SEO is tied to user experience and out of stock, or no longer stocked products, can have a negative impact on the domain as a whole.

There are some methods that can be implemented that satisfy SEO, but lead to a poor user experience, and likewise methods that can be good for user experience but detrimental to SEO.

Common mistakes that don’t meet both user and SEO needs can include:

  1. Users being redirected to a product category page without an explanation (which is even more frustrating if it is the same product category page and the user is just seeing the same page “refresh” in front of them).
  2. Users landing on a generic 404 page.
  3. Users being redirected to a similar product without any explanation.

Creating a good user experience with an out of stock page

The last thing a webmaster wants to do is leave a user frustrated, and unfortunately when a user wants a product that’s not currently in stock, or is no longer stocked, it can lead to a disappointing and frustrating situation.

When creating out of stock product pages, you want to limit the frustration and disappointment as much as possible. This means that you should communicate that a product is out of stock by:

  • Communicating the fact quickly
  • Communicating the fact clearly
  • Offering alternative, relevant products, both in terms of product type and price range
  • Communicating in-store availability in physical stores

Maintaining SEO

How you handle out of stock product pages will impact your organic rankings as well. If you remove a page from the website without handling it correctly, Google (and users) may still try and reach the page, which will generate a 404 error.

These 404 errors aren’t directly bad for SEO, as Google works on a URL by URL basis, but they can affect overall domain quality. They also waste crawl resource (from Google and other search engines), when the crawl resource should be focused on live pages.

When removing a product page you need to:

  • Implement a 301 redirect from the product page URL to either the product category URL, or to the next best/most relevant product page that is still live. If no 301 redirect is put in place, any value of the backlinks pointing to the removed URL will be lost from the domain.
  • Remove and/or replace all internal links pointing to the removed URL. Unnecessary internal redirects can waste crawl resource and cause page load issues for users.

If the product will only temporarily be out of stock, we recommend leaving the product page live but communicating that the product is out of stock on product category pages and the product page itself.

How getting UX and SEO right can benefit sales

As we’ve explored, out of stock product pages can be bad for user experience and SEO, and this can ultimately (and negatively) impact the website sales performance.

But you can notify the user when the product is back in stock, if the product is only temporarily unavailable.

It’s also important to note at this point that adding the user to a generic marketing list would be frustrating, and potentially lead them to unsubscribe, which means that they won’t get the product back in stock notification, losing you the sale.

How you handle the user data is important, especially with the impending GDPR regulations.