What should sites do with product pages that are no longer available?

Updated on: 5 October 2014

YouTube video

This supplies answer to the question: “What should sites do with pages for products that are no longer available?” on e-Commerce sites. Matt Cutts mentioned several ways on how to deal with these circumstances in a brief and clear manner.

Before moving on, lets understand the following:

  • 404 or Not Found error message is a message that comes from the HTTP standard code response informing the searcher that he or she was not able to connect to the server and that it cannot properly respond to the request. This error indicates a broken link; hence the requested resource is not available for now but maybe available again in the future.
  • Meta-tag “Unavailable after” is a way to tell Google and make them understand that the page search result will expire at a given period of time to make it unavailable for search.

This video highlights the following points:

Why do we need to fix pages with products that are no longer available or pages that are already inactive?

If you run your own online marketing campaign, you probably do not want to frustrate your customers and waste their valuable time searching for an item displayed on your page that is unavailable.

What should site owners do in order to put these problems in order?

  • If a business has a small number of pages or if the store sells a limited number of items and is quite difficult to make them readily available, Matt Cutts suggested utilizing the inactive page to direct customers to products that are available at the moment. This is done by bringing the customer to the pages of available items on hand which they might be interested in.
  • If the e-Commerce shop is a mid-size store that caters to hundreds of pages of products, Matt Cutts mentioned a solution of using the 404 or Not Found message stating that the products are not yet available on display. However, if the stocks can become available, keep the page up but make clients know that the products are temporarily unavailable.
  • If the business entails dealing with a lot of products and customers and are easily sold and be out of stock, Matt Cutts recommended employing the use of the meta-tag “unavailable after” to let Google know that the item on the page will be unavailable for search after a defined time.

To get better SEO Rankings, you should:

  • Remember that it is better for customers to immediately see the 404 or Not Found message when they click on a certain product in your site than waste their time ordering or inquiring about an item that is no longer available in your website.
  • Utilize suggested tools from Google Webmasters (such as Google Analytics) which could be applied from small scale online businesses to mid-size and much larger e-commerce shops.
  • Utilize inactive pages that you have to direct links of available pages that you already have.
  • Organize your page in such a way that is pleasing and attractive to clients. Create good designs and you might consider instituting some pictures and quality content for better user experience. Eventually better user experience will make users stay longer in your website which is very good for SEO.