Out-of-Stock Products: SEO Best Practices for E-commerce
Out-of-stock situations in e-commerce sites are inevitable. Yet, paying attention to their impact on user experience and SEO is important.
Why Out-of-Stock Pages Matter for SEO
For many online retailers, the instinct might be to remove or replace the out-of-stock product page with another product. But doing so can harm your SEO efforts. Here’s why:
- Established Ranking: An out-of-stock product page might have already established a good ranking and have valuable backlinks pointed toward it.
- User Experience: Visitors landing on a 404 page or being redirected without explanation leads to a poor user experience, hurting your site’s SEO.
Strategies to Handle Out-of-Stock Products
There are several strategies to manage out-of-stock pages without hurting SEO.
1. Leave the Page as Is, Clearly Marking the Item as Out of Stock
Keep the page live, clearly mark the product as out of stock, and provide a restock date if available. This method maintains page authority, enhances user experience, and allows email capture for restock alerts.
2. Provide Similar Alternatives on the Out-of-Stock Product Page
Offer suggestions for closely related or similar products. This method retains the customer and encourages them to continue to browse your site.
3. Use 301 Redirects Thoughtfully
Consider a 301 redirect if a product has been permanently discontinued. The redirect should point users toward a similar product or category page. This strategy helps you pass page authority to the new page and prevent users from landing on a dead page. Don’t redirect to the home page or a category or product that isn’t related.
4. Enable a Pre-Order or Notify Me Option
Consider a pre-order or “notify me” option for temporarily out-of-stock situations. This helps retain potential buyers and allows you to gather leads.
5. Use Schema Markup
Implement “ProductAvailability” schema so search engines understand your product’s availability.
6. Consider the noindex Meta Robots Tag
Consider a “noindex” tag for products not expected to restock. It communicates to search engines not to index these pages.
Common Mistakes for Out-of-Stock Products
Here are some common mistakes to avoid when handling out-of-stock items:
- Avoid 404 Errors: A sudden surge in 404 errors can harm your website’s overall SEO health.
- Strategize When To Use 301 Redirects: They should only be used for permanently discontinued items and when you have a closely related product or category to redirect to. If you don’t have that, use a “noindex” tag.
- Don’t Remove the Page Entirely: Removing the page could risk losing established page authority.
Managing out-of-stock products can take time and effort. But with a sound SEO strategy prioritizing user experience and clear communication, you can turn these situations into customer engagement and retention opportunities.
For more on optimizing your out-of-stock products, check out these resources.