Do You Know How Large Your Site Is?

Do you know how large your site is? Just how many URLs do you have out there? Over time sites can become the proverbial iceberg with only a small portion of pages active and visible. Iceberg pages are out of view, but still have active links that point to them.

Do you know how large your site is? Just how many URLs do you have out there? If your site is still little more than an online brochure, then you can probably answer the question with some surety. Large commerce sites, however, grow over time and can become the proverbial iceberg with only a small portion of the site active and visible at any time.

Iceberg pages are out of view, but still have active links that point to them. They are often older pages in the search engine index that point to sold out or seasonal merchandise that is not available. Unless the merchant implements a process for removing or redirecting traffic coming to these pages, the iceberg will continue to grow.

When users strike these older pages, their frustration with the poor user experience they offer will grow too. User experience/frustration is measured by Google, and continued poor user experience marks the road to SEO perdition.

The first task is to decide what must go and what needs to stay. The second task is to determine how to remove the iceberg pages without creating havoc for the active SEO program.

Deciding What Has Got to Go

There are two types of pages that need to be slated for removal on a commerce site. The first is obvious: Pages that offer merchandise that is no longer available. The second are URLs that are remnants from technical changes previously made to the site.

These historical remnants are relatively easy to deal with. The pages can be either removed or redirected. Optimally they should be redirected to a valid page on the site.

How to handle out-of-date or sold-out merchandise presents a different challenge. If the situation is temporary, a seasonal sold-out such as live plants and garden materials, then there needs to be some indication for the user that tells them when the merchandise will be available. This offers useful information and improves the user experience. Then, these pages can be logically retained.

It is different if the product is sold out and no restocking is expected to occur. Then, the pages may be deleted or redirected.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? It is not so easy in practice. All too often there is the chance that the product will be restocked, so the page lingers. The problem becomes deciding how long these pages should be allowed to linger and when in the business year it is best to remove or redirect them.

Timing Is Important

Timing is very important when there are many URLs that are going to be deleted or redirected. Any wholesale change in your site will be detected by Google and will create turbulence in your search rankings. It is, therefore, important to save large scale deletion and redirection projects to reduce the number of iceberg pages for off-peak sales cycles. Then, the site can be recrawled and ranking adjustments made by Google without having any negative changes impact sales.

Ridding the site of pages that provide a poor user experience should be the short term goal, but the long run result will be improved search performance.

Make Me an Offer — But Set My Expectations

What’s the ideal offer expiration date? Any good direct marketer knows that you have to test and learn what works for your brand, but in the early days of direct mail the rule of thumb was six to eight weeks (long enough for the recipient to receive the offer in the mail, write a check and mail it back).

What’s the ideal offer expiration date? Any good direct marketer knows that you have to test and learn what works for your brand, but in the early days of direct mail the rule of thumb was six to eight weeks (long enough for the recipient to receive the offer in the mail, write a check and mail it back).

But now that brands can communicate with customers instantly via email, text, Instagram and Facebook, offer windows can be shortened to a hours. And, when positioned appropriately, can drive a quick hit of revenue.

But here’s a case of what NOT to do …

On Friday, September 4, I received an email offer from Travelocity to click the link which would reveal how much I’d save (with the promise that it would range from 10 percent — 75 percent off on hotels). Given that I travel a lot, and I often book with Travelocity, it was an offer worth my click time. Plus, the button was kind of fun with a “Surprise Me” action message.

Naturally I was disappointed when I learned I had only earned 10 percent off and with another click had deleted the email message from my desktop and my memory bank.

But two days later, on Sunday, September 6 at 6:50 pm, I received another Travelocity email. This time the subject line was “Don’t Forget to Click. Reveal. Redeem.”

Given that it was a long weekend I didn’t check my emails until Monday, Sept 7 and, since I had completely forgotten about the earlier Travelocity email (since my inbox is filled with hundreds of email exchanges a day), I clicked the link in this email too. Only this time I got the message “Sorry! The Coupon is no longer valid” with a little clock icon reinforcing that time had run out.

My first reaction was that somebody at Travelocity had screwed up. Surely any email offer was going to last more than a day or two.

First, I found the original email offer in my deleted folder and it told me the offer expired on September 7. But instead of telling me I only had a few days or 72 hours, the email just gave me a calendar date — which, at the time, seemed like the distant future.

The September 6 email also noted that the offer expired on September 7 … but it should have said “24 hours” which would have given it the sense of urgency it deserved.

Instead, this Travelocity customer had a negative experience with the brand — and all over a potential 10 percent savings.

The point is, it’s critical that you think carefully about your offers, their activation windows and how you position it in your communication. Travelocity could have created a lot more interest and excitement if their original subject line had said “72 hour sale” in it … and their follow up email had “Final 24 hours of our sale.”

Motivating your target to act is one of the many challenges facing marketers today, so if you’re going to include an offer, make sure you give it the urgency it deserves.