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Product descriptions play an important role in your PLA's success. Whether a PLA appears for a search is often a direct result of the information contained within the description field of  your product feeds. For that reason, description optimization should sit very high on your list of to-dos if you're trying to improve your Google Shopping campaign performance.

Product feeds should always use their own product descriptions, separate and completely unique from the one shown on your product pages. There are several ways this can be achieved, ranging in complexity.

Often this can be as easy as assigning an empty field in the database to this alternate description. For example, maybe you have a “short description” and a “long description” field for products in the CMS, but only use one of them. The other field can serve as a way to enter alternate content for feeds, thus keeping your on-page product descriptions unique.

Worst-case scenario, even just using the meta description for product feeds and keeping your main product description exclusive would be better than duplicating the main product description in shopping feeds.

How Are Store and Feed Product Descriptions Differerent?

Product descriptions used in feeds require much less content, making it easier to scale the rewriting of feed content than the rewriting of catalog content.

Generally speaking, the product description on your site should be well optimized for search and written with customers in mind. It should sell them. It can use rich content like videos and image carousels, and can contain dozens of product photo variations. Paying close attention to these opportunities to convert on-site traffic is one way retailers can compete with juggernauts like Amazon.com.

Product feed content, on the other hand, is going to be competing with your site in the search results, along with everyone else, not to mention other results in the marketplace or comparison engine. There is much less opportunity to convert those eyes than the ones on your site, and so scalable automation becomes an option.

Why Optimize Descriptions?

When you read about Google optimization tips, you probably see one article after another emphasizing just how important the product title of your PLA is. Titles are one of the most (if not THE most) important pieces of a successful product listing. That being said, let us not forget about another piece of the listing that is often overlooked but can also help you land relevant impressions and conversions:The description.

Here are a few reasons why Google PLA descriptions are indispensable to a successful Google Shopping campaign.

Descriptions Affect Search Impressions

Google crawls your product feed to determine if your listing is relevant for different search queries. The keywords you use in both your title and description field play a role in Google determining that relevancy. That’s why it’s important to add accurate and descriptive keywords to not only you title, but your description as well.

As this process works similarly to SEO, the structure of your description needs to make sense. Keyword stuffing won’t help you come up in those relevant searches. Instead, it may hurt your listing. The content in your description needs to provide value using accurate keywords.

Descriptions Highlight Product Features

Besides the search benefits that a good PLA description provides, it also gives you a platform to tell shoppers about your product. If shoppers are taking the time to read the description, they have seen the image and title and are likely interested in learning more about the item. The description gives you the opportunity to list out product features, technical specifications and give shoppers a reason as to why the product can benefit them.

Descriptions Set Expectations

Through the Google PLA description, you have the ability to set the correct expectations about the product. This could include sizing, use cases and even washing instructions. For example, if your product is dry clean only, you’ll likely want to add this to the description. Providing this information upfront, before the customer completes the purchase, prevents an unhappy customer and potentially a bad review.

How to Optimize PLA Descriptions in 3 Steps

Google allows up to 5,000 characters for product descriptions. But you and I know that's way more than any shopper would ever read.

And yet too many of us take that for granted, pushing every bit of text in our product pages right into Google Shopping. The result? Messy product listings; unclear selling points; low click-through rates; and, ultimately, weak sales.

145 characters

Forget 5,000 characters. That's fine on your own store's product page, sure. But in Google Shopping product listings, the optimal count for full-length product descriptions is between 500 and 1,000 characters. And even then, most shoppers won't see your descriptions in full-length. That's because most shoppers will only see your product in the product search SERPs, which limit your descriptions to list view (above) and a shortened highlighted view (below).

180 characters 

If you're going to get shoppers to expand and click through to your product, you'll need to make sure your descriptions are optimized for character counts that will get you the widest reach. Here's how...

1. Establish Information Hierarchy

Google Shopping SERPs only show the first 145-180 characters of your product description so it's important to put the most important information first. If you can fit these key pieces of information within the first 180 characters of your description, even better.

Here's a list of data points you'll want to consider as your lead:

  • Brand
  • Products type (e.g., sandal, computer, fish bowl)
  • Who it’s for
  • Remaining information from the “always include” list below

2. Always Include These In Your Descriptions

These are absolute must-haves. That doesn't mean you can't go well beyond adding just this information, but it does mean you cannot afford to neglect it if it's applicable to your products. Again, try to fit most (or at least some) of these within the first 145-180 characters of text.

  1. Size
  2. Shape
  3. Pattern
  4. Texture
  5. Design
  6. Material
  7. Intended age range
  8. Special features
  9. Technical specs

3. Never Include these In Your Descriptions

Google is serious about the rules. Stray a little and you'll be warned. Stray a little more and you can kiss your AdWords account goodbye. That's why it's so important that your product listings always adhere to Google's guidelines.

Here are some things your product feeds should never have:

  • Promotional text like “Free shipping” or “On Sale Now”
  • BLOCK CAPITALS
  • A description of your company or brand
  • Details or descriptions of other products or accessories
  • Comparison to other products that you are selling (e.g., twice as fast as X)
  • Links to your store (or other websites)
  • Information on billing, payment or sales
  • References to categorization systems that you use internally (e.g., Computers > Laptops > Touch Screens Laptops)

Finding the Right Keywords

When it comes to Google Shopping PLA descriptions, you want to make sure you are including keywords that help your listings appear in relevant searches.

The keywords you use in your description should highlight the most important attributes of your products. Think like your customer. What keywords are they likely to search? What attributes are most important to them?

Thinking up the perfect keywords can be overwhelming. That’s why we’ve listed a few ideas to help get you started.

Product Type

This may be an obvious one, but it’s definitely worth a mention. Make sure you put the product type towards the beginning of the description since it is one of the most relevant attributes. Some product type examples include a tote, beach towels, floor lamps, and ceiling fans.

Brand

For those shoppers who love certain brands, the brand of a product can be crucial to them when selecting which listing to click on. That's why you always want to add the brand name into your description field.

Size

The sizing of a product is usually a pretty relevant feature across multiple product categories. Whether your selling clothing or a comforter set, the size is a need to know piece of information for many shoppers.

Pattern

Whether it’s paisley, floral, or chevron, shoppers want to know what type of pattern your product comes in.

Texture

Is your product smooth, silky, rough? Since the shopper doesn’t get to feel your product in person, you want to describe it for them. For example, if you sell soft sheets and pillow cases, you’d want to add “soft” to the description.

Design

People can be very specific about the actual design of the product that they want. Google uses the design example of “retractable ballpoint pens.” Other design examples include folding chairs, rotating spice racks, three-legged tables, slip-on sneakers, pull-out sofa beds, and a rolling cooler.

Material

Before buying a product, it’s common for people to inquire about the material. Some may want a “leather coat” while others may want a “vegan leather” coat. The description is a great place to be specific about the material your product is made from.

Intended Age Range

If you are selling something like a toy, movie or video game that is only meant for a certain age range, add the age range to the description.

Special Features

Is there anything special about your product that you want shoppers to know? Say you’re selling a beach chair. If it has a drink holder, you’d want to use this feature as a keyword in your description. Another special feature example is a phone case that has a credit card holder attached.

Technical Specifications

Selling a computer or another form of electronics? Add in technical specs so the shopper knows the nitty-gritty details about the electronic they’re purchasing. Technical specs can include the type of processor, RAM and hard disk space, or the model.

Product Usage

What can your product be used for? While it’s obvious what a suitcase is used for, it may not be so obvious that you are selling a suitcase that can be used as a carry-on as opposed to a checked baggage. If you sell a blender, list out some foods/drinks the blender can be used to make such as smoothies, soups and dressings.

Conclusion

Well planned, well written, optimized product descriptions in Google Shopping can go a long way toward improving the visibility of your products, boosting click-through rates and preparing shoppers to buy once they get to your product page.

Using accurate keywords in your PLA and framing them in a way that helps shoppers quickly identifies the benefits of your products will make a huge impact on your PLA's performance.

For more tips on keyword research and PLA best practices, check out The Complete Guide to Optimized Google Shopping Campaigns.

How to Scale Product Description Copywriting

Perhaps the easiest way to ensure your content stands out is to write unique content for your own product descriptions, and use the description provided by the manufacturer in product feeds.

Another way to scale product feed copywriting is by tapping into lots of data about each product (if you have it) and creating rules that allow some very smart software to semi-automate the process -- always with the careful guidance of an experienced copywriter. We’ve experimented with this at Inflow, and will have some case studies coming out on the blog soon.

To summarize our findings: Machine-learning-enhanced product copywriting works if you have access to rich data about the products.

Without rich data about each product, it is best to write product feed descriptions the old fashioned way: Copywriting and merchandising interns - under the careful guidance of an experienced copywriter or merchandiser.

Let sites like Amazon and eBay handle all of that duplicate content while you enjoy the unique advantage of being able to scale better copy for your own descriptions.

TL;DR - Amazon already has the upper hand in search, along with the reputation to make Google think they’re the ones who own the content. Win back some of your search traffic from Amazon and other third-party merchants by keeping your best content exclusive to your own site.

Bonus tip:

Now that you aren’t feeding out the content, all product descriptions on your own site should be unique (assuming you aren’t using a manufacturer's’ description). This means you can easily find websites that steal your content and report them to Google via this DMCA complaint formNobody should ever outrank you for your own content.

This approach will allow you to compete on other marketplaces and comparison shopping engines, while not cannibalizing your opportunity to win new customers directly from search engines. And that means lower acquisition costs, and more profit.