Successful SEO Copywriting Tips for Catalog Marketers

catalogEvery once in awhile, I come across an oldie article that’s still a goodie – with a little updating.

I wrote this article around 2004 or so and wanted to update it because of its importance in today’s marketplace.

Catalog marketers are doing everything they can to get sales in the door and stay in business. Print costs are through the roof. Postage costs are expensive (and who knows if the post office will continue six day a week delivery?). If you’re a cataloger marketer, and you haven’t focused on your website and organic SEO, now is the time to get started.

One of the main ways catalog marketers can gain search rankings and site conversions is through well-written SEO content. Let’s get into the how-to – and discuss what catalogers can do, right now.

Catalog marketers face a unique situation: Every page means potential profit. Print catalogers have known this for some time, relying on talented copywriters to pen persuasive prose that gains qualified leads or eventual sales.

Unfortunately, what works in a print catalog (short product descriptions with multiple items featured per page), will not help a company gain online positioning in Google and Yahoo. The good news is that the same copywriters who create compelling catalog copy can master the SEO copywriting art – and you’ll see higher page rankings.

Once your marketing staff learns SEO copywriting best practices, your copywriters will produce text with a double-duty emphasis – a seductive call to action plus stellar search engine positioning. It’s simply modifying your copywriter’s existing process and learning how search engines work.

B2B or B2C catalogs – both can win with SEO copywriting!

Traditionally, B2C catalog marketers have seized the online space, knowing that search marketing lets them reach customers at every stage of the buying cycle. However, B2B catalogs can also benefit from search engine optimization techniques. For instance, if a company searches for a particular product, such as “decanter centrifuges,” top search engine positioning builds brand recognition and places your products front and center in the search engines. Although it’s true that “businesses don’t search,” individuals within those businesses need solutions – and B2B catalog optimization allows your solutions to be featured at the exact time your future customers are searching for the exact product you offer.

To simplify catalog SEO strategy, remember that you are reaching at least two distinct markets: Customers who are ready to purchase now and customers who are gathering information. Developing a content development strategy that satisfies both masters will help you drive additional targeted traffic at every phase of the purchasing process.

Let’s examine the content optimization steps catalog marketers and copywriters can take for stellar positions and conversions:

Laser-focus your keyphrase choices

Your customers use search phrases to find your products – and statistically, some search phrases are more searched upon than others. The key is to determine exactly what phrases your customers type into the search box and determine exactly how they search. Broad and specific keyphrases reach customers in different phases of the buying cycle. Once the marketing department understands user behavior and the psychology of search, this knowledge can be honed for search engine benefit.

Some searchers are close to making a purchase, know exactly what they want, and will search on highly specific phrases. For instance, one lingerie catalog site owner said that her site logs showed that women almost exclusively searched for lingerie names and stock numbers. Once they found their items (under searches like “ethereal half slip 8710”), they were ready and motivated to buy. Women were able to do their search, click through to a specific product page and immediately make a purchase. Search marketing helped this company reach women who were extremely motivated to learn about a particular product.

However, what about customers who may not have an item number – or who are in an earlier stage of the buying process? General keyphrases provide searchers an SEO road map, helping them narrow their search and gain new information. Examples of general keyphrases are “women’s half slips” (rather than the specific “ethereal half slip 8710”), “import auto parts” (rather than “FastCar body kit CX-3459”) or “decanter centrifuge” (rather than “Alfa decanter centrifuge 34X1”). Although these customers may not be ready to make an immediate purchase, your search engine presence alerts them to your site – and tempts them to click thru to gather additional information.

The best sites have a mixture of general and specific keyphrases that capture buyers in all phases of the cycle. Keyphrase research tools like WordTracker and Keyword Discovery will help your staff determine the best keyphrases for your site and will indicate how your customers search.

SEO copywriting best practice: Focus on 2-3 specific keyphrases per page, use synonyms, and (intelligently) repeat your keyphrases throughout the copy. You don’t have to worry about meeting a certain keyphrase density, but you do want to make sure that your copy reads well.

Short catalog copy won’t always work online

Google states in their Webmaster guidelines that site owners should create an “useful, information-rich site.” Additionally, the way the keyphrases appear in the body copy is incredibly important for search positioning. If your product page text is a mere 50 words pulled from the product box, the search engines may not consider your page as relevant as another site with well-written, original product copy.

Consider also that prospects are entering your site through individual product pages – not just your home page. These prospects may have no idea what your company benefits are, what incentives you offer (like free shipping) and what differentiates you from the competition. If your pages are short and benefit-free, you lose two crucial advantages:

  • Short text – especially for competitive keyphrases – typically does not position well.
  • If your landing page doesn’t educate your customer about your main benefits and provide complete product information, you’re losing an opportunity to educate your new prospect and help gain their trust.

Need another reason for your marketing department to embrace pages with a longer word count? Your customers, especially for larger-ticket purchases, require information before they will make a purchase or contact you for information. If they don’t learn what they need to know, they’ll surf to your competition. Fast.

Updated content tip: If your platform is such where you can’t edit the template – and adding new copy is impossible- a blog may provide the benefits you need. Check out this article about blogs for catalog marketers. If you don’t know what to write about in your blog, here’s a post by Google’s Matt Cutts discussing how to write useful articles.

SEO copywriting best practices for catalog sites: Although over 500 words is the SEO copywriting “sweet spot,” write as much quality copy as you can while integrating your main keyphrases.

Create unique Titles for each page

The Title does double SEO duty. Search engines consider them a highly important coding element and they index words in the Title to determine relevancy. However, Titles are also crucial to the conversion process. The words in your Title are what are displayed in search engine results as the clickable link.  If your Title doesn’t contain the main keyphrases found on your page – and fails to be compelling – you run the risk of losing positions or conversions.

Update: In a previous blog post, I discussed how Kitchen Kaboodle, a local Portland, OR retailer, could spice up their Titles for greater SEO and conversion benefit.

SEO copywriting best practices for catalog sites: Each page should have a unique Title, reflecting the keyphrases utilized for the page. Write around 50-75 characters and make the Title as compelling and keyphrase-rich as possible.

Creating keyphrase-rich content for catalog pages will help each page gain higher positioning and ROI. With just a little education, your copywriters will be kicking out keyphrase-rich copy in no time – and you’ll see top positions and sizzling conversions.

3 replies
  1. Claire says:

    As you say print prices are high, why not build an online shop and market each individual product to its best potential. The cost will probably be a lot less in comparison to print costs, and the benefits of online shopping nowadays are great. They are easy to run, update, and as each product will have a page of it’s own, the copywriters can really go for it as far as Search Engine Optimisation goes. As you have said, people who are ready to buy search for the product number as they have already done the first stages of shopping or ‘browsing’ so the money is in the more focused name and product number, colour etc.

  2. Heather says:


    Thanks so much for your comment (and for including the post to your “additional resources” section of your tutorial.) You made my day – thank you!


Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] You may have been caught in Google’s May Day algorithmic dance (for more about May Day, watch Matt Cutts’ video, read Vanessa Fox’s great post and Dave Davis’s perspective from “the other side.” One of the takeaways: Additional product content could provide a lifeline. If you’ve been relying on the “stock” manufacturer product description – and you haven’t enhanced your pages with reviews, additional value-added content and even video – now is the time. Brookstone is a great example of a company that’s doing it right – fantastic product descriptions, customer reviews and smartly optimized text. If you’ve craving more catalog marketer-focused information, check out the “10 stupid things catalog marketers do” and these “successful SEO copywriting tips” […]

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