What to do with product pages without Stock in SEO?
In this article, we are going to deal with a problem that is more or less recurring in any e-commerce, and now with the whole issue of the pandemic, perhaps even more recurring, and that is what to do with the pages of products that are out of stock, or that we cannot sell directly. through them due to supply problems or similar. In this article, we will try to see some solutions that we can use to work with these product pages without stock.
From the SEO point of view, in general, it is essential that these pages continue to exist, especially if we are going to have stock again, since otherwise, we can lose opportunities against our competitors and, above all, work done previously that would not be useful. for "nothing", but as always each e-commerce is a world, and there is no concrete solution. Anyway, here is my point of view.
SEO recommendations for product pages without Stock in an e-commerce
1. If you are going to have Stock again
If you are going to have stock again more or less quickly, you are not interested in losing this page, since if you delete it you will lose all the signals you have, so the recommendation, in this case, is to continue leaving it indexed and as a general rule not to delete its internal linking (but we should de-prioritize its visibility in the store). In any case, in order not to create a bad user experience, we should offer something to the users who land on this page so that they do not leave with a bad taste in their mouths, and that is that generally running out of stock is often a problem more than UX than SEO. These are some ideas that we can offer:
If we are clear about when we will have stock, say the date on which it will be available and give the option to buy with shipping on that date, or leave a notice so that they leave their email and send a notification when the product is available again, in this way we will not lose the lead.
Show related products that we do have stock with a clear claim helping users to derive their purchase intention towards these products without stock. In many cases, it is not viable, but if it is possible it is a good option. If we show products that are unrelated or similar to the non-stock product, it is very difficult for them to end up in a sale.
1. If you are NOT going to have Stock again
If you are not going to have that product in stock again, then there is little point in continuing to have that product page, as it will not help you convert and it will create a bad user experience, which in the end will lead to the signals you are receiving. Google of your online store, so if you are not going to have stock again, here are some ideas for you to apply in your e-commerce:
If that product page receives visits or has links pointing to it: The recommendation is to make a 301 redirect to the most similar product possible, or failing that, to a category related to that product, in this way we can partially maintain those visits and we'll mess up all those links.
If there is a similar product or a new version: In this case, the recommendation is to also do a 301 redirect, so we will take the traffic and pass the signals to the new product URL, and for the user, it will be a “clean” transition.
If there is no related product, no stock, or anything: My recommendation is to return a 410 error, which means "no longer available", and thus Google will not lose crawl resources on that page and you will not have the online store full of zombie products without stock (and that they will not have it again)
Other problems of not having stock: Empty categories
Another problem that comes from the lack of stock of products is that it may be the case that certain categories or product grids are left empty or with very few products, which also generates consequences at the SEO level since SERPs generally where the predominance is to show product categories, a URL without products in that category is likely to not appear or disappear from that SERPs. Therefore, in general, it is necessary to control that when one or several products run out of stock, the categories associated with these products do not remain empty, and if so, try to provide means to solve it. For example, leaving that product in "zombie mode" in that category, or categorizing new products within the category.
It is not the most common, but I have seen it happen in many cases, so if you can, check this part as well.
Common practices when managing non-stock product pages in SEO
These are some of the common practices when managing product pages without stock, and like everything in SEO there is no specific solution, but here we leave you some of them, and because they are not a good solution in most cases, especially considering that we will have stock soon.
Error 404 (Not Found)
Do not return a 404 error to these product pages. These products will come back and you will want to sell them fast. If you return a 404 error for some time and then return a 200 (and this process will probably be repeated several times), you will end up making a mess for Google and it will surely end up not crawling and indexing this page again, which will end up being an SEO problem to re-sell that product from that same page. Not recommended
301 (Permanent redirect)
It may be that 301 redirect codes are the most common in the SEO world, but as far as pages without stock are concerned, it is preferable not to use them. First, the product still exists and you don't want to move it anywhere permanently. On the other hand, reversing a 301 can be a process that takes us longer than desired in terms of presence in the SERPs. So, just like with the 404, we're likely to shoot ourselves in the foot. The only exception would be if a product went out of stock and that would prompt the manufacturer to permanently replace it with a similar product, so a 301 redirect might be a good solution. Each case and each e-commerce is different, but as a general rule and applying to products without stock, a 301 should not apply.
302 (Temporary redirect)
This might seem like a good solution a priori, temporarily redirecting products without stock to similar products with stock. In addition to being temporary, we could reverse the process more or less quickly (perhaps not, with this redirection thing we don't know). Yes, it would also lower the conversion and could in general suppose an SEO problem, so in principle, it is not a recommended option.
Mark availability with Schema
You can use the availability property in schemas such as InStock, InStoreOnly, OutOfStock, and SoldOut. Once marked, Google will surely choose to display this information in the SERPs.
At this point, we could give you two approaches. First, surely Google appreciates your sincerity (probably not), but you as a webmaster are surely not interested in the fact that the serps show an "Out of stock" in your result while the rest are in stock (although they may not have them either) and with the consequences at the level of ctr and SEO that this will bring. Secondly, we still have the problem of time. You can automate the change from “In Stock” to “Out of Stock” in real-time, but Google still has to track and update that information, and that takes time.
Conclusion: Out-of-stock products are more of a UX issue than an SEO issue
In conclusion, we could say that products without stock and from my point of view are more of a UX problem than an SEO one. In other words, in general, the problems that we find about the user experience are greater than those that we find at the SEO level, but doubts or problems like the ones we have seen previously may indeed arise. We hope this article has been helpful to you when it comes to managing your products out of stock in your e-commerce, which in these times of crisis can be quite common.