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malevolent design weblog

This blog is now defunct, but you can find more stuff over at my personal site

‘Decommissioning’ Online Marketing Campaigns

As a web developer you get used to seeing your portfolio slip offline when sites are redesigned or closed, but the way many online marketing campaigns are handled can be frustrating. Companies go to the trouble of creating a lovely web site, then promoting it to build traffic and links, only to shut it all down weeks later leaving a trail of 404s.

In my view, clients and agencies are often overly wasteful. By considering ‘decommissioning’ up front, valuable content (Flash games, how-to guides, etc.) can be retained for years to keep some of the ongoing traffic and SEO benefits.

Option 1: Decommission In Situ

The site can be modified once the campaign’s over; typical tasks to plan for would include:

  • Add a site-wide banner stating that the site’s old and offering links to the latest campaigns (if a company regularly creates campaign sites then this could be a centralised JavaScript file to easily keep everything up-to-date).
  • Remove any dangerously-misleading content (facts that are no longer true, offers no longer valid).
  • Replace any competitions with content explaining that it’s too late to enter and possibly lists of winners.
  • Remove/deactivate any links to pages that are now defunct or likely to soon disappear.
  • Similarly, try to replace/remove any elements dependent on third-party services that aren’t likely to last.
  • If necessary, create alternative versions of Flash games with elements such as competition forms/links removed.
  • Try to remove/replace/simplify any complex server-side coding that might require future support (might want to convert the whole site to static files).

Option 2: Archive Selected Content

This approach involves retaining content using the main company/product site. So a Flash game in a campaign site will be moved to a page within a games/‘fun stuff’ section in the main site. Permanent HTTP redirects will be set up for any moved content and pages which have direct alternatives (e.g. campaign product details might redirect to product details in the main site). Any remaining pages will display a helpful 404 page explaining the site’s demise and offering current alternatives (possibly using a centralised file as mentioned previously).

Domain Name Retention

If a dedicated domain is used, it should be kept for several years (just pay it all up front to keep things simple), if only to prevent someone else getting your traffic and possibly displaying misleading/distasteful/illegal content.


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