is basically non-existent for most media.

Always think twice before publishing a blog or a guest post. It will bring some traffic to your website, but you should ask yourself if it delivers any value to your site or your readers.

Too much content can make the website look too confusing, cluttered and overwhelming.

This sort of hyper-production may do more harm than good and a few clicks you’re about to get just aren’t worth it. Therefore, avoid excessive and irrelevant content.

Consistency

What’s typical of traditional fashion magazines is that they look coherent and consistent from page one all the way to that shampoo ad on the back cover, as if every article and every image tells a specific aspect of the same story.

This consistency is what makes their readers loyal and committed, and makes the whole brand that’s built around the magazine look solid and reliable.

Uniformity of this sort should be delivered on many levels – from layouts and typefaces to terminology, voice and overall approach.

A printed magazine looks like a coherent, logically ordered entity, which ensures that the readers know what’s coming next and thus feel like home while reading.

Simplicity

Just like you need your content carefully filtered and refined, you need to do the same with your visual identity as well.

When it comes to design, sometimes less is more and this is much more obvious in most of the printed magazines.

Too often websites are clogged with banners, recommendations, call-to-action buttons, native ads and all sorts of distractions. This is likely to chase away a lot of visitors.

Printed magazines are usually designed to look clean and neat, which is something that top graphic design agencies are trying to implement in websites they work on as well.

White space

An integral part of clean design is the proper use of white space.

Again, websites are too often packed with excessive design elements and ads, which can be quite overwhelming and not pleasant at all for the users.

White space gives them some breathing space, gives their eyes a place to rest and makes the content more legible and easy to scan.

Do you want your visitors to have an enjoyable experience while roaming around your website or reading an article?

Then balancing out the positive and negative space the way it’s done in print can be a great strategy.

Colors

The power and symbolism of colors doesn’t change too quickly, so turning back to fashion magazines to see how they used decades of experience to deal with it is not a bad idea.

Choosing and combining the right colors for the message you want to convey and the impression you’d like to leave can be vital.

Neutral colors usually go well with a simple and elegant design, but depending on your niche and overall style, going for brighter colors can be absolutely fine, especially for fashion web magazines.

Make sure you get familiar with the psychology of colors.

For example, when you want to provoke the feeling of growth and success you could go for green!

In case you need something that reminds people of joy and happiness choose yellow, while adding purple to the mix can suggest luxury or romance.

Hierarchy

Another crucial aspect of user experience is clearly and obviously highlighting the most important pieces of information.

This is something that has been perfected in printed media for centuries now. The content ought to be organized in a logical and predictable manner.

You should try employing visual and typographic hierarchy to direct the reader’s vision around the focal points of the page.

Let people get the gist of an article just by quickly scanning through.

Using

  1. headings
  2. subheadings
  3. different font sizes

properly is crucial in order to achieve this.

The fact that users can quickly find out whether they’re interested in the article and whether they should look into it more thoroughly is something that enhances their experience significantly.

 A visual hierarchy can save them a world of time and effort.

A huge newsstand selling literally dozens if not hundreds of fashion magazines.

Respect the differences

Obviously, you should always have in mind that the two media we’re dealing with here are very different.

The above mentioned tricks will definitely make your users’ stay at your website much more comfortable. However, not everything that works for printed media works in the digital world and vice versa.

The biggest discrepancy comes from the way each of these make money. To be fair, this is what directs editors’, owners’ and designers’ behavior at the end of the day.

At the end of the day you should try learning from glossy fashion magazines without merely copying everything.

Just be careful when implementing what you learned from them and take into account the specific features and peculiarities of each of the media in question.

 

Daniel Bishop is a full time editorial consultant for small businesses.

He started off as a freelance writer on a couple of blogs and in a few years began leading his own small team based in Europe. Eventually he became a consultant for all editorial issues.

The post How to Make Your Website User Friendly by Reading Glossy Fashion Magazines appeared first on SEO 2.0.

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Brands vs Ads

About 7 years ago I wrote about how the search relevancy algorithms were placing heavy weighting on brand-related signals after Vince & Panda on the (half correct!) presumption that this would lead to excessive industry consolidation which in turn would force Google to turn the dials in the other direction.

My thesis was Google would need to increasingly promote some smaller niche sites to make general web search differentiated from other web channels & minimize the market power of vertical leading providers.

The reason my thesis was only half correct (and ultimately led to the absolutely wrong conclusion) is Google has the ability to provide the illusion of diversity while using sort of eye candy displacement efforts to shift an increasing share of searches from organic to paid results.

As long as any market has at least 2 competitors in it Google can create a “me too” offering that they hard code front & center and force the other 2 players (along with other players along the value chain) to bid for marketshare. If competitors are likely to complain about the thinness of the me too offering & it being built upon scraping other websites, Google can buy out a brand like Zagat or a data supplier like ITA Software to undermine criticism until the artificially promoted vertical service has enough usage that it is nearly on par with other players in the ecosystem.

Google need not win every market. They only need to ensure there are at least 2 competing bids left in the marketplace while dialing back SEO exposure. They can then run other services to redirect user flow and force the ad buy. They can insert their own bid as a sort of shill floor bid in their auction. If you bid below that amount they’ll collect the profit through serving the customer directly, if you bid above that they’ll let you buy the customer vs doing a direct booking.

Where this gets more than a bit tricky is if you are a supplier of third party goods & services where you buy in bulk to get preferential pricing for resale. If you buy 100 rooms a night from a particular hotel based on the presumption of prior market performance & certain channels effectively disappear you have to bid above market to sell some portion of the rooms because getting anything for them is better than leaving them unsold.

Dipping a bit back into history here, but after Groupon said no to Google’s acquisition offer Google promptly partnered with players 2 through n to ensure Groupon did not have a lasting competitive advantage. In the fullness of time most those companies died, LivingSocial was acquired by Groupon for nothing & Groupon is today worth less than the amount they raised in VC & IPO funding.

Most large markets will ultimately consolidate down to a couple players (e.g. Booking vs Expedia) while smaller players lack the scale needed to have the economic leverage to pay Google’s increasing rents.

This sort of consolidation was happening even when the search results were mostly organic & relevancy was driven primarily by links. As Google has folded in usage data & increased ad load on the search results it becomes harder for a generically descriptive domain name to build brand-related signals.

It is not only generically descriptive sorts of sites that have faded though. Many brand investments turned out to be money losers after the search result set was displaced by more ads (& many brand-related search result pages also carry ads above the organic results).

The ill informed might write something like this:

Since the Motorola debacle, it was Google’s largest acquisition after the $676 million purchase of ITA Software, which became Google Flights. (Uh, remember that? Does anyone use that instead of Travelocity or one of the many others? Neither do I.)

The reality is brands lose value as the organic result set is displaced. To make the margins work they might desperately outsource just about everything but marketing to a competitor / partner, which will then latter acquire them for a song.

Travelocity had roughly 3,000 people on the payroll globally as recently as a couple of years ago, but the Travelocity workforce has been whittled to around 50 employees in North America with many based in the Dallas area.

The best relevancy algorithm in the world is trumped by preferential placement of inferior results which bypasses the algorithm. If inferior results are hard coded in placements which violate net neutrality for an extended period of time, they can starve other players in the market from the vital user data & revenues needed to reinvest into growth and differentiation.

Value plays see their stocks crash as growth slows or goes in reverse. With the exception of startups frunded by Softbank, growth plays are locked out of receiving further investment rounds as their growth rate slides.

Startups like Hipmunk disappear. Even an Orbitz or Travelocity become bolt on acquisitions.

The viability of TripAdvisor as a stand alone business becomes questioned, leading them to partner with Ctrip.

TripAdvisor has one of the best link profiles of any commercially oriented website outside of perhaps Amazon.com. But ranking #1 doesn’t count for much if that #1 ranking is below the fold.

TripAdvisor shifted their business model to allow direct booking to better monetize mobile web users, but as Google has ate screen real estate and grew Google Travel into a $100 billion business other players have seen their stocks sag.

Google sits at the top of the funnel & all other parts of the value chain are compliments to be commoditized.

  • Buy premium domain names? Google’s SERPs test replacing domain names with words & make the domain name gray.
  • Improve conversion rates? Your competitor almost certainly did as well, now you both can bid more & hand over an increasing economic rent to Google.
  • Invest in brand awareness? Google shows ads for competitors on your brand terms, forcing you to buy to protect the brand equity you paid to build.

Search Metrics mentioned Hotels.com was one of the biggest losers during the recent algorithm updates: “I’m going to keep on this same theme there, and I’m not going to say overall numbers, the biggest loser, but for my loser I’m going to pick Hotels.com, because they were literally like neck and neck, like one and two with Booking, as far as how close together they were, and the last four weeks, they’ve really increased that separation.”

As Google ate the travel category the value of hotel-related domain names has fallen through the floor.

Most of the top selling hotel-related domain names were sold about a decade ago:

On August 8th HongKongHotels.com sold for $4,038. And the buyer may have overpaid for it!

Google consistently grows their ad revenues 20% a year in a global economy growing at under 4%.

There are only about 6 ways they can do that

  • growth of web usage (though many of those who are getting online today have a far lower disposable income than those who got on a decade or two ago did)
  • gain marketshare (very hard in search given that they effectively are the market in most markets outside of China & Russia)
  • create new inventory (new ad types on Google Maps & YouTube)
  • charge more for clicks
  • improve at targeting by better surveillance of web users (getting harder after GDPR & similar efforts from some states in the next year or two)
  • shift click streams away from organic toward paid channels (through larger ads, more interactive ad units, less appealing organic result formatting, etc.)

Wednesday both Expedia and TripAdvisor reported earnings after hours & both fell off a cliff: “Both Okerstrom and Kaufer complained that their organic, or free, links are ending up further down the page in Google search results as Google prioritizes its own travel businesses.”

Losing 20% to 25% of your market cap in a single day is an extreme move for a company worth billions of dollars.

Thursday Google hit fresh all time highs.

“Google’s old motto was ‘Don’t Be Evil’, but you can’t be this big and profitable and not be evil. Evil and all-time highs pretty much go hand in hand.” – Howard Lindzon

Booking held up much better than TripAdvisor & Expedia as they have a bigger footprint in Europe (where antitrust is a thing) and they have a higher reliance on paid search versus organic.

The broader SEO industry is to some degree frozen by fear. Roughly half of SEOs claim to have not bought *ANY* links in a half-decade.

Long after most of the industry has stopped buying links some people still run the “paid links are a potential FTC violation guideline” line as though it is insightful and/or useful.

Ask the people carrying Google’s water what they think of the official FTC guidance on poor ad labeling in search results and you will hear the beautiful sound of crickets chirping.

Where is the ad labeling in this unit?

Does small gray text in the upper right corner stating “about these results” count as legitimate ad labeling?

And then when you scroll over that gray text and click on it you get “Some of these hotel search results may be personalized based on your browsing activity and recent searches on Google, as well as travel confirmations sent to your Gmail. Hotel prices come from Google’s partners.”

Zooming out a bit further on the above ad unit to look at the entire search result page, we can now see the following:

  • 4 text ad units above the map
  • huge map which segments demand by price tier, current sales, luxury, average review, geographic location
  • organic results below the above wall of ads, and the number of organic search results has been reduced from 10 to 7

How many scrolls does one need to do to get past the above wall of ads?

If one clicks on one of the hotel prices the follow up page is … more ads.

Check out how the ad label is visually overwhelmed by a bright blue pop over.

Worth noting Google Chrome has a built-in ad blocking feature which allows them to strip all ads from displaying on third party websites if they follow Google’s best practices layout used in the search results.

You won’t see ads on websites that have poor ad experiences, like:

  • Too many ads
  • Annoying ads with flashing graphics or autoplaying audio
  • Ad walls before you can see content

When these ads are blocked, you’ll see an “Intrusive ads blocked” message. Intrusive ads will be removed from the page.

The following 4 are all true:

And, as a bonus, to some paid links are a crime but Google can sponsor academic conferences for market regulators while requesting the payments not be disclosed.

Hotels have been at the forefront of SEO for many years. They drive massive revenues & were perhaps the only vertical ever referenced in the Google rater guidelines which stated all affiliate sites should be labeled as spam even if they are helpful to users.

Google has won most of the profits in the travel market & so they’ll need to eat other markets to continue their 20% annual growth.

Some people who market themselves as SEO experts not only recognize this trend but even encourage this sort of behavior:

Zoopla, Rightmove and On The Market are all dominant players in the industry, and many of their house and apartment listings are duplicated across the different property portals. This represents a very real reason for Google to step in and create a more streamlined service that will help users make a more informed decision. … The launch of Google Jobs should not have come as a surprise to anyone, and neither should its potential foray into real estate. Google will want to diversify its revenue channels as much as possible, and any market that allows it to do so will be in its sights. It is no longer a matter of if they succeed, but when.

The dominance Google has in core profitable vertical markets also exists in the news & general publishing categories. Some publishers get more traffic from Google Discover than from Google search. Inclusion in Google Discover requires using Google’s proprietary AMP format.

Publishers which try to turn off Google’s programmatic ads find their display ad revenues fall off a cliff:

“Nexstar Media Group Inc., the largest local news company in the U.S., recently tested what would happen if it stopped using Google’s technology to place ads on its websites. Over several days, the company’s video ad sales plummeted. “That’s a huge revenue hit,” said Tony Katsur, senior vice president at Nexstar. After its brief test, Nexstar switched back to Google.” … “Regulators who approved that $3.1 billion deal warned they would step in if the company tied together its offerings in anticompetitive ways. In interviews, dozens of publishing and advertising executives said Google is doing just that with an array of interwoven products.”

News is operating like many other (broken) markets. The Salt Lake Tribune converted to a nonprofit organization.

Many local markets have been consolidated down to ownership by a couple private equity shop roll ups looking to further consolidate the market. Gatehouse Media is acquiring Gannett.

The Washington Post – owned by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – is creating an ad tech stack which serves other publishers & brands, though they also believe a reliance on advertiser & subscription revenue is unsustainable: “We are too beholden to just advertiser and subscriber revenue, and we’re completely out of our minds if we think that’s what’s going to be what carries us through the next generation of publishing. That’s very clear.”

We are nearing many inflection points in many markets where markets that seemed somewhat disconnected from search will still end up being dominated by Google. Gmail, Android, Web Analytics, Play Store, YouTube, Maps, Waze … are all additional points of leverage beyond the core search & ads products.

Google is investing heavily in quantum computing. Google Fiber was a nothingburger to force competing ISPs into accelerating expensive network upgrades, but beaming in internet services from satellites will allow Google to bypass local politics, local regulations & heavy network infrastructure construction costs. A startup named Kepler recently provided high-bandwidth connectivity to the Arctic. When Google launches a free ISP there will be many knock on effects causing partners to long for the day where Google was only as predatory as they are today.

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How to Write Product Descriptions That Convert

Looking for actionable information about how to write effective product descriptions?

You’ve come to the right place.

In this 4,000+ word product description guide, we’ll take a look at:

What Is A Product Description?

A product description is the most important, high-touch marketing copy that helps your website visitors understand whether a product is for them and will influence the outcome of their purchasing decision. This is the perfect opportunity for you to showcase who the product is for and who it isn’t by not only presenting features but also the benefits, in such a way that it will compel your ideal customers to make a purchase.

Sadly, product descriptions are often overlooked and kept very simple or stuffed with generic blocks of text that just describe a product and not only harm your reputation but also affect your website’s ability to rank for a particular keyword.

The great thing is you can do something about it.

While we can’t promise that this guide will help you write the perfect product description for your eCommerce website every single time or your clients’ eCommerce websites, it certainly the best place to start. The truth is that you’ll only learn by actually putting everything in this guide into practice – so make sure all your reading doesn’t go to waste.

The Step-by-Step Process of Writing A Great Product Description

Before we dive into some examples, let’s take a look at what we’ve learned by taking a look at some of the most successful eCommerce stores in the world.

1. Put Yourself in Your Ideal Buyer’s Position

If you would be on the fence, what would you want from a product description?

The best advice that anyone will be able to give you without knowing your situation or saying “it depends”, is to put yourself in your customers’ shoes and ask yourself the following what would I want to know if I’ve never heard of [BRAND] and [PRODUCT]?

2. Focus on Benefits Not Features

Describing your product to your website visitors as if they’re already 100% sold and just want to know more about your product will not result in an effective product description.

Most, if not all, won’t be certain that they need your product once they land on a sales page so you need to make use of the product description as an opportunity to showcase why people need your products, by presenting benefits, not features.

Features:

  • Noise Removal
  • Chatbot integration
  • Built-in pockets

Benefits:

  • Speak without the noise – be heard by call participants. Remove all background noise.
  • Automatically responds to your customers’ questions (and actually sounds like a real human)
  • Safely stores your phone, keys, and credit cards while you run

Notice the difference? Not only does talking about the benefits of a product make it easier for potential customers to see the value, but it’s also far less generic and boring than just listing everything that’s included with your product. Although being fully transparent about what’s included should always be a priority, so sacrificing that is not an option.

3. Use Social Proof to Your Advantage

If you were about to purchase a product, wouldn’t know that you’re in the good company put you at ease?

Never fake social proof. 

Not only is this highly unethical, but it’s also extremely unprofessional. If you don’t have people happily using your products, don’t mislead people into purchasing them by making it look like you do.

If people haven’t given you direct feedback in the form of testimonials there are still alternative ways to improve the credibility of your product pages. One of which is the popular “as seen on” or “already with us” section that is common on a lot of websites.

You’ve seen it before, almost every website has it.

Knowing you’re in good hands makes you comfortable.

rank-math-homepage-social-proof

The use of social proof on the Rank Math homepage

No surprises here, the lemlist homepage also has it.

lemlist-homepage-social-proof

The use of social proof on the Lemlist homepage

And so do thousands of other successful, highly-converting websites.

kali-forms-social-proof

The use of social proof on the Kali Forms pricing page.

contentking-social-proof

And one final example of social proof on the ContentKing pricing page.

Another slightly different approach is case studies. No, I’m not talking about the kind of SEO case studies you’ll find here on Gotch SEO. To support and add to your product descriptions being able to showcase how you’ve been able to help current customers, just like Servebolt does is another great, and perhaps even more effective, way of incorporating social proof on your website.

servebolt-mythemeshop-case-study

As for how this ties into product descriptions, I would personally recommend writing a small outtake that includes all of the most important information for each case study. This will allow you to link to the full case study for those who want to learn a lot more about exactly what you did and how it was helpful.

4. Make Your Product Description Easy-to-Follow

Don’t make it hard for your customers to find what really matters to them and make it easier for them to see what you really want them to.

While the content of your product description is important, on its own, it can’t make a huge impact if your page layout makes information hard to read and hard to find.

Poor product pages that likely can’t be considered helpful will have blocks of text, no images and information that hasn’t been arranged in any logical way. Of course, ensuring that your product description’s content is fairly good, but ensuring that it’s structured and organized well is equally important.

5. Leverage Product Data To Acquire Rich Snippets

amazon-review-rich-snippet

As we’ll look at later on in this post. Amazon makes use of structured data –often referred to as Schema markup – to display additional information in search. This can be extremely effective in some cases because it helps your website stand out among the others – increasing the chances that a searcher will click on your result.

rank-math-schema-markup

The Rank Math WordPress SEO plugin is the perfect way to do this. The good news is that whether you’re using their full suite of SEO tools for your WordPress websites or not, you can still leverage their WooCommerce SEO functionality in combination with any other SEO plugin.

If your eCommerce website uses WooCommerce, which is a highly flexible platform for creating complex stores and have installed Rank Math, just head to your product page.

woocommerce-product-page

And then click edit on the specific product that you’d like to edit and scroll down to the meta box and click Rich Snippet. This will then let you enable the Product Rich Snippet to show searchers additional information without them clicking through to your website.

woocommerce-seo-product-snippet-rank-math

Disclosure: I do work with Rank Math but am an avid user of their plugin – and recommended their tools – long before doing anything together.

6. Use Language That Sells: Power Words Not Keywords

While keyword stuffing used to work well on Google back in 2011, (thankfully) those days are over. Google has gotten a lot better at understanding what users actually want (search intent) and catching out people who are trying to game the system.

Here’s what you should focus on instead.

dollar-shave-club-copy-example

Nope, it’s not time to go and shave. This is a screenshot of one of the examples that we’re going to be taking a look at later. They use power words to evoke emotions and develop a connection between their potential customers and their product.

This is the time to let your product shine, don’t just paint the picture by telling a descriptive story, use powerful, convincing and specific words so your customers will understand exactly how good your product is.

7. Use Great Product Images

I’m not going to lie, this isn’t easy to do for physical products especially if you’re on a budget. The good news is that if you’re selling digital products and courses, producing aesthetic and appealing images isn’t actually that difficult. There are so many pieces of photo editing software to choose from and the key is keeping designs simple.

Physical products, on the other hand, are a completely different story. The example of Dollar Shave Club that we’re going to look at later on is a great example.

You want your images to be true to life and realistic but you also want them to look good enough to be on your website. 

product-images-example

How difficult producing images like this really depends on what the product actually is. In any case, images should:

  • Be visually appealing (in terms of color and angle)
  • Be realistic (set reasonable expectations)
  • Be high-resolution – this not only looks more professional but also makes it easier for potential customers to zoom in and see minor details before purchasing
  • Capture the important aspects of your product (effectively portray sizes)

One creative example of this for a clothing brand would be to have the model try all various sizes of a t-shirt or hoodie so that the customers can see how the fit varies as this will help them make a better choice for themselves.

  • Bonus: Templates To Help You Write Better Product Descriptions

Obviously, I must preface the examples below with the fact that they’ve been written for a very general and non-specific course and follow the templates almost exactly. The truth is that you shouldn’t need a template to follow word-for-word, but these are great guidelines when you have no idea where to start and what to include.

Template #1: The “Ideal You” Template

Have you ___________________________? (struggle)

Learn to _______________ (key takeaway to overcome struggle)

without _______________ (pain and/or challenge).

(Product name) ______________

is ______________ (product benefits).

Example:

Have you struggled to grow your SEO agency? Learn how to turn complicated processes into easy, repeatable tasks that you can outsource and scale. Make agency life enjoyable.

Template #2: The “Perfect For” Template

Perfect for ___________________________ (ideal situation),

these _______________ (product name)

can be/will _______________ (tell a quick story).

(Product name) ______________

are ______________ (top features)

to _______________ (product benefits).

No more _____________________ (pain and/or challenge).

Example:

Perfect for stressed-out agency owners, these SOPs will make processes repetitive and easy to outsource. Our in-depth SEO training was built for people just like you with the potential to scale their agency beyond just themselves.

No more selling yourself short or just charging an hourly rate for your expertise.

Template 3: The “I’ve Been In Your Shoes” Template

I created _________________ (your product)

when I was ________________ (describe yourself before you created a solution)

and ______________________ (pain or frustration).

I wanted _____________________ (best case scenario).

That’s why I created _____________________ (product name)

with ___________________ (top features).

Now I _______________________ (product solution)

Example:

I created this in-depth SEO training course for people in the position I was two years ago. Not knowing what to outsource and where to begin. I wanted the ability to take days off without knowing that I’d be falling behind on client work. That’s why I created this set of SOPs to streamline and take the guesswork out of growing your agency. Now you never have to worry about creating your own SOPs for VAs and employees to follow and keeping everyone up-to-date anymore!

Product Description Examples

1. AppSumo

appsumo-product-description-example

AppSumo – originally founded back in March of 2010 by Noah Kagan – is a deals marketplace for digital products and online services. They are extremely well-known for offering lifetime deals on SaaS products or subscription products that you would typically have to pay for every month.

As you might’ve seen if you follow Nathan Gotch on Twitter (@nathangotch) which I highly recommend you do, you’ll know he isn’t a fan of fake scarcity and urgency.

 

The truth is, however, that AppSumo’s model doesn’t rely on fake scarcity because once a deal disappears, it really is gone unless the company decides that they’d like to resurface the deal for a second time. As you’d expect, this use of scarcity is effective. Just like Snapchat, where messages and images are ephemeral the concept just psychologically encourages action and faster purchases.

Urgency and scarcity are now widely used across marketing campaigns to increase engagement and boost conversions simply because it works. I personally (and I’m sure Nathan himself would agree) don’t like the general concept of overusing it and would carefully consider doing something with a client or on my own site that uses scarcity.

That being said, AppSumo is a different case, their business model of negotiating exclusive deals is successful and their website is also a great place to look for inspiration when writing your own product descriptions.

For the purposes of this breakdown, we’ll be taking a look at Krisp – a noise-canceling application that aims to make calling easier and more productive by removing background noise.

appsumo-krisp-example-product-description

In case this is the first time you’ve stumbled across AppSumo – their deal pages are always very conversational. They make use of creative headlines and tell stories that help customers understand when and why you’d need the product.

AppSumo’s Product Description Model:

  1. Set the scene, introduce (or re-introduce) the problem.
  2. Enter [PRODUCT NAME]

Sounds simple enough to replicate, right? Yes, but don’t forget that you still need to give customers all the information that they’re looking for.

So, as you scroll down, the page transitions into an easier-to-digest section that breaks down exactly what you get. This is the section that most people skip to and read.

appsumo-overview-skim-reading-section

And towards the end of the page it again reminds people what they’ll get when they purchase the product and how it helps them as well as diving deeper with a demo video and screenshots showcasing the interface.

2. Apple

apple-homepage

Apple obviously speaks for itself and needs no introduction.

They can also truly be considered a gold standard when it comes to eCommerce websites. Though keep in mind, Apple’s market share and authority in the industry also means that they don’t really need to go through a lot of the effort that your business and eCommerce website will need when it comes to building trust with potential buyers.

Just keep this in mind as we analyze the way that Apple’s product descriptions work – I really don’t want to say the infamous “it depends”, but I suppose it really does when it comes to looking at situations like Apple’s MacBook Pro line-up. Most people already know that they want to purchase the computer once they make it to the product page so it simply becomes a matter of comparing the different models and specifications with their respective prices to make a decision based on the buyer’s specific requirements.

This also contributes to the logic of having a reverse product description, where instead of being taken to a landing page, a user will see the information that is most important to them – also one of the easier decisions to make – the size of the computer you’d like to buy.

macbook-product-page-example

And only then further down on the page are you able to start comparing the base model that you’d like to purchase as is or then customize even further before buying.

product-page-customization-options

This makes sense for Apple, but in most cases won’t for you. Why? Well, easy:

  • Apple doesn’t need to convince you that their products are very well built. Everybody already knows this.
  • Apple doesn’t need to reassure people that their site is secure and people can enter their financial information.
  • Apple also doesn’t need social proof to encourage people to purchase their products.

 

3. Dollar Shave Club

dollar-shave-club-homepage

Dollar Shave Club is an American company based in Venice, California that sells razors and a sorted array of personal grooming products.

Simply put, they’ve got everything you need to look, feel and smell your best.

They’ve not only managed to build an incredibly successful business but also a website that now generates over 450,000 monthly visitors from search per month – with their brand keywords having search volumes that are far past the half a million mark.

ahrefs-dsc-search-volume

I’m sure you get it by now – enough with the introduction already, right?

The product pages and their respective descriptions on the Dollar Shave Club eCommerce website also serve as a great example of how to present a large amount of information in a way that is not only easily digestible but is also laid out in a way that is easy-to-remember and read quickly. All while still making the product interesting and not confusing or making information hard to find for website visitors so they stay on the page instead of bouncing elsewhere to find the information they’re looking for.

dollar-shave-club-website-personalization

So, without further ado – let’s break them down.

dsc-product-page-breakdown

  • Images Galore

The images on the Dollar Shave Club do a great job of showcasing their products in an extremely visually appealing way. As I mentioned earlier in the article, this isn’t easy to do if you are on a budget, however for some products you may be able to avoid the need to produce “real” images and can stick to using mockups as long as they are true to life and portray your product in an appropriate way.

product-description-page-important-elements

  • Just give me the price already

Don’t try to hide any crucial information (such as your product’s price) from people. Show this in an area that is above the fold or give them an easy way to jump further down on a page to the section that shows the breakdown of the price.

Price is inevitably going to be one of the main factors in someone’s decision to buy or not to buy your product so removing it or representing it in a way that makes it difficult for the user and results in bad user experience.

  • Evoke Emotion and Convey Quality with Power Words

Most SEOs writing product descriptions for eCommerce websites aren’t marketers or copywriters which often results in copy that doesn’t do your product justice. Here, I’m referring to the section in the image above labelled with the #3.

Butter up for an effortlessly gentle, delightfully smooth shave. 

Now, be honest with yourself – how does this to compare to:

Buy Our Shave Butter Now For A Better Shaving Experience

While the second one certainly isn’t the worst we’ve seen on the internet, it doesn’t actually describe your product, evoke emotion and help paint a picture in the potential customer’s mind.

*This is not an endorsement of Dollar Shave Club, I have not used their products and do not currently work with them so I cannot comment on the quality. However, given that they have formed a large part of this post, that might change soon 😉

  • Don’t just shove reasons people should get your product in their face – make them want it.

Here, I’m referring to the section in the image above labelled with the #4. Just underneath the introduction to the product that rolls of the tongue and develops an initial connection/interest with the product – people not only see what the product does on its own.

They see what the product can do for them as well as why and how.

Example #1: Helps reduce the occurrence of ingrown hairs

While this isn’t a particularly glamorous thing to talk about in this post, ingrown hairs are an apparent problem. The inclusion of this short bullet point perfectly portrays how the product can benefit people.

Example #2: Helps to fight razor bumps by providing a smoother shave

As for example #1, use your product description as an opportunity to present your product as a solution to your customers’ problem(s).

4. Amazon

amazon-dyson-product-page-example

What is Amazon? If only that question were easy to answer.

Amazon Inc. is considered one of the Big Four technology companies along with, Apple (which we looked at earlier), Facebook and Google. They have multiple business models spanning across eCommerce, cloud computing, digital streaming, artificial intelligence and more.

amazon-serp-preview

There are a few things we notice solely from looking at this search result – mainly the fact that they use the review snippet to enhance their search results.

This has been proven to result in higher click-through rates, simply because it is more visually appealing and stands out from regular/standard search results. Since this is something really easy to configure for your product pages, I highly recommend trying it out using a plugin like Rank Math (the option I recommend) or another plugin dedicated to solely adding structured data like WP Schema which is another popular option.

In describing their product, Amazon also takes this opportunity to showcase other similar products. This can be really useful if you have a number of similar products but each may only be suitable for specific use cases or have certain extra benefits.

amazon-product-page-comparisons

It can also be one of your best opportunities to upsell people to a more expensive product or even order bump them to other products and extra add-ons that they may be interested in.

Aside from all of the profit-driven decisions, there are also other reasons to do this though which makes the entire experience more enjoyable for your customers. Seeing the product that someone is about to purchase compared to another similar product not only gives them the opportunity to make alternative choices but it also helps them reaffirm their decision.

Are you really leading them to make the best decision possible?

For the sake of your own product descriptions, this doesn’t only need to be in the form of a comparison to other similar products or that you offer, it may also be a great opportunity to show people how you stack up against your competitors. After all, for most companies and their products, the decision won’t always come down to choosing from one of their products. More often than not, people will be taking your competition into consideration so use this opportunity (since you already have the attention) to close the deal.

When doing these comparisons there are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Do not hate on your competitors, give them the praise they deserve for the features that their product does have
  • Don’t lie – I sure know a few examples of people who flat-out use this as an opportunity to mislead people which they know aren’t going to do their research anyway.
  • Don’t go into so much detail that you lose people’s attention.

Although this is no easy feat, the key is to strike the right balance of SEO and UX. This means you shouldn’t making compromises that sacrifice the user’s experience.

5. Chain Reaction Cycles

chain-reaction-cycle-homepage

For our next example, we’ll be taking a look at Chain Reaction Cycles – an online retailer of cycling goods based in Northern Ireland.

The reason I chose this site is because it is a little bit of a different industry because the products they’re selling are just so different and certain information needs to be presented before cycling enthusiasts or professionals could even consider purchasing from them.

crc-product-description-example

While their website’s design is by no means the most modern out there, they do a great job of presenting technical information in a way that everything is still easy to find.

product-description-important-elements-chain-reaction-cycle

In the second, smaller box (above) labelled with the number two, you’ll see another easy way of incorporating social proof. While displaying reviews on your own site and adding logos in an “as seen on” section is also popular, it’s also easy to fake. Using the Trustpilot review badge makes their exceptional reputation even clearer to customers.

product-description-tabbed-section

Beyond this they also make it easy for customers to jump to other information to answer any questions and doubt they may have before purchasing the product right away.

While, the option to get in touch with support to ask questions should always remain in place, making useful information as easy as possible to access to remove as much friction as possible from the buying experience

Summary: Is Writing Effective Product Descriptions Difficult?

If you’ve been in the SEO industry long enough, you’ll agree that most SEO questions can be answered by really thinking through what it is that the user actually wants.

That’s exactly why this guide has been written to not only help you write better product descriptions for search engines, but also for potential customers. If you’re about to launch an eCommerce store and feel overwhelmed with the amount of small yet important things you need to remember and keep track of, you should read this eCommerce SEO checklist from ContentKing next.

What tips & advice would you share with someone looking to write more effective product descriptions?

Tweet @alexjpanagis or leave a comment below to join the conversation!!

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