The roll out of Google’s Panda in 2011 has certainly made us all aware of not only duplicate content but thin content issues as well. Thin content can be found on location based pages where the site owner simply repeats all the same content on a page but changes out just the location (i.e. the city or town) for each page. Another very common place for thin content is product pages.
If your company is an e-commerce site, you probably have lots of content that serves a very utilitarian purpose: to describe each of your products. If your product descriptions are like the bulk of descriptions out there, they are probably set up to just get the job done. “The job” is to showcase your product in such a way that consumers know what they would get if they add it to their shopping cart. Many times, that means providing a product name, a short description of the product, maybe a picture, and a price – and often the image, description, and price come straight from the manufacturer, having nothing unique about them.
Utilitarian product descriptions are fine for the customers that are in the act of shopping or price comparison, but they don’t generally get shared or inspire your visitors to purchase. You can change that. There are several tactics that you can apply in concert with on-page optimization that can help. Here are six areas that are fodder for creativity:
The title and description are the main text of the product (or service) description. This is where you have some flexibility to get really creative and, even as companies like Woot have done with their descriptions, get exciting and become a phenomenon. However, you need to think in terms of being completely unique – on every page. Google is very good at pattern detection within content.
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It also appears that after the Panda roll out, longer content seems to correlate with better rankings. That longer, unique, more insightful, more valuable content seems to be something that Google is picking up on. Obviously we cannot be sure the length of the content is THE factor (it could be traffic and engagement), but we are certain thin content is taking a hit.
Google also seems to be looking at reading level and correctness of grammar and spelling. In fact, if you click “more search tools” when conducting a Google search, you have the option to click on “reading level” which displays something like the example below. Clearly Google has the ability to track this and may incorporate it into its algorithm.
We know drastically improving description can be a daunting task for larger sites. When we tackle these projects for our clients, we establish a long term vision and create a content calendar. Start building out the content on your higher traffic pages where conversions are not as high as they should be. If you have 800 pages that need to be enhanced, maybe set a goal of upgrading 20 pages per week and in less than a year you will have made a huge difference to your site. Remember to look at this as an investment, not necessarily an expense, as these improved pages will pay off long into the future.
Engaging content that has personality can engage visitors and lead them to purchase or possibly link to your page. It’s similar to having an enthusiastic salesperson in a store. When you walk in and the salesperson demonstrates her knowledge and interest in the products she sells, you will be much more likely to make a purchase than in a store where the salesperson remains behind the counter and lets the product sell itself. Why use one dull photo when you can have multiple?
Get users to click on the photos and view the product from different angles. Try taking your own photos of the product from new and interesting perspectives. And be sure to optimize every single image on the page – all pages. You might be surprised at the traffic images can drive to your website as many people conduct images searches. In an image search, the same exact photo for a product can come up multiple times for different sites. Be the unique photo in the results.
Videos can draw traffic to your website and can turn a blasé content idea into a winner. Would it be possible for you to go through each of your products and create a short video for each one? Videos are known to rank very well in the search results and they can often tell the story much better than three paragraphs of text.
These can be simple videos that you can produce yourself rather than high-end production video. With the rise of YouTube, where average people upload their own videos for mass consumption, low-budget video is now completely acceptable. So, you can paint yourself as the authority using just a handheld video camera. Short two- to five-minute videos are best, because viewers tend to have short attention spans for online video content. Within those constraints, video can be used for anything — videos can be educational or entertaining. The only limit is the imagination.
Be sure to then supplement your content by setting up a YouTube channel for all your videos, expanding your opportunity to be found in search.
#4 User Generated Content
If you provide a place for users to comment on the product or service, you’re offering a fantastic opportunity to do two things. First, you will get user-generated content on your page, which search engines love. Second, you’ll get users helping one another decide on their product selection.
Getting comments and interaction from your users is an indication to the search engines that people actually care about this specific product. It’s also increasing the amount of unique and valuable content on that page. Better yet, the comments tend to use the words that people on the Web would be searching about that topic, and that can be very helpful for your content optimization.
Even negative comments can be very useful. If the product description fails to describe the actual product in a user-friendly way, you’ll hear about it in the reviews. It’s a great place to get feedback on how you’re presenting your product. You can get creative with your comments section by using forms to get directed feedback from your users. You can ask questions like, “How did you use this product?” or “Would you recommend this to your friends?” There are many possibilities for user comments that can make your website useful to users.
#5 Product Comparisons
Shoppers spend a lot of time comparing products. Why not help them? If you add a product comparison to your description, your page will become much more useful to the visitors than the standard product page, and your visitors be more likely to return to your site to shop because they can get research information consolidated on your page. They will see your page not only as a product source but also a researching tool. For examples of some excellent product comparison features, check out the industry leaders Amazon.com and Zappos.com.
In fact, just click here to see a Google image search for “product comparison charts“. See optimized images do work!
With social media, people have become hyper-conscious of trends and trending activity in the world around them. A number of e-commerce sites are now adding statistical information with the product descriptions to show how the product is trending. Do people primarily buy this product in the summer? Is it big in California? Perhaps show the top five cities to buy this product. A really great statistic is to show what people who bought this product also bought, and link to those product pages on your site. Not the easiest to incorporate, but if you have the resources and can apply some stats to your pages, you might just find you are making a huge difference to your conversion rates and, of course, adding to the uniqueness of your content.
The goal with developing great product and service description pages is to take them from utility to exciting and engaging. Make them more useful, more helpful, and more interesting than the typical descriptions so that people will want to share the experience they had on your site with others. You want them to point to your site as a resource for the product.
Can you tell us about your experiences with improving your product or services pages? Add it to the comments below.