An In-depth Analysis of Amazon Listing Copy to Extrapolate the Benefits of Copywriting Across All Physical Product Markets
Copywriting is a made up word, first of all. Merriam-Webster has no definition. They only define copywriter as “a writer of advertising or publicity copy.” However, contextually we can come to an agreed upon conclusion as to what is meant by the made up term “copywriting.”
It is simply the act of writing advertising or publicity copy. Most people believe the only time such a skill is relevant is when creating ads, squeeze pages or web layouts; all activities typically outsourced to professionals who possess the type of creativity that sort of writing requires.
The thing is, copywriting is far more pervasive than that. When done well it comes in handy in so many more instances, and when done poorly it hinders a lot more too. While it isn’t necessary for every business owner that sells physical products to become a master copywriter, I believe it is necessary for them to understand the core principles and familiarize themselves with best practices.
Where Else Will Copy Be Needed?
Well, if you sell a physical product of any kind online, copy will be used on every listing or catalog page that displays it. Amazon’s listings, eBay’s listings, Jet.com and even your own website. While every marketplace has its own set of rules, they are all structured similarly. Each listing will display your product and require a title and some level of description. Each platform displays a different section of information in snippets across various search engines as well. SEO, persuasive writing and all the usual tenants of good copy are at play here.
These are not long form sales letters, or even tantalizing advertisements, but they are no less important. In fact, for the online entrepreneur, the listing copy is usually the most important copy they will have. The online catalog page is the page that gets found, and makes the sale, so it is crucial it is taken very seriously and set up the right way.
So I will go over the anatomy of an Amazon listing, and how to optimize it with the best copy possible, and this will serve as a guideline for all online catalog space.
Amazon.com Listing Layout
Every marketplace sets up their catalog pages differently, but not much differently. There is a basic format that works and so most of them adhere to it. The gold standard for online catalogs is Amazon, so we’ll start with their layout.
Above you’ll see a snipped of a search page on Amazon.com. This search was for “bottle opener.” The top four results are sponsored product ads (PPC advertisements) as well as the right hand column. Then the real search results display. You’ll notice the elements that are visible are the main image, part of the title and the review ratings. These three things play a vital role in getting the click through.
After the click is won, the listing itself has many other copy elements.
Here we see the inside of a listing. This is a listing found on page one for the term “water bottle.” You will see the full title as well as bullet points intended to further express features and benefits. The title is there to convey the most enticing benefits predominantly, and the bullets are there to really drill down into what the product has to offer and further persuade potential buyers into adding it to their cart.
Here is the product description section of a listing I found while searching for “garlic press.” Amazon is testing different capabilities here (some people can include banners and photos) but the copy elements will remain the same.
While there are many other elements that do not involve copy, the three that do, again, are: the title, bullets and product description. It behooves sellers of physical products on any platform to adhere to the principles that I will now share on how to craft a great catalog listing.
How to Entice Buyers with Your Online Catalog Listing
To begin with, you must understand the psychology of an online shopper. These people are likely using the search function within their marketplace of choice (in this example, Amazon) to find the products they are considering buying. However, search in a shopping marketplace has a very different intent than Google or Bing search.
The purpose is not to gather information outside of what is needed to make a purchase decision. It is not to be educated on a subject. It is not to be entertained. It is not to look up facts, or find interesting topics to Tweet about. The purpose of this search is to find products that fill a specific need with the intention of buying them.
Knowing this would logically infer that your listing copy should be sales driven. However, many typical sales driven copy methods may not work on a shopping marketplace catalog page. Where long-form sales copy tends to be effective by painting a vivid image in the mind of a buyer, Amazon shoppers are browsing rather swiftly and the attention span you are working with is extraordinarily small.
Also, because you are working with a much smaller, narrower focused search engine, your copy must speak not just to potential buyers, but to search engine spiders as well. That means your copy should be concise yet benefit rich. Each word you use should carry as much meaning and weight possible while also being relevant and highly searched.
Crafting the Title
The title is the first piece of copy a browsing shopper will see. It is just as important as the main image. Searching shoppers look at the picture to determine whether they have found what they are looking for, but they also check the title to confirm.
To give you a real world example, imagine you are searching for a “cat grooming brush.” When you do the search, you will undoubtedly see a number of brushes on white backgrounds (Amazon’s strict rules about main images). Surely you’ll see many that look nice, but most will probably look the same. So the next step is to look at the title. The title that both confirms the validation of the search as well as conveys benefit will probably win.
To further illustrate this, if you found a decent picture of a brush but then scan the title and it says “DOG grooming brush,” you may immediately move on. However, if the title says “Grooming Brush for Cats, Dogs & Other Pets,” you both validate the search and identify the unique benefit that it will probably work for all of your pets (including the bunny).
It is also wise to also be aware of limitations placed by browsing windows. Many platforms shorten the listing information visible to fit the window it is seen in. You should know where your title is truncated on different devices so you can ensure the benefits you want conveyed appear no matter who is browsing. This means you are optimizing for mobile, search engine and the busy shopper.
You’ll want the most relevant keyword and the biggest benefit to appear within the first 80 characters. After that you may include another benefit encompassed in more highly searched keywords as well as, perhaps, your brand name and a broader keyword/benefit. Take a look at this for example:
Plastic Potato Ricer, Baby Food Press & Spaetzle Maker [Large] - Quality Kitchen Gadgets by Mo+m Kitchen
This title is only 104 characters. The main keyword is Potato Ricer. However, it can also be used to press baby food and make spaetzle. This is conveyed well within the first 80 characters. It is then followed up by the broader keyword Kitchen Gadgets and mentions the brand name at the end.
The Benefit of Bullets
The next section is what Amazon refers to as key features, but most people simply call them bullet points. This portion gives more detailed information about the features and benefits of the product. This may seem the perfect place for that awesome, long-form copy, except that most online marketplaces (Amazon included) truncates this section only leaving a certain amount of space “above the fold.”
In my experience, the better strategy is to also keep the bullet section short and to the point. You’ll still want to go into some greater detail, so you should do this by separating the information to target two types of readers. The first part of each bullet should be in all capital letters, outlining as briefly as possible the benefit. Then, you can go into a more in-depth explanation. The first portion appealing to the hurried browser, who wants to know what benefits the product has to offer but doesn’t want to learn every minor aspect. The last portion appeals to the people who like to do their due diligence, researching every angle possible before making their buying decision. Even with the deeper explanation, you want to keep as many of these “above the fold” as you can.
For the product seller not confident in their copywriting abilities, there is a simple trick to writing the bullets. If you have ever sold your product before and ever gotten reviews or feedback, often by studying these you can identify the features your customers like most. Reiterating those in your bullets puts the benefits you already know people like front and center.
If you’ve never sold your product before, but you have competitors that offer something very similar, you can mine their public reviews for the same information.
The Rarely Read, Often Misunderstood Product Description
The product description section of an Amazon listing is buried well below the fold. Many quick browsers, and even the due diligence types, don’t make it that far. For this reason most sellers ignore it completely. While it is likely not essential to conversions, it still holds its place of importance. First of all, the description is still crawled by spiders, so it has some level of weight in keyword indexing. Also, if someone DOES make it that far, they are likely very interested in your product and giving them that last push over the edge might get a sale.
There really isn’t any proven method for optimizing the product description. This is a great place for product specs, long form sales copy or even just a summary of benefits. Just as long as there are keywords in it and important information is segregated into easy to read and understand chunks, you’ll get the necessary points across.
The Tools of the Trade
Keyword.io and Keyword Dominator are both tools (limited use is free) that scrape auto-suggest results in various search engines. Merchantwords (paid, but the first few results are free….just filter by top search result to the right) is specific to Amazon and shows monthly search volume. You can also use Google’s keyword planner, but because of the difference in search intent, you’ll want to include words like “buy” or else the results may be skewed.
I’d also like to add a powerful lesson I learned from legendary copywriter Gene Schwartz. He describes copy as a storefront window. If the window is streaked, smudged or otherwise has anything on it, it will be the thing people notice. You don’t want people to notice the window. You want them to notice the product. Your copy is the same. If your copy is what people notice (whether they think it is good or bad) they didn’t focus on what was important.
Putting it All Together
When writing a catalog listing for an online marketplace like Amazon, remember to keep it concise and succinct. You want your copy to be keyword rich, conveying benefits while also appearing relevant to indexing spiders.
Most marketplaces have character restrictions, so keep the count as low as possible. Also consider your information as it appears in mobile browsers. Try to keep all important information above the fold.
At the end of the day, your catalog listing has one simple goal: to convey relevance and benefits in order to get the right information in front of your target buyer.