How important are product descriptions?
According to Neil Patel, 20% of the time someone fails to buy from a product page, it’s because of unclear or lacking product descriptions. In short, descriptions matter.
How do you write product descriptions that convert? Standard advice is to start with buyer personas and follow good copywriting principles. It’s a good start.
Let’s take it one step further and look at what’s working right now on Amazon. A data-focused look can give us insights and challenge our potentially unfounded biases.
The Categories Examined
To see what’s working right now, let’s look at the 100 top bestsellers in some of the most popular and accessible categories.
And here are the categories we’re going to examine:
- Arts, Crafts, and Sewing
- Clothes, Shoes, and Jewelry
- Grocery & Gourmet Food
- Health & Personal Care
- Home and Kitchen
- Musical Instruments
- Pet Supplies
- Sports and Outdoors
- Toys & Games
Amazon updates the bestseller lists every hour. That means the products I’m basing this study on will have changed by the time you are reading this.
However, I did check over several days, and while the ordering of the bestsellers changed, most items in the list remained in the list.
What Data We’ll Look At
We’re going to look at the shape and tone of the verbiage.
By shape, I mean sentence length. Are they short or long? How many words are used in total?
We’ll also look at the tone. To discern this, we’ll use sentiment analysis combined with a look at punctuation. If a lot of exclamation marks are used, that tells us that excited language was used. Mostly periods would show a more flat or neutral tone to the text.
You can think of sentiment analysis as opinion mining. In technical terms, it’s programmatically assigning a negative, neutral or positive score to a passage of text using previously trained models.
For us, we’re going to use that to see if more marketing-speak or hype-like phrasing is used in the product descriptions or if the best selling products are described with more moderate language.
What Is A “Product Description” on Amazon?
Here’s a screenshot of an Amazon product page. The red boxes highlight the two parts we’re going to be looking at.
The first one is called featured bullets, and further down is the product description. In this case, the product description is only a short sentence.
It’s important to consider these both when thinking of product descriptions on Amazon. You can think of the bullets as being more of a summary. And while you have a lot more room for text in the product description proper, some sellers don’t take advantage of this, as in this example.
Does it impact sales positively to have a one-liner description? Let’s dig into the data and find out.
But before we do, first a quick note about reviews.
What About Reviews?
Best-selling products will usually have lots of reviews.
It’s a virtuous cycle. More reviews help the product sell better, and the more it sells, the more reviews it gets.
The point is, you can model the perfect product description, but there’s more to selling a product than that. Images matter. Reviews matter. Customer service matters.
Yes, we’re focusing on product descriptions, but don’t forget about the other parts of this too.
However, reviews aren’t everything.
To prove that, we’ll also look at the number of reviews for the best-sellers too at the end, and you’ll see some things that may surprise you.
For now, let’s dig into the data on the descriptions.
What’s Working For Amazon Product Descriptions Right Now
- Descriptions are the longest in the baby category. But at just 144 words, they’re pretty short all overall.
- Sentence length holds pretty constantly right around 15 words per sentence. Health is the longest outlier at 19 words per sentence, and arts comes in the shortest at 13 words per sentence.
- The sentiment score is a range from -1 to 1. A score of 0 means the text is neutral in tone. Less than 0 means the tone is negative. The close to -1, the more strongly negative it sounds. The opposite holds for a positive score. Going up to 1, the closer it gets, the more positive it sounds. Note: none of these scored high. The language is slightly positive across the categories. But only slightly.
- The last three are also a sentiment check. Across the board, very few sentences end in question marks. Makes sense. Also, most aren’t using exclamation points. This jives with the sentiment score. Interestingly the toys and games category is the outlier.
- The punctuation count times the average word per sentence doesn’t exactly match the total average word count. The reason is that sellers sometimes are a bit sloppy in their grammar. Paragraphs end without a period, etc.
- Overall the data stays similar for the various categories.
- This is interesting as the formats of these two description areas are quite different. On the other hand, it makes sense that sellers writing copy for their pages would keep a similar style and tone throughout.
- Question mark usage is higher than product descriptions. Using a bullet as a qualifying question to catch browsers’ attention and get them to mentally self-qualify makes sense.
Let Common Sense Rule
The more known a product or brand, the less you need to say to make a sale.
For example, Coke only needs to show its logo, and it can sell soda. However, an unknown and novel coffee maker may need hundreds of words of text, a dozen pictures and several videos to effectively convert visitors.
The point being is that common sense needs to rule as you write copy for your Amazon products.
Success begets success. Meaning that if you are bringing a brand new FBA product to market, you will probably need to skew over the averages for length. That’s okay.
That said, you probably don’t want the sentiment to go to the high side. People tend not to believe claims that sound more like marketing. The more your comments tend toward hype, the harder it’ll be for you to prove what you are saying. Simple honesty will sell better, as Seth Godin points out when talking about how marketers are liars (or storytellers).
What About Reviews?
For sure competition is tough in the bestseller lists. Yet 5 of the categories have a bestseller on the list with zero reviews (at least at the time this data was compiled).
Now, in some cases these products were hyped pre-releases, but not always. Look at the arts category. It’s obviously just a much lower competition category.
On the flip side, the home category is going to be harder to break a product into the top 100 bestsellers, if the number of reviews is any indication.
Building An Ideal Amazon Product Description
We now have a picture of the structure of a successful product description.
The key points to keep in mind:
- Keep the tone factual. You want your description to read more like a news report instead of a sales pitch. An interesting side note, in the home category, there are products that have a slight negative sentiment score in both the featured bullets and product description. Look at the histogram below. Most product descriptions are either completely neutral at 0 or very slightly higher than zero.
- Sentence length matters. Shorter is better. Use fourteen words as a cutoff point. In other words, if you’re writing a sentence with twenty-one words, look to rephrase using a more succinct grammar structure.
- For total word count, err on the longer side as long as you are conveying useful info. In the fashion category, descriptions will tend to be shorter, but in this data, the longest was a description of 861 words in the baby category.
Lastly, something that this data-driven look didn’t involve is readability and formatting. Think of it as the user experience of your description.
To an extent, the shorter sentences speak to this, but also keep the paragraphs short. Use headings too. Readability is key.
What To Remember When You Write Your Next Product Description
Write in a factual tone. End sentences in periods as a rule and use featured bullets to ask qualifying questions to show the page visitor why they are a good fit for your product.
Write short, easy-to-read sentences.
Edit after writing to reduce total word count down to the minimum. Every word should have a purpose in moving the visitor forward to clicking the add to cart button.
Remember too that Amazon SEO is key as well. You are writing primarily for the human user. But for the human user to find your product, it has to rank in Amazon. So, writing for Amazon’s A9 engine as well.
Keep these principles in mind, and you’ll write a product description that does its job. Build your description based on data showing what’s working, and you’re a step ahead of those who go into this blindly.