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Handling Out-of-Stock Products in SEO-Friendly Ways

mobile device showing ecommerce page

Out-of-stock products are primarily annoying for customers and point towards inventory issues with your business. However, they can also have a detrimental effect on your SEO campaigns by reducing website traffic, increasing abandonment rates, and causing a negative impact on Google rankings. In this article, I explain how to avoid this, and why stock management matters.

Why Stock Management Matters

Out-of-stock products can negatively impact your business SEO and ecommerce KPIs in several ways including:

  • Increased cart abandonment.
  • Reduction in website traffic.
  • Negative impact on Google rankings.
  • Increased exit rates.

Stock issues essentially reduce customer satisfaction and mean they are far more likely to close your site, abandon their shopping cart, or not visit your store in the first place. This hammers your SEO metrics and ultimately can affect Google rankings which we want to avoid at all costs.

7 Ways to Handle Out-of-Stock Products Without Harming SEO

Because of the potential negative consequences, it’s important for businesses to give heed to handling out-of-stock products and make sure they have a fool-proof plan in place. Below are seven simple tips that can help:

1. Make the stock issue apparent ASAP

I get incredibly annoyed if I go through the entire shopping process only to find out at the checkout that the item isn’t in stock! Don’t be that business! 

Make sure it’s apparent from the first instance a customer sees a product that it’s out of stock. This keeps their shopping experience enjoyable, keeps them on your site longer, and lets them adjust their shopping path.

2. Always provide an alternative where possible

After making the stock issue apparent, the simplest thing you must do is to give your customers alternatives! I’m far more likely to make a purchase if I am shown a similar product to an out-of-stock one. In contrast, if I’m given nothing, I will 99% of the time simply close the website and look elsewhere.

The best ecommerce stores do this and use phrases like “similar products to X”, and “you may also be interested in”. Give the customer a reason to continue shopping despite your stock issues and this will ultimately help your SEO too by increasing conversions and the time customers spend on your online store.

3. Utilize product schema markup

Product schema markup is incredibly important for ecommerce and this is something an SEO ecommerce consultant can advise but you can also use this to your advantage to clearly show out-of-stock items.

This schema allows you to create rich snippets that are displayed on search engines. You have probably seen these – they are enhanced search results that show info like a star rating, price, name, and in this instance, stock status.

4. Give less prominence to out-of-stock products

So that customers don’t waste time looking at out-of-stock products you can simply place less emphasis on them! 

Most ecommerce platforms like Shopify allow for product ordering and give precedence on product category pages to products that are stocked. When shopping, I personally like the little filters you can choose to hide out-of-stock items.

5. Make sure there is a correct link structure

To keep customers on your site and to reduce crawl errors often associated with out-of-stock products you must make sure that there is the correct link structure in place. 

By this, if a product is out of stock, you should try and avoid something like a 404 error page as Google generally doesn’t like these. Linking back to the homepage after a stock issue is also bad practice as ideally, you want to keep your customers within a “product loop”. Therefore, make sure it links to something like alternative products, or the initial product category page.

6. Utilize appropriate meta tags

Oftentimes you might have special products that will ultimately go out of stock and never return. Things like limited edition products, or limited stock editions are brilliant, but you don’t want them continuing to appear on search engines once they are finished.

To combat this, there is the “unavailable after” meta tag. This allows you to specify the expiry date for a product and after this, search engines like Google will stop crawling it and remove it from their indexes.

7. Offer a pre-order or availability notification

Regardless of availability, many people will still want to order your product when it’s available and you should always give them the opportunity to if you intend to re-stock it.

This can be done either via a pre-order option or something like an email notification. Pre-ordering secures their business and leads to a sale regardless of current stock issues, while email notifications can be used as an additional SEO tool. For example, you can include within your re-stocked email notification other products, offers, and of course primary keywords.

Don’t Let Stock Issues Harm Your SEO or Customer Retention

The impact on SEO is just one issue with out-of-stock products and you should also make sure that your inventory management system is running effectively to avoid problems like this initially. If your products are always stocked, your SEO campaign can’t be affected in this way!

However, this is easier said than done and this is why you must have a fail-safe plan in place and an effective way to deal with stock issues without harming your SEO. This includes effective redirects, ample stock notification, and alternatives like pre-orders and email notifications.

Article by:

Joshua George is the founder of ClickSlice, an SEO Agency based in London, UK.

He has eight years of experience as an SEO Consultant and was recently hired by the UK government for SEO training. Joshua also owns the best-selling SEO course on Udemy, and has taught SEO to over 100,000 students.

His work has been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, AgencyAnalytics, Wix and lots more other reputable publications.