Product Descriptions: Optimizing your Product Page

Simple illustration of person holding an armful of balls, looking at one in their hand quizically. The balls are labelled "CMS" and "PIP"

It was way too late in my working life that I learned what a PIP is. I’d been optimising PIPs for years without realising it because I didn’t know that “PIP” just means “product page.” You know, the thing with the pictures and the info that has the buy button.

One of the problems with being or working in a small business is you don’t learn all the acronyms and words for the tools or things you’re working with. That doesn’t mean you don’t know how to use them, but it can hinder your ability to learn how to use them better because you can’t search for information more precisely.

Even if you do feel like you’ve done ALL the research and your brain is bursting with all the stuff you know, take a gander at the linked resources. I’ve found that there’s value in not only learning a new thing, but learning a new thing and thinking “that’s stupid, I hate that.” Knowing what doesn’t, or won’t, work for you is as important as learning what will.

Person holding an armful of balls, looking at one in their hand quizically. The balls are labelled "CMS" and "PIP"

Some e-Commerce terms and things about them

I’m not going to give you an exhaustive list of words to know. There’s a nice e-commerce glossary at Demac Media that should give you some jumping off points for further research, but we’re going to just look at a couple terms that will help you out with the basics.

 

CMS (Content Management System)

Dang, that sounds very intimidating but it just means “how you put things onto the web.” So if you are using WordPress, Etsy, Shopify, Magento, whatever, you’re using a CMS.

There are a whole bunch of content management systems out there and you’ve already probably put lots of thought already into the one you’re using and why you picked it. All the advice I have here is take a couple hours each month to just search around and see if there are any good articles, tips and tutorials on getting more out of the CMS you’re using.

Some CMS are very straightforward, some are labyrinthine, but there are always updates and cool things you can learn to make using it easier or less stressful. One of the wonderful things about the internet is that the answer to what you’re looking for just might not have been posted yet. Wait a couple months and it may appear.

 

PIP (Product Information Page)

I personally call this the product page but it’s also known as the product detail page, product selling page or about a half dozen other things that convey the same meaning. If you are linking someone to a product, you’re linking them to the product’s page.

There is a very thorough breakdown of product page elements over at Econsultancy, with lots of visual examples and clear explanations of what goes on a page and why.

Here’s my main advice about the product page: If possible, set up your content management system to keep romance copy and product details like content and care in two separate fields, because nothing is worse than updating what something is made of and introducing a Big Ol’ Typo to the main stuff. Or deleting the main stuff.

It may feel frustrating as heck sometimes to keep things modular, but it can make a huge difference when you get to a point where you have lots and lots of products (and it makes using a CSV to import or change product copy a dream). If you’ve ever had over a dozen product tabs open, making granular changes in each one because sometimes suppliers are so dang stupid, then you know what I mean.

 

Short Description

Wait, we already did this, right? And we needed a super long description, so what is with this short description junk?! Well, some content management systems and product pages have an area “above the fold” for a bite-size bit of product description. That’s the short description.

Let me back up, “above the fold” is the stuff you see before you scroll, a term holdover from newspaper days. If a product page has a lot of images, or if you’re on mobile, then there’s not a lot of room for all that romance copy and the product details. A good product page has the “BUY ME” button above the fold, so a solid short description is your first chance to get someone to buy your product.

It’s also a very useful thing once we start looking at how your product appears on a search engine page. Some examples and a longer description of the short description (haha) are here at Modern Retail.

On the product page, sometimes a short description stands alone, just sort of hanging out next to the image. More commonly there’s a little “read more” link that either unscrolls the copy or jumps you down the page to a longer product description.

A person is juggling four balls, three are labelled "SEO", "PIP" and "CMS"

Using that e-commerce vocab

Remember what I said a little earlier about keeping your romance copy and your product details separate if your CMS allows it? Partially that’s so any selling points in your product details don’t get lost if the product page is buttoned up and only showing the short description. That’s all three vocab words in a paragraph!

But really, let’s look at what I mean. We’ll use the product description we put together when learning about romance copy, here’s the whole thing for reference:

This dramatically oversized bath bomb is just what the doctor ordered! One of the oldest cleansing and protective scent blends is Four Thieves Vinegar—a blend, the story goes, that was used by four dastardly and enterprising robbers for protection as they stole valuables from plague-struck houses.

Our Four Thieves bath bomb is only looking to steal away your stress with a blend of essential oils that are known for their antiseptic, antibacterial, and general cleansing properties. Gorgeously gloomy grey, with warm top notes of clove and lavender that float dreamily above purifying white sage and rosemary and the sharp, cleansing tang of camphor.

Okay, now let’s look at that same copy with two different types of CMS managing the product page.

 

The Etsy (the fadeout)

Etsy seems to show about eight lines before fading into the “+More”. So what does our copy look like with that?

This dramatically oversized bath bomb is just what the doctor ordered! One of the oldest cleansing and protective scent blends is Four Thieves Vinegar—a blend, the story goes, that was used by four dastardly and enterprising robbers for protection as they stole valuables from plague-struck houses.

Our Four Thieves bath bomb is only looking to steal away your stress with a blend of essential oils that are known for their antiseptic, antibacterial, and general cleansing properties. Gorgeously gloomy grey,
+More

 

Not bad! The Etsy product page has ingredients listed in the right sidebar, so that’s more info above the fold. I got rid of that extra carriage return after the first paragraph to tighten things up and bring some of the more directly descriptive copy above the fade.

 

The Farmer in the Dell (short description stands alone)

For this, think of any product page that has the product image, the buy button and social media links above the fold, with only a tweet-length bit of text for the copy.

If you let the CMS automatically select the short copy (which some do), they tend to limit it to 160 characters. That would make our short copy this:

This dramatically oversized bath bomb is just what the doctor ordered! One of the oldest cleansing and protective scent blends is Four Thieves Vinegar—a blend…

Not great. So bring up your favourite way to count characters and let’s refine this. I just use Excel, because of course I do, but Word Counter has a nice little online tool. It counts as you go, so you can fiddle. Remember, you want to get the key info up there right off the bat.

Our dramatically oversized Four Thieves bath bomb is just what the doctor ordered to steal away your stress with a cleansing blend of essential oils!

And we got it in 149 characters! All we’d need to change in the longer romance copy further down the page is chopping out the first sentence so there aren’t too many jarring phrase repeats.

Even if your content management system doesn’t have a field for your short description, it’s worth thinking about what it would be and setting that aside for later.

Figuring out how to crop out chunks of existing copy is useful not just for short descriptions, but for posting on social media. A nice thing to have is a spreadsheet with all your copy in it, both long and short product descriptions, so you can pull as needed and so you have a backup in case something terrible happens.

 

It’s especially useful when you start trying to improve what your product pages look like when they show up on in web searches. We’ll be going over that next!

 

This post was originally published on my Patreon. Patrons get early access to posts and their support keeps me going on a lot of levels. Thanks, y’all!

 


Also published on Medium.

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