What is the impact of out of stock products on SEO? How does Google treat products that aren’t in stock in its search results? How should products that are not in stock on the e-commerce website be managed so as not to affect its referencing? Here is the official Google response via John Mueller.
At a gathering in March 2022, John Mueller, a webmaster trend analyst at Google, was asked about SEO-friendly product management that is not in stock on an e-commerce website and the impact of this status on their ranking in search engine results. Here is a summary of the points to remember.
Product list out of stock = less visible in Google search results?
If the product list in stock is well referenced in the search term (short, medium or long tail), Google can, if it discovers that a product is out of stockvia the schema.org tag or via the contents of the product list, reduce the SEO position of the product list in search results.
However, John Mueller points this outit is not something systematic.
If the browser manages to detect that the product list is not in stock, it can treat it as soft-404 until it is back in stock (if it is back in stock).
Out-of-stock products: what impact on overall site referencing?
As long as all the products on the e-commerce site are not unburdened, this will not affect the overall ranking of the site and category.
Only sheets of products that are not in stock risk a drop in quality.
Should products that are not in stock be removed from the categories?
Although John Mueller has not communicated 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 they put an end to sales categories. It is therefore advisable to avoid this and follow SEO best practices to manage inventory-free products.
As for products that are not currently in stock, if they offer alternative promotions (availability notice, possible pre-order, links to similar products in stock, etc.), in this case removal from product categories is not recommended as they retain commercial and UX interest. However, in most cases it is better to keep them below the product in stock in the merchandising category.
What are the best SEO practices to follow in case the product is 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 it is not in stock, the product will never be returned to stock : Redirect 301 to the nearest similar product or, if not, to the subcategory that best suits you. Allowing a product that is not in stock to respond in 404 when it is not well referenced and has not received SEO traffic from search results is also an acceptable practice, permanent 301 redirects are especially important for product sheets that are well referenced and generate SEO traffic.
- If the product is not currently in stock : Show a block of recommendations for similar products to create internal links to related products, optimize the user experience and its chances of turning a visitor into a customer. It is also recommended that an internet user be allowed to perform an action on a form such as registering for an availability alert or even pre-ordering a product by sending it to him as soon as it is back in stock. In this case, the product sheet must remain in the response code 200, without redirection 302 or 301.
In addition to this management, in the case of products that will never be returned to stock, it is recommended that you delete all internal links that point to this product sheet to avoid linking to a page that matches 301 or 404.
What counterproductive actions should be avoided?
Here is a non-exhaustive list of counterproductive SEO actions that should be avoided in case of partial or complete unloading of stocks:
- Place 404 on a product that is not currently in stock : Avoid announcing to Google that the product no longer exists via 404 if it is only temporarily out of stock. This action can trigger page deindexing and then re-indexing issues when the page returns to 200.
- Delete all internal links to a product that is currently out of stock : if the product is well referenced to strategic requirements, it is necessary to avoid modifying the internal linking that is carried out according to its URL as much as possible. This signal
- Make a temporary 302 redirect to a similar category or product in case of temporary out of stock : While this may seem like a good idea at first glance, if this action is automated, depending on how long the product has been in stock, Google could see this redirect as a permanent redirect if it takes too long. The engine might then need time to redisplay the old list of products in the search results, which would then be counterproductive.
Questions about proper SEO management of products that are not in stock? Do not hesitate to ask them in the comments, we will be happy to answer them!
To consult the hangout in which John Mueller intervened on this issue, it is here.