Fixing Amazon Description Problems in Channel Advisor

One of the biggest issues we've had with launching a new client on the ChannelAdvisor platform is getting their descriptions to 'fit' in Amazon's stringent description area. If you want to sell something, you already know you have to have a decent description for that item, but coming up with something unique and putting a bunch of character limitations on it can be a recipe for frustration.

There are a few things and one tool that we've discovered here that can help make that process a little less ready-to-pull-your-hair-out.

First, the simple stuff.

Amazon descriptions must be 2000 characters or less.  Not words - characters.  This includes spaces, > symbols and even carriage returns. To find character counts we use LetterCount.com

If you're exporting your products from a system like WooCommerce or Magento, we recommend you use your short description field, as typically this is, well, shorter, and usually fits within the character limit imposed by Amazon.

Yes, there are a few cases where vendors (like Nike and Apple) where they get more than the 2000 character limit, but you're probably not one of them.

In addition to the 2000 character limit, there are also certain characters that you cannot use.  We've experimented with this quite a bit and have come up with a list that you can and cannot use.  I'm just going to go ahead and admit this list is probably not 100% accurate, but it's pretty close.

Characters you can't use in your descriptions:

  • percent %
  • slash / (unless it's inside of a tag, like </h2>)
  • quote "
  • dash -
  • colon :
  • semicolon ; (again, unless it's inside of an HTML element that needs it. This seems to be hit and miss at times)
  • parentheses ( )
  • exclamation mark !
  • question mark ?

We've also come across cases where Amazon refuses the use of &frac12; (for one half) but will allow ½.  Weird.  For most of those we'll just use 1.5.  Problems come into play when your product is 3/8 or 7/16.  We recommend using a site like HTMLArrows.com to find these characters and see which work for you.

Characters You Can Use in Amazon Descriptions

Again, not an extensive list, but results from our testing.

  • Headline tags <h2> <h3> etc.
    Although sometimes we have trouble if the description starts off with a headline tag (h2). We now put at least a sentence or two first, then an H2 to separate and 'fancy up' our description a bit.  We've also had trouble using an H3 before introducing an H2.  For the most part, you probably don't really need H3s anyway.
  • List tags <ul> or <ol> followed by list items <li>
    If we see a client with a lot of lists in their descriptions, we try to move those to the bullet points instead of the description.
  • Periods .
  • Apostrophes '
  • Breaks <br />
    Use two if you want to start a new paragraph but don't want to break it up with a headline.

Hidden Characters that can really piss you off

At least I know they did for me.

We had a client that used their WooCommerce short descriptions as the 'base' for all Amazon descriptions on Channel Advisor.  From there, we build a specific attribute called 'Amazon Description' and then assigned a business rule to use it first, and if empty use the given WooCommerce short description.  The idea is to keep the original information and modify it to fit the channel.  This also gives us unique descriptions on Amazon vs. their website, thus avoiding any duplicate content issues.

Same goes for 'Amazon Title', but I digress.

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There's a weird thing that happens when you copy or move text from one field to another online. A lot of times there is 'hidden' code that you can't see.  And the one that kills most descriptions from getting approved is the non-breaking space.

This guy: &nbsp;

He's invisible and will lead to your description not being approved.

After much hair pulling, we came across this great website that will expose those little boogers, and let you get a description that will get approved.  This tool has saved us hours.

What we do is copy the disapproved description in it's entirety and paste it into the site.  Then we change the 'Preferred line length' to something that fits our screen - typically around 160.  This doesn't affect the output but rather formats it so we can identify errant characters without having to scroll.

Then we hit the 'Clean' button. Here's a sample output

click for larger image

You'll notice that the output of this tool is actually an HTML page in it's entirety. You don't need all that - you just need the part after <body> and before </body>.

This tool color codes things, which makes those non-breaking spaces easy to find.

click for larger image

This, my friend, is the real gold.  Finding those otherwise-hidden spaces and cleaning them up is a big win.

Now just copy everything between the two body tags and re-paste into your description field or Amazon Description attribute.

Parent and Children Descriptions

In most cases, product descriptions for variable products are all the same - the only difference is the variable. Size, color, etc. With that in mind, we tend to fix the parent description first, and once it's approved, then move to the children. If you don't need them to be different, it's just a cut and paste to each child and you're set.

Now that the parent is done and accepted, we can copy/paste the descriptions to the children

Final Thoughts

If you're struggling to get those Amazon descriptions approved, or the ChannelAdvisor keeps telling you there's a problem, try these steps and see if that helps. If you need help with this or any other Channel Advisor related issues, see our ChannelAdvisor Help page or contact us.

About 

Will Hanke owns Saint Louis' top independent Internet Marketing firm, Red Canoe Media. In addition to helping some of St Louis' most recognizable brands with their online marketing strategy, Will also is an Amazon bestselling author, speaker and teacher.

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