When most people think about ecommerce sites, they imagine sites like Amazon.com or Half.com. They picture huge e-tailers with thousands of different products and SKUs. However, the truth is that the majority of ecommerce sites are managed and operated by small businesses with a limited number of products. As a result, most of the information you find online (regarding how to build and manage ecommerce sites) is geared towards smaller sites.

But where does that leave ecommerce sites with lots of products? There's a major difference between handling 5 SKUs and 500 SKUs. This article is designed to help you with the latter. While you may not have 500 individual products, you may have a few dozen different ones. Let's take a look at a variety of tips regarding how you can handle a large ecommerce site for long-term success and profitability.

SEO is Critical for Visibility

Matthew Kane, a partner at Select Safety Sales says that "the problem with most ecommerce sites with a large number of products typically encounter is a lack of visibility. There are so many different product pages that none of them get the attention they really need." The key is to pay attention to on-page, product-specific SEO, he notes.

According to Smart Insights, "People tend to be distracted by the high volume head and middle keyword terms and forget to pay attention to the crucial keywords pertaining to the long tail." This point is extremely valid for the types of sites we're discussing in this article.

If you want to capture long tail traffic, you need to start making it a priority. Stop using duplicate content and begin incorporating relevant, long tail keywords that match the product's niche. For simplicity's sake, you should develop a product template (as suggested by Smart Insights) that can be used for every product you add to your site. This template should include room for a unique title, unique description, heading, optimized URL, unique product description, and optimized alt tags for images.

Don't Ignore Keyword Research

It's amazing how many ecommerce owners don't conduct keyword research. They assume they know exactly what their customers are searching based on their own beliefs and experiences. However, perception and truth are usually very different when it comes to SEO and keywords.

Using Google Search Console, you should research your products and find out what keywords your target market is actually using. Let's take a look at an example so that you can see how different certain results can be. The example will be "Wedding Dresses."

Perceived keywords.
Actual keywords.

Now, you don't want to necessarily target these exact keywords. The search volume is so high that your pages will have to compete with thousands of others. What you should do is use these keywords as a launching point. Maybe you target the keyword "Cheap wedding dresses in [your location]" or "preowned short wedding dresses." The goal is to find popular keywords and turn them into niche-specific, long tail search terms. This lets you act like a big ecommerce site, while targeting specific markets.

Know How to Handle Out-of-Stock Products

What large ecommerce sites have in size, they often lack in nimbleness and flexibility. This can make it a challenge when trying managing inventory. Thankfully, the ever-wise Matt Cutts recently provided some good suggestions and tips for how to properly handle out-of-stock products.

His suggestion is to create a 404 page that's displayed to visitors (as opposed to an aggravating "not found" page). This 404 page should deliver a unique message that shows you care about your customers and are working hard to get the product back in stock. If you want to capture these leads, try incorporating a form that allows customers to sign up for an email notification when the product is available again. Another good idea is to redirect visitors to the homepage where they can search for similar products.

Putting it All Together

Using these tips, tricks, and information, you can improve your ability to monitor, manage, and sell large, diverse amounts of products online. While each ecommerce site is unique and different in its own rights, similar principles can be applied. Ultimately, remember that patience is key. Things will get stressful and times will get tough, but remember these tips and you should be alright.