What are the SEO implications for out-of-stock Web site items?
 by Casey Markee

What are the SEO implications for out-of-stock website items?

  • We have an e-commerce client with several items that are currently out-of-stock. Some of these items will be available eventually, some may not be available ever. The client however wants to leave the pages up. Is this something from an SEO standpoint that can harm us? Are there some best practices here that we can use going forward?

Answer: If you are in the business of e-commerce then this is a question you've absolutely experienced and probably struggle with daily. Products come in and go-out at brisk rates, especially during peak shopping seasons, and it's common for products to become temporarily unavailable, replaced with a similar but different product or discontinued all together. Each of these scenarios involves different SEO implications and are as follows:

  • 1. Temporarily Out-of-Stock Items: The most common scenario is that a product is out-of-stock but awaiting restock and will be available at a definite time and date. From an SEO standpoint leaving the page up is recommended with clear instructions from the seller that the item is available for order but temporarily out-of-stock. An affirmative statement that the seller should order the item and then receive an email with an estimated time for delivery would be the recommended strategy here. Below is an example of how this is handled by Amazon.com:

    Temporarily Out-of-Stock Graphic

  • 2. Out-of-Stock or Replaced Item: When an item is upgraded to a newer version but still available for order OR is replaced completely, the SEO implications change a little. In this situation, two options may be possible: 301 redirecting the old product page to the new one or leaving the old page up with details on how to order the replacement product. In the former, you would only perform a 301 redirect if you are A...