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Everything eCommerce

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Simple Things You Can Do to Maintain Your Site's Long Tail

There are a number of simple things that website owners can do to maximize and maintain their long tail. These techniques have been used by many of my most successful eCommerce customers and cost almost nothing.



  • Preserve your site architecture. Whenever a your online store is redesigned or moved to another server, care should be taken that the new move does not cause any broken links and that existing file names that were indexed by search engines will still work. There are a couple of different ways of doing this.

The easiest is to just make sure that the new filenames match the old ones, even if the technology powering them changes. For example I have a few customers who had completely static "HTML" pages which are now using JSP and PHP code within the pages. We simply reconfigured the webserver to run all HTML pages on the client's site as PHP or JSP pages. This allows the new pages to present their dynamic information, but maintained the exact page names as before.

The second way of accomplishing this which requires a little more work is to create a program that does an autoforward to the new pages and sends back to the search engines a status 301, page permanently moved code.

  • Do not prune old products from your site. A lot of ecommerce site owners have a tendency to automatically remove products which are no longer in stock or carried from their site. While this prevents the items from being accidentally ordered and solves problems in the short term, long term the ecommerce site is losing valuable sales leads. A better way of handling these products is to clearly mark these products as out of stock or discontinued and remove the add to cart button from these products. The merchant will also want to disable these products from being indexed by their website's internal search engine. Finally successful ecommerce sites will then list alternatives to the product that is no longer available. By putting something like customers who liked this product, LOVE our new product: This technique will do a number of things. It will preserve the deep links that search engines have to your products, and will steer potential customers coming in through these links from the products you do not have to the ones you do.
  • Create an Affiliate/Associate Program and promote it. Having an affiliate program gives website owners a commission on all traffic from their site that buys a product on yours. The result is that by paying a commission you can dramatically increase the number of incoming links to your site, and in turn increase your search engine relevance. The other thing this does is provide additional traffic to your site that does not come from search engines. These trickles of traffic from all over the web can add up to a significant increase in sales. I like to think of Long Tail Marketing as Reaganomics in reverse - The Trickle Up Principle

The methods I've outlined above will result in increased sales at very little cost. Try them out today and see what your results are in three months.


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