Copywriting blog and teardowns

A few months ago, a perfectly nice fellow named Michael wrote to me with a problem…

He was launching an online outlet for furniture, and, with 100s of products lined up and more arriving regularly, he was challenged by how many product detail pages he’d have to write.

After all, every single product needed a product detail page.

Hiring a copywriter to do all that work wasn’t in his budget, so he’d have to take the work on himself.

(I’d normally advocate writing your own copy. But only because you might do it best. Not because you don’t want to crack yer wallet.)

He summarized his action plan for gettin’ all that copy written like so:

“I’ll write brief but high quality copy on the product. Factual bullet points on the materials, size and function. A longer description of the maker–this could be longer form.”

That’s probably the exact plan that 100s of ecommerce businesses have for their product detail pages from day one…

…But what the hell does it mean? Even if you knew what “brief but high quality copy” looked like – and I don’t, not even with 10 years of copywriting under my belt – approaching copy on your product detail pages in this way is, well, a conversion slayer. And not in a cool “oh, you totally slayed that” way.

If your best plan for some of the most crucial pages on your site is “be brief, be factual and talk about the maker”… let me ask you this:

What page immediately precedes the Cart on most ecommerce sites?

It’s the product detail page. Most etailers and ecommerce sites have loads of product detail pages, and each one:

  • sells 1 specific product or solution
  • that addresses a few specific problems or pains
  • in ways that other products can’t
  • for 1 or 2 audiences
  • at 1 specific price point

To do any of the above effectively, your product detail pages can’t be mass-produced. At least not if you want them to convert visitors into customers.

A $1500 writing desk that a 37 year-old woman would buy requires a different page than a $29 novelty lamp that a college student might want. Forcing your content into the same layout is hard to avoid across a large site – but failing to use your copy to highlight what your ideal prospect needs and wants to see is… kinda unforgivable. If you care about conversion.

Each individual product page has a single goal for the business: drive the visitor into the cart to purchase the product in question. And when will a visitor add something to their cart? When they’ve 1) had an emotional response to the product – or, more likely, to the benefits associated with it – and 2) justified that emotional response with logic and reason. And how do you get them to do that? With copy (and design).

The tried ‘n’ true conversion strategy of starting with emotional appeals and supporting emotion with logical appeals applies on your product detail page just like it does anywhere on your site.

So as hard as it may be to fathom writing 100s of product pages – one at a time – it’s just as hard to fathom selling many of those products if you don’t.

Josh over at gets it. Last week, he wrote to me to ask if I would do a teardown of a product detail page that he and his team have been working on. It’s awesome that they’re working so hard on their product pages, so I was more than happy to give my two cents… in just under 4 minutes… even though I aimed for 2 minutes…

Let’s Tear Down’s Product Detail Pages
(Let Me Know What Glaringly Obv Tweaks I Missed)

I understand that a lot of product detail pages – especially for larger sites – pull content from databases of product info. So it’s more complex to optimize them than it is to, say, write your home page…

But if you recognize that copy is at least as important as product shots when selling something – and if you wouldn’t dare to slap together crappy product shots – do your bottom line a favor and try this:

Start optimizing your product pages by
working on the elements in stages throughout the year

One quarter, block off time to rewrite the product headlines in your database – so they’re clear and emotional, not technical. The next quarter, run A/B tests on your calls to action. The third quarter, add a testimonial to your body copy. In less than a year, your product pages could be performing twice as well – which would never have happened if you didn’t break this task into pieces.

When it comes to optimization, you don’t have to do everything at once!

And if you’d really like to optimize the copy on your product detail pages but you truly don’t have the time, consider crowdsourcing it – at least for now

Final note: If copy doesn’t work, it’s “expensive”. If copy does work, it’s the best investment you’ll make on your site. But I may be biased. 🙂