E-Commerce SEO & Out Of Stock Items

Nov 11, 2011 • 8:13 am | comments (20) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization
 

Out Of Stock Items SEOA Cre8asite Forums thread asks a fairly basic SEO question that I don't think we've covered here in the almost ten years of covering SEO.

The question is, what do I do with my product pages where those items are sold out or out of stock?

One one hand, I know the item will come back in stock and hiding or deleting the page will hurt the rankings of the page. But on the other hand, customers who want the product now that go to the page and find it to be out of stock will be upset. What do you do?

My advice would be to say it is out of stock, give an estimate in stock (to be shipped date) and let customers buy it with the estimate ship date and/or sign up for an email alert for when the item comes back in stock.

Apple does this with the unlocked iPhone for sale in November, which is still not for sale yet. Many e-commerce sites do this. In fact, many don't even say it is out of stock, they make you buy it and then 2 days later you will get an email that they don't have it in stock. That is even worse.

The bigger question to me is should Google or Bing temporarily penalize (downgrade the ranking) of a product page that says "sold out" or "out of stock"? I personally would if it was my search engine - like a temporary page not available (503) but lesser extent.

What do you think?

Forum discussion at Cre8asite Forums.

Image credit: Oxlock / ShutterStock.

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Comments:

Brady Behrman

11/11/2011 01:17 pm

Very interesting post. I have also wondered about out of stock items and how they affect SEO. I also agree that if it is out of stock, give a date... Backordered until... "Let me know when (this item) is available"

Donnie Cooper

11/11/2011 02:37 pm

In the past, we've linked out to others who are not out of stock, and then requested they link to us for items they are out of stock with :-)

Dries B.

11/11/2011 04:39 pm

I follow your idea Barry. Don't redirect the page but suggest on that page a different product or other colour etc. People are expecting to find a certain product, so it would be very strange to redirect the page. If a product isn't to be available for a long time, or never even... i would suggest to redirect the page to the category of the same products or same niche they belong to. Returning visitors will be annoyed if that same page keeps popping up in the SERP when there is even nothing to see. 

SLight

11/11/2011 05:52 pm

It's a question of links vs rankings. Keep a ranking for something you no longer have in stock, or redirect it into the parent category page for the benefit of the items you do have in stock.

Marc Perez

11/11/2011 06:08 pm

One way to do it would be to have an information page that describes the product, and from there point to the item for purchase. should the item be out of stock i would make a 302 redirect to a page that say the item is not in stock with an option to have an email notification. When you have the product in stock, you can remove the 302, and all the link juice will still be there for that URL. If the item is out of stock for good, then 301 the product page that would sell similar items... What do you think? I know it's crazy solution, but sometimes that's what google does lol @mrPerezMarc:twitter 

Nathan

11/12/2011 12:29 am

IMO the page should be downgraded if no eta or etd is available. Search results need to be based on quality - how this can be monitored in realtime is the problem unless some additional communication between sites as search engines can be implemented for organic results. the results positions would be better off distributed if other suppliers have stock available otherwise it goes against user friendly searching?

Slsnlee49

11/13/2011 11:17 pm

Hi, it’s always very interesting to read others’ articles about SEO! In the past, I read many articles about SEO. I would like to share my knowledge about it with you. If you would like to learn more about SEO, especially “relevant keywords” and “White Hat,” you can click the following links and check out my articles. I am pretty sure these articles will help you to boost your website rank on organic search engine result and also teach you the ethical way of conducting SEO. Thanks.

Slsnlee49

11/13/2011 11:18 pm

Hi, it’s always very interesting to read others’ articles about SEO! In the past, I read many articles about SEO. I would like to share my knowledge about it with you. If you would like to learn more about SEO, especially “relevant keywords” and “White Hat,” you can click the following links and check out my articles. I am pretty sure these articles will help you to boost your website rank on organic search engine result and also teach you the ethical way of conducting SEO. Thanks.   SEO: the importance of having relevant keywords. http://www.blueflyweb.com/choosing-relevant-keywords-for-your-website/   SEO: White Hat SEO http://www.blueflyweb.com/what-is-white-hat-seo/

Christy

11/14/2011 08:52 am

What a great write up and overview for someone starting out in eCommerce.

David Nikolic

11/14/2011 09:25 am

Online shopping has become the most convenient and easiest way for consumers to buy products or serices from their own home. SEO requires a very different approach.

LizzieLane Jewellery

11/14/2011 09:38 am

The worse thing you can do is take the order and then email them later to tell them it's out of stock.  I still can't believe this sort of thing still goes on and to be fair, when I've experienced it, it tends to be from the bigger players. I think the best solution is a "Notify when in stock" email capture as this allows you to collect the customer's email address and providing you've got your T & Cs set correctly,  then use it for future email shots.  Plus you generate a list of email addresses that you know have a specific interest, which you can then use to market similar products.  e.g. If widget X is out stock, you can email them about widget Y which does everything X does and more but only costs a few £ more.

SLight

11/14/2011 10:16 am

I think this will work if you have a USP on the product, be it price, exclusivity, etc. Otherwise they would choose to go simply look elsewhere. My main concern is that with Google targeting thin or duplicate content so hard these days, do I really want a large number of pages on my site with templated out of stock content.

LizzieLane Jewellery

11/14/2011 12:29 pm

Yeah, that can always happen, but I think if you have some decent unique content on your product pages, adding a simple "Out of Stock" message with an "email me" function isn't going to have that much impact in the eyes of Google

Funkyfresh

11/15/2011 09:21 am

Good point and I like the bluntness - can we connect?

Nathan Khan

11/15/2011 01:20 pm

If you displayed out of stock as an image and do not include an image alt tag, is Google going to pick this up? And realistically claiming stock is available when there is none is going to fall under bad user experience?   Having an estimated delivery date should do the trick!!   IMO for any reputable site or good SEO you would take into consideration the user journey, word of mouth about poor service can be very damaging to a company profile. @Funkyfresh - http://www.nathanseo.co.uk

Jason Green

12/14/2011 06:12 pm

I wonder if these pages would naturally be penalized due to increased bounces? Product goes out of stock...bounces increase...rank decreases.  Product is back in stock...bounces decrease...rank increases. 

Dave Fowler

02/09/2012 01:27 pm

There is a related issue not addressed by this post, that I'd love to capture peoples' opinion on. When an item goes out of stock it is common for that product to disappear from category pages, as you do not want people browsing through thumbnails of out of stock products.  So, if a product is allocated to (and therefore linked from) 30 different category pages, and then goes out of stock, the page will temporarily disappear from the website's navigation.  Even if a single link is retained (in a sitemap, say), I assume the product page will still lose the link juice from those 30 pages.  So the question is, if this 'disappearance' is only temporary is there still a short, mid or long term negative impact on the page rank flowing to and from the product page affected?  Anyone know of any research or commentary on this?

CPC_Andrew

02/09/2012 10:57 pm

I think Jason Green hit the nail on the head here. If bounce rates increase, and if Google crawls and sees a product is out of stock, that product page will incur a temporary penalty until the bounce rate gets back to normal levels. 

Kris Kelly

01/20/2013 02:53 pm

Just do what amazon does.

Tennistas

07/24/2013 07:59 am

And thats?

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