What can you do about your site’s out-of-stock product pages from an SEO perspective?
It’s an experience that most of us have probably had at some stage; performing a long-tail keyword search for a specific item, and finding a promising-looking online-store listing for that item on the subsequent search engine results page (SERP), only to then click through to the product page, and discover that the product is out of stock.
From the point of view of the ordinary human searcher for such products, you might have had this experience, and felt the online store was wasting your time by even keeping the product listing up. Or, you may have been left with the opposite impression, finding the page helpful due to other information provided.
‘Out of stock’: a classic dilemma for merchants
In your capacity as an e-tail store owner, then, you might have feared that keeping such out-of-stock product pages live would not give your target customers a positive experience. And even when a product’s stock status changes to ‘zero’, if Google has the page indexed, people will probably still be landing on it.
So, what can and should you do with out-of-stock product pages as far as your online store’s search engine optimisation (SEO) is concerned?
Would it be a good idea to keep a given product page around even if there is no available stock to buy, on the basis that the page is still attracting traffic to your site? Or would it be a better-advised move to take down those pages to free up focus on available inventory?
A few things you should and shouldn’t do about your out-of-stock pages
Given that providing your customer with a positive experience will also be good news for your site’s search rankings – Google always striving to present search results that human searchers will find genuinely useful – there are some good ‘ground rules’ for how online stores should handle their out-of-stock product pages.
One thing you shouldn’t do if an item is unavailable is simply return a 404 error, which is a sure recipe for prompting the visitor to click their browser ‘back’ button to go back to the search results. Nor is redirecting the given page to an alternative in-stock product a good idea, given that this would confuse visitors – again, not exactly a positive thing for user experience.
Generally speaking, what you should do is keep your out-of-stock product pages live and indexable, and convey clearly to both humans and search engines that the particular item is out of stock.
So, what do you need to do about your site’s out-of-stock pages right now?
The exact actions that you take will depend on the particular circumstances of that page; for example, in the case of pages for products that go in and out of stock frequently, it might be a good idea to use noindex tags to prevent Google from becoming confused.
As we set out above, you should keep your out-of-stock product pages live so that you can continue attracting relevant clicks. But in the meantime, you shouldn’t present your visitor with a barrier that causes them to immediately leave the site the moment they land on your page.
Be sure to give them something useful, such as offering to notify the customer when the product is back in stock, or – if the product is permanently discontinued – linking to similar items that would satisfy the customer’s needs in a similar way. It’s all about making sure you capture that potential customer, possibly for the long term, instead of losing them forever.
And as we stated above, it is crucial to communicate the true situation clearly. Yes, the news of the item being out of stock will disappoint the visitor, and they are likely to leave your site. But it will give your customer an even worse experience if you are ambiguous as to whether the item is still available or not – for example, if the product has been permanently discontinued but you leave internal links to the given product in place on your site.
Above all, the needs of human visitors have to be your number one priority, especially given how catering to them will support your store’s SEO efforts.
Would you like to have a more detailed conversation about your requirements for your ecommerce store with reputable experts in website design, graphic design, SEO, and database solutions in Gibraltar, the UK, or Spain? If so, you are very welcome to enquire to the Piranha Designs team today.