Optimizing Online Catalog Copy for the Search Engines
It only makes sense. You have an e-commerce catalog site. You want lots of visitors to come to your site and buy. The best (and most cost-effective) way to do that is with great search engine placement. However, search engines are text machines, and most catalogs don't have a lot of text, so herein lies the problem.
The obvious answer is that you need more copy on each page. However, the pictures of your products are just as important as the copy, so they can't be removed to make more space. That doesn't leave a lot of room in the product description area, does it? Maybe not, but who said all the copy had to go in the description area? Who said you have to create a site the same way a paper catalog is created?
Sometimes we view our site's pages with a very narrow vision. This causes us to have an "it's always been done that way" mentality. While direct mail catalogs may be sorely limited on space and require short sections of copywriting, Web pages have infinite room for copy.
Your Home Page
Most often, online catalogs have a home page that is almost exclusively graphic. There may be short blips of copywriting here and there, but not much. Since your home page is the most important page to have optimized for the engines, you'll want to include a minimum of 200 words of SEO copywriting there. Don't panic? it doesn't have to all be in one place.
You can create a short section of keyword-rich body copy as an introduction to the site. Then, under a graphic of your new spring additions, include some SEO copy explaining why your visitors will just *have* to have these products. You can then add a sentence or two of copy under the graphics in your sidebar. Lastly, give the highlights of your customer-service program or money-back guarantee and an invitation to click further into the site to shop around, and you're all done.
Obviously, where the copy goes is dependent on your site's layout, but you get the idea. Spread the copywriting around. You don't have to put it all in one lump in the middle of the page.
What traditionally happens with online catalogs is that you click from the home page to a "category" page. That category page usually just has links on it to other individual product pages plus perhaps a picture or two. That's a shame because category pages are another perfect place for SEO copy.
Since keyphrases are often highly descriptive of products (i.e., crew neck sweaters, six-disc CD players, etc.), they work wonderfully on category pages. Because category pages are selective (they only show products within a certain category), they are exceptional arenas for SEO copywriting.
Let's say you have a catalog site that deals with interior design accessories for the home. One category might be Tiffany lamps. Because the phrase Tiffany lamps is also a wonderful keyphrase, its inclusion in the category page copy comes quite naturally. This means you can create SEO copywriting for the top or middle of the page (just a short paragraph or two) and also write blips of copy for each product description. For example:
Tiffany lamps have long been considered icons of style. While certain characteristics are constant (that's what makes a Tiffany lamp a Tiffany lamp), there is also tremendous variety. From Tiffany lamps for your floor to those made to adorn your ceilings, you'll find one reflective of your own personal taste and style.
Next you could list all the individual products (floor Tiffany lamps, ceiling Tiffany lamps, desk Tiffany lamps, etc.) and give brief, keyword-rich descriptions of each one.
When you get to the product description level, you'll want to include enticing, keyword-rich copy with each listing. However, you'll also want to include more text on each product page.
Consider that most people shopping online don't have the benefit of being able to touch, feel, smell, taste, or see the actual products. Use the lack of human senses to develop more descriptive information for your visitors.
You might also want to include any technical information you have for your products on the same product description page. Contrary to Internet myth, people don't mind scrolling one bit *IF* there is information they want to see on other parts of the page.
By reconsidering your catalog-copywriting techniques when it comes to the Web, you can get your e-commerce catalog ranked highly in the search engines. It just takes a little open-mindedness and a willingness to break free from the ways of the past. When you do, more customers and higher sales levels are bound to follow.
Karon Thackston © 2004
About The Author
Copy not getting results? Let Karon provide search engine copywriting, catalog copywriting, or other types for you. Just visit http://www.marketingwords.com. You can also learn to write your own SEO copy that impresses the engines and your visitors at http://www.copywritingcourse.com.
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