When you’re running a successful eCommerce website you may run into the issue of out of stock inventory. When items are out of stock it’s far from the best user experience and can also impact search ranking. 

The out of stock issue is a common problem that can be solved a few ways. Here’s what John Mueller, a Google Webmaster Trends Analyst, suggests for handling three major out of stock issues:   

1. Permanently Out of Stock 

Did one of your bestsellers cease to exist? Or did you find a better option to sell?

The easiest thing to do is a 301 redirect to a replacement product page. There may also be SEO value in reusing the URL of a permanently out of stock product as the URL for the new replacement product page. Doing so will allow you to build on the existing URL by sending any traffic and SEO value, such as rankings and inbound links, to your new product page.

If your product releases new versions every year (example 2016, 2017 and 2018 versions), John Mueller suggest using the same out of stock URL as it can result to fewer 301 redirects and less maintenance in terms of building new pages. 

2. Temporarily Out of Stock

Temporarily out of stock items can be a different story. John suggests keeping the page live and using structure data markup to indicate that the item is currently out of stock. Doing so allows Google to keep indexing the page and preserves any SEO value. Once the item becomes available, modify your markup accordingly and your product should appear in Google as available or back in stock.

3. References and Documentation for Out of Stock Items

You may have stopped selling an item, but a lot of customers probably still own it. Even if you’re not selling an older product, your customers can still benefit from documentation related to the product. For example, this can include user manuals, reference guides and or maintenance instructions.

Where can you nest this content? Placeholder pages, such as archive pages, with product documentation can be a great reference for this content. You can create an archive section on the website for these type of products which can result to traffic and links from around the web.

As SEO consultants, it’s our job to make sure every page is optimized. At SearchRPM, we go one step further by making the user experience equally important. That means we consider many out of stock pages to be missed opportunities and a bad user experience.  

Need help figuring out what to do with your out of stock product pages? Give our Austin SEO company a call to see how much search optimization value you can get from all those old products you aren’t selling.