The upcoming few months are going to be a strange territory for everyone, with serious challenges for both online and brick-and-mortar businesses. There are so many e-commerce websites that are facing a peculiar situation today. Many brands are going out of stocks.
E-commerce players are facing various issues, including:
- Similar items are getting out of stock at the same time
- Merchants do not know when the items will be in stock
- Products may not get back for a long time
Webpages must continue to rank from an SEO viewpoint, for both retailers and consumers. If companies fail to do so, then in a short time, the experience is highly frustrating for customers and can drive them to other sites.
Is this a technical SEO issue?
The simple answer is no. Search engines want these pages to rank continuously. But, they are just not very useful in the short-term. Let us take a quick tour of the usual toolbox to see what applies.
1. 404-Not Found
404 error page means these products went out-of-stock for a temporary phase, but they will come back sooner or later. If you want to sell them, then you need to act quickly when the items are back in stock.
If you have removed the out of stock pages then you should put it back. Google may take a lot of time to adjust those signals, to the point where the page is out of sync with reality. It would be better if we say the product might already be out of stock by the time the page started ranking again.
2. 301-Permanent Redirect
The 301-permanent redirect has a special place in tool belts. However, they are not practical here. First of all, the products still exist. We do not need to remove it in any permanent sense. Also, reversing 301 can be a time-consuming task.
Here, the only exception would be if a product went out of stock, and that will provoke the merchant to replace the product with a similar one permanently.
3. 302-Temporary redirect
It has to be helpful, right? Unfortunately, we are still stuck with the timing issue if the product comes back in the stock for a short period. For example, imagine if you are out of Acme Essentials 10-ounce mountain fresh, but you have stock of Trapper Moe’s 10-ounce Spring Breeze.
Can you temporarily replace the other product from a search perspective? Maybe, if you can get the right timing. But it is essential to consider the visitor’s experience. People would still search for the desired product, but they would get to see another related product, which would seem dishonest and is likely to harm conversion.
4. Item Availability Scheme
You can also use the availability property in product-offer schemas to set options involving: In Store Only, In Stock, Sold Out, Out of Stock, etc. Search engines can choose to display these insights as a part of your organic results. However, there are two significant challenges to this approach.
First is that searchers will acknowledge your honesty. You may not be eager to display “Out of Stock” on your search results, where others are displaying nothing at all. Also, we have still got the timing problem. You can replace “In stock” to “Out of Stock” in real-time, but Google still has to crawl and update that information, and that will take the time.
So, there isn’t any hope?
It might seem like we have ruled out all the possible options because we don’t believe that it is an SEO issue. Removing and redirecting pages in a volatile environment where products may go out of stock and come back daily needs timing Google’s processes in a very risky way.
So, we should keep these pages indexed and ranking, the key to this is to ensure that they continue to provide value to your search visitors because this is majorly a user experience issue.
Most of the options are visually not appealing in layout, but, the ‘Notify Me’ button expands into a quick appeal. Even if they do not buy from you, they might still enter their email address and end up ordering later, especially when supplies are low and people are looking for alternatives.
You can also add the “Also Available” option. Of course, these features represent a lot more work than a few 301 redirects, we are looking at a case that could last for a few weeks or even months. Some improvements that provide audiences with viable choices could be worth many thousands of dollars and could also help maintain search rankings.
How to handle out of stock products
It is very tricky from an SEO perspective to remove out of stock products from being displayed temporarily. You can block the internal link equity temporarily that could affect your ranking. Also, you may end up with a blank page that does not correctly represent your usual inventory. Two essential options worth considering include:-
Allow filtering out of stock products
E-commerce sites are reluctant to hide products as they want to maintain the perception of having a lot of items available. But, the whole thing is useless if none of these items are available. If you allow visitors to filter out out-of-stock products, then you are addressing both the problems.
At first, they will get to see the full list at the initial level and know what kind of products you usually carry. Second, you can make an option for filtering unavailable products to search bots so that they carry on to pass link equity to all products.
2. Give less priority to out of stock products
You can also push out-of-stock products to the bottom of internal search results, maintaining filters and sorts within the stocked and out-of-stock groups.
It is crucial to maintain the top ranking of the page from the SEO viewpoint and to maintain the top ranking of the page. It is essential to leave the page alone. If you do any technical modifications, then the search bots may take over. You should know that the process of re-crawling and re-caching pages takes time.
We recommend you to give search visitors’ choices and maintain the value of the page to tackle out of stock product pages issue effectively. If you are you’re struggling with digital marketing for eCommerce website, Get in touch with our digital marketing expert.