What Impacts on SEO? What Recommendations?

What is the impact of having out-of-stock products on SEO? How does Google treat out-of-stock products in its search results? How should out-of-stock products be managed on an e-commerce site so as not to affect its referencing? Here is Google’s official response via John Mueller.

In a March 2022 hangout, John Mueller, webmaster trends analyst at Google, was asked a question about the SEO-friendly management of out-of-stock products on an e-commerce site and the impact of this status on their ranking in search engine results. Here is a summary of the points to remember.

Product sheet out of stock = lower visibility in Google search results?

If a product sheet in stock is well referenced on a search term (short, middle or long tail), Google may, if it detects that the product is going out of stockthrough the schema.org markup or via the content of the product sheet, decrease the SEO position of the product sheet in its search results.

However, John Mueller indicates thatit is not something systematic.

If the search engine manages to detect that a product sheet is out of stock, it can treat it as soft-404 until it becomes back in stock (if it is brought back into stock).

Out of stock products: what impact on the overall referencing of a site?

As long as all the products on an e-commerce site are not out of stock, the overall ranking of the site and categories will not be affected.

Only out-of-stock product sheets risk downgrading.

Should out of stock products be removed from categories?

Although John Mueller did not communicate on this issue, displaying products that are permanently out of stock on an e-commerce site has little added value for Internet users, even if the latter are placed at the end of the merchandising of the categories. It is therefore recommended to avoid this and follow SEO best practices for managing non-stock products.

Regarding products temporarily out of stock, if they offer alternative actions (availability alert, possible pre-order, links to similar products in stock, etc.), in this case it is not recommended to remove them from the categories of products since they keep a commercial and UX interest. However, in most cases it is better to keep them under the in-stock products in the category merchandising.

What are the best SEO practices to follow in the event of a product being out of stock?

Depending on the type of stock shortage (permanent or temporary), the actions to be considered will be different.

Here is an overview of the two most common cases and good SEO practices to adopt:

  • If the out of stock product will never be back in stock : perform a 301 redirect to the closest similar product or, failing that, to the sub-category that best matches it. Letting a product out of stock respond in 404 when it was not well referenced and did not get SEO traffic from search results is also an acceptable practice, the permanent 301 redirect is especially important for product sheets that were well referenced and getting SEO traffic.
  • If the product is temporarily out of stock : display a recommendation block of similar products to create internal links to related products, optimize the user experience and its chances of converting a visitor into a buyer. It is also recommended to allow the Internet user to carry out an action on the form such as registering for an availability alert or even pre-ordering the product so that it is sent to him as soon as it is back in stock. In this case, the product sheet must remain in response code 200, without redirect 302 nor 301.

In addition to this management, in the case of a product that will never be back in stock, it is recommended to delete all of the internal linking that points to this product sheet to avoid linking a page responding in 301 or 404.

What are the counterproductive actions to avoid?

Here is a non-exhaustive list of counterproductive SEO actions to avoid in the event of a partial or total out of stock:

  • Set a 404 on a temporarily out of stock product : avoid declaring to Google that a product no longer exists via a 404 if it is only a temporary out of stock. This action could trigger the de-indexing of the page and then re-indexing difficulties once the page is back in 200.
  • Delete all internal linking to a temporarily out of stock product : if a product is well referenced on strategic queries, it is necessary to avoid as much as possible modifying the internal linking which is carried out towards its URL. This signal
  • Perform a temporary 302 redirect to a similar category or product in case of temporary out of stock : While it may seem like a good idea at first glance, if this action is automated, depending on how long the product is back in stock, Google might perceive this redirect as a permanent redirect if it is kept too long. The engine could then take time to re-display the old product sheet in its search results, which would then be counterproductive.

Questions about proper SEO management of out-of-stock products? Do not hesitate to ask them in the comments, we will answer them with pleasure!

To consult the hangout in which John Mueller intervened about this question, it is here.

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