7 disastrous (and avoidable) product description mistakes

Helen Beckingham

Keyword Copywriting

There are lots of really awful product descriptions out there.

You know the ones. Some are spookily silent about the product, others give you so much information that your head explodes – or they shout at you in CAPITAL LETTERS and a multitude of exclamation marks!!!

Here are 7 mistakes to avoid when writing product descriptions.

1. Copying from the supplier

It’s amazing how many product descriptions are lifted straight from the supplier’s website.
Copying product descriptions is a big fat raspberry – a major no-no. Suppliers don’t understand your target market. Why should they? Suppliers’ product descriptions are not meant for the general public. They’re aimed at retailers.

The first rule of product descriptions is to understand your buyer persona. Who are they? Why do they need your product? What problems does it solve for them? Always use the exact language of your target market. How would they describe your product to a friend?

And here’s another problem with copying product descriptions:

Google will notice. Search engines will treat them as duplicate content and demote your website product pages.

You don’t want that to happen.

Pro tip

Check out user forums.  It’s a great way to learn the language of your target customer. You’ll discover what they most need from your product, their worries about buying it… and what annoys them about your competitors’ products. Ker-ching!

You’re welcome.

2. Running out of steam

Yeah, I know. I’ve been there. Writing thousands of product descriptions is like climbing a mountain with a rucksack of boulders. It’s hard work – a time-consuming slog that saps your energy, drains your soul and… OK, I won’t go on about it.

Maintain your enthusiasm. Try and avoid writing too many in one sitting, because if the descriptions sound knackered, why would anyone buy your products?

Pro tip

Each time you get to a new product, take a deep breath and focus on its benefits. Every item you sell has a tangible benefit – whether that’s saving time, saving money, protecting the environment, freeing up space, improving your appearance, boosting confidence…

3. Spelling or grammatical errors

Now, I know what you’re thinking:

Do people really notice spelling and grammatical errors in product descriptions?

Yes, they do (sorry). If your product descriptions are full of mistakes, your reputation goes down the drain. Take a look at this:

Product OverviewThis women highly graded ideal cut lab-created ruby gemstone pendant. A pendant feature heart cut red color ruby stone (10mm*10mm set in a 925 sterling silver pendant. Come with a free 18 inch change and free custom gift box . Highly valuable pendant for all formal event. It is a beautiful handcrafted shiny pendant you and your partner will like it.

This product description’s peppered with grammatical mistakes.

Would you buy that “highly valuable pendant for all formal event”?

Nope. It makes the seller look dumb – and even worse, untrustworthy. They haven’t paid attention to the detail.

Pro tip

Before hitting `publish’, run your product descriptions through a spelling and grammar checker. Then proofread them backwards, sentence by sentence. You’ll notice errors without being distracted by the content.

4. Being unemotional

According to Harvard Professor Gerald Zaltman’s book `How Customers Think: Essential Insights into the Mind of the Market’, 95% of our buying decisions are driven by emotion.

Interesting, isn’t it? Human beings are not as logical as you might think.

Apparently, it’s all down to the Limbic System, sometimes called the `reptilian brain’, just underneath the cerebrum. It’s where our emotions, memory and value judgements originate.

Cross section of the human brain showing the limbic system

Our limbic system

Anyway, that’s enough biology. Basically, the Limbic System tells us what to pay attention to. It helps us make decisions.

You can take advantage of this in your product descriptions.  Here, let me give you an example:

The Chaos Theory luxury dog collar is as gorgeous as your dog. Yes, they're genuine Swarovski crystals - and even better, you can choose your own leather and crystal colour combination. Each one is unique.It's our most popular dog collar design. Paul O'Grady's dog Olga has her own Chaos Theory collar - but the chances of Olga's collar looking identical to yours are about the same as winning the Lottery. The collar is handmade from soft, supple Italian leather and each crystal is beveled into the leather by hand so they won't fall out. It feels comfortable on your dog's neck from day one and keeps getting softer as time passes. Choose your shade of leather, then pick your favourites from a sparkling rainbow of Swarovski crystal colours. For smaller collars, we'd recommend 2-3 crystal colours of each size - but with larger collars, choose as many as you'd like. If you get stuck, feel free to contact us for some ideas. Even on dull rainy days, this collar looks spectacular. When it's sunny, you'll need sunglasses. Why stop there? Treat yourself to a matching crystallised dog lead and you'll be the envey of every dog walker you meet. We can make these 1 metre leads in plain leather or with a matching crystal embellishment at the base near the clip.

Product description for the Chaos Theory luxury dog collar.

The description appeals to the emotions of a dog owner – it’s `as gorgeous as your dog’ – and it sparks the reader’s imagination (`When it’s sunny, you‘ll need sunglasses’).

Notice that this description avoids the obvious. Rather than using the tired, over-used phrase `excellent quality’, it implies the quality by describing the `soft, supple’ leather, and its comfort against a dog’s neck.

Pro tip

Use strong adjectives that appeal to the senses – words that tell a reader how they’ll feel once they own the product. And did you notice the word `you’ throughout that description? Use it all over the place. It’s one of the most powerfully emotional words in the English language.

5. Not enough (or the wrong) detail

A picture is worth a thousand words, right?

Well, yes… and no. Obviously, potential customers want to see a picture of the product that interests them – but pictures don’t provide detail.

Customers need words to determine whether a product suits their needs.

Remember what I said about buying decisions being determined by our emotions? Well, after that, we back up our decision with logic.

While paragraphs are excellent for appealing to a reader’s emotions, bullet points are where you put the logic – the noteworthy features that seal the deal.

How can you tell if a feature is noteworthy? Say the words `so what?’ to yourself. It helps you to focus on why your reader should care about the feature.

For example, `This hand blender features 1000-watt power, low-vibrate motor, anti-suction technology, 12 speeds plus turbo button.’

So what?

`You can prep with ease, and spend less time in the kitchen.’

Ah, now you’re talking. In short, it’s all about the benefits (yeah, them again).

Here are a few examples of features and benefits:


  • cotton and linen blend
  • soft and cool
  • 9 oz size food bag


  • fits easily into your handbag
  • hand-sewn shoes
  • durable all-day-long comfort

Pro tip

Use bullet points for the short, snappy details that tell a customer what’s included in the price, what your product does and how that benefits them. When you list a feature, ask yourself how it solves a problem.

6. Sounding stiff and formal

Stiff formality doesn’t sell. It will have your customers running to your competitor’s website quicker than you can say `utilises flibbertigibbet solutions’.

Like all website content, product descriptions need a friendly, conversational human voice.

Here are a few tips:

  • avoid overly complex words and `insider’ jargon
  • keep sentences short and simple – 20 words or fewer
  • use short paragraphs of 1 or 2 sentences. Remember, they’re probably reading on a mobile
  • use the exact language of your customers (we’re back to the user forums tip here)
  • make it `scannable’ with bullet points and plenty of white space

Pro tip

Read your content out loud. If you stumble over a word, replace it with one that’s easier to say. If you run out of breath, replace a comma with a full stop. And start a new sentence.

7. Using the wrong words

Some words are tediously over-used in product descriptions. I’ve already mentioned `excellent quality’ (yawn).  Apart from anything else, why would anyone believe you?

Others include:

  • the best product on the market (Why is it the best, exactly?)
  • loved by all (Massively over-selling)
  • innovative (Honestly? Is it actually innovative?)
  • solution (Don’t get me started on this one…)

So, which words should you use instead? The top 5 most influential words in product descriptions are:

  1. You
  2. Free
  3. Because
  4. Instantly
  5. New

You see these words all over the place in advertising copy – for a good reason. Simple, arresting words instantly trigger Limbic System activity. We’re hard-wired to respond to them.  Yep, instantly (see what I did there?)

How about some more power words? According to David Ogilvy (the “Father of Advertising”), the 20 most influential words for product descriptions are:

  1. Suddenly
  2. Now
  3. Announcing
  4. Improvement
  5. Amazing
  6. Sensational
  7. Remarkable
  8. Revolutionary
  9. Startling
  10. Miracle
  11. Magic
  12. Offer
  13. Quick
  14. Easy
  15. Wanted
  16. Challenge
  17. Compare
  18. Bargain
  19. Introducing
  20. Hurry

If you’re struggling with product descriptions (or just running out of steam), I can do the hard work for you. Get in touch.

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