Writing product details for money when you don’t know the products

Writing product details is not my favourite freelance job. I do it when I need to, which means when I’m asked by a regular client, but I would never take on a product details job if that was the only thing on offer.

It’s not always a bust; very occasionally, you get asked to write about a product that you know, use and like. Usually, though, it’s something that may excite others but doesn’t have that effect on you; not infrequently, you have to do some research to find out what it’s for; and from time to time you find yourself working on something about which it’s impossible to work up any enthusiasm at all.

Writing product details about a galvanised mop ferrule will challenge any writer's imaginationTake one I found myself looking at yesterday: a galvanised mop ferrule. What do you think there might be to say about a galvanised mop ferrule? Well; it’s galvanised, and it enables you to attach a mop head (the kind for cleaning floors – not one of the Beatles) to a pole.

john-1411454_1920 (1)There you are: job done. Now imagine writing 150 like that, and you’ll see why I tend to quote high for this kind of work. If nothing else, the client has to pay for the time I’ll be away from my desk pulling up weeds, drinking coffee or just struggling to find a new way of saying something tedious.

So why, if they are such pests, does anyone want product descriptions at all? Funny you should ask – I had a conversation with someone early this morning (early for me, that is; he was on a different continent and would soon have been going to bed) in which I pointed out that they had no product descriptions on their e-commerce site and he said, “We don’t need them. Our customers don’t read product descriptions before they buy. They are attracted to them by commercials or information they already received from their peers.” Which may be true, but misses the point.

Product descriptions appear on e-commerce sites because they are part of the SEO. You can have all the pictures of your products you like, but search engines can’t see pictures. And, so far as I could tell, the pictures on this site had no alternative text attached to them. Product descriptions aren’t there for the people who’ve been directed to that page on your site by friends. They are there for people looking for the product who never heard of you and will have no way to find you unless, when they key the name of the product or something about it into a search engine, what they key reminds the search engine that that product is on your site.

That’s why customers with e-commerce sites like product descriptions. And why I have to write them.

I’d better make clear that what I’m talking about here is writing product details. I’m not talking about product reviews – I don’t do those at all, whoever the client and whatever pay is on offer.

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STOP PRESS: ONE DAY AFTER THIS POST WAS PUBLISHED, GOOGLE ANNOUNCED CHANGES THAT MAKE PRODUCT DESCRIPTIONS EVEN MORE IMPORTANT. READ ABOUT THEM HERE