Earlier this year, Google revised its search-results ranking algorithm in a way that will help some online sellers and hurt others. Google constantly makes “corrective” adjustments to its algorithm, in an attempt to provide better search results for users and quash those webmasters who try to “game” the system in order to gain page position.
In Google’s sights this time were “content farms,” sites that publish low-quality or duplicate content that is intended to drive advertising revenue rather than provide valuable content to users.
An unintended consequence of the change was that many e-stores found their page ranks drop significantly. The largest drops were suffered by retailers who copied and pasted the product descriptions that were provided by their product manufacturers. Why? Because the re-used descriptions were duplicate content, and all duplicate content was downgraded by Google.
Online sellers whose page positions are lowered can suffer significant drops in revenue. Conversely, sellers whose positions substantially improve may see their cash flow turn into a cash flood. America Online statistics show that on page one of search results, position No. 1 garners 42 percent of all clicks. Position No. 2 drops more than 300 percent, down to less than 12 percent of all clicks. Lowly position No. 10 receives only 3 percent of all clicks. Dealers whose products are not showing up on page one of Google for their keywords won’t get much search traffic at all.
If Google considers product descriptions to be “online content” and rewards good content with improved page position, doesn’t it make sense to spend some time “juicing up” your product descriptions? Dealers who take the time to write good descriptions — or even slightly better descriptions — may find that their page ranks improve significantly. The improvement will come not due to great writing skills but because few dealers in the antique community take the time to write compelling product descriptions.
Most antiques and auction sites display photos of their inventory items along with a physical description of the item: what it is, what it’s made of, who made it, the condition, dimensions, etc. For dealers with thousands of online items, this is all the information that they have time to provide. What too many dealers overlook is that although it is the photos that engage the customer, it is the words that determine (among other things) their site’s page position with the search engines. Without good page position, no one will see the photos anyway.
Good written descriptions satisfy more than just Google’s search algorithm, though. The research team Lightner and Eastman at the University of South Carolina recently completed a study titled “User Preference for Product Information in Remote Purchase Environments“ (abstract). The study addressed the question of whether photos or words were more effective online selling devices. The results of the experiment consistently showed that written product descriptions resulted in higher levels of user satisfaction than pictures, although subjects expressed a strong preference for both words and pictures.
Successful online merchants will tell you that product descriptions are not about “show and tell;” they are about “show and sell.” A good description provides the shopper with item details plus the motivation to buy the item; it will engage, inform and give the shopper a reason to click the “buy now” button. In the online world, a competitor is always just a click away. It’s hard enough for a merchant to develop site traffic; if one is lucky enough (or smart enough) to have site traffic, then give visitors a reason to buy while they’re there. Give them more than just a photo and product dimensions; engage them and sell them.
With this in mind, allow me to offer four tips on how to improve your product descriptions:
Good product descriptions must satisfy two masters: the Google algorithm and the customer.
Ultimately, it is the customer that must be satisfied, but unless an online merchant gives Google what it is looking for, no customers will arrive to shop.
Wayne Jordan is a Virginia licensed auctioneer, certified personal property appraiser, and accredited business broker. He specializes in the valuation and liquidation of estate and business assets. Learn more at his website http://www.waynejordanauctions.com, at 276-730-5197 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
More from Wayne Jordan
- Behind the Gavel: Why the U.S. antiques trade needs a real national association
- Behind the Gavel: Inventory, Investment, and Perception
- Behind the Gavel: An antique shop owner’s exit strategy takes time and preparation
- Behind the Gavel: Worthpoint survey shows small antique shops must diversify
- Behind the Gavel: Antiques dealers can master Web marketing
In this highly original work, philatelist Lemerle has gathered more than 3,500 stamps–including a substantial number from the U.S.–and organized them thematically to showcase not only their beauty, but also their role as valuable documents of world history.
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