Writing by Nick Stamoulis in SEO
One of the unique SEO problems that e-commerce websites face is that their products can be constantly changing. This means that new product pages are being added, content is being tweaked and discontinued or out of stock product pages are being taken down. This kind of product page turnover can actually hinder your SEO in the long run if you’re not careful. The search engines rank individual pages, not websites as a whole, so each product page can become an entry point into your website. That’s one of the reasons it is so important to optimize each product page individually and target long-tail keywords to drive traffic directly to that product page. However, if a page is only up for a few months it might not have enough time to age properly or gain enough links to do well in the SERPs. On the flip side, a product page that’s been online for a long time has a lot of search engine trust and links that you don’t want to lose should you stop carrying that product.
In order to keep the SEO value of your ecommerce site and product pages intact, here are a few things site owners need to do:
1. Don’t do a 301 redirect unless you are discontinuing a product.
301 redirects are supposed to indicate a permanent change and tell the search engines to pass any SEO value and inbound links for the product page about blue widgets (which you are never going to carry every again on your site) to the page about indigo widgets. If a product is just temporarily out of stock there is no need to do a 301 redirect. A 302 redirect (temporary) or even just a message that says “This product is temporarily out of stock” will do. If you go with the out of stock message you could even give shoppers the option to sign up for an email notification of when you’re getting new inventory. This is a great way to build your list!
2. If a product is out of stock, offer related products.
Speaking of out of stock products, another way to help keep shoppers engaged on your site is to offer related products on an out of stock product page. This might help reduce your website’s bounce rate and keep visitors from leaving without making a purchase. At the very least it’s a much better option than sending your visitors to a Page Not Found or 404 error because you pulled the page down. If someone wants to do business with your company, let them!
3. Redirect discontinued products back to the main category page.
You never know what kind of inbound links your product pages have built up over the years. Losing those can be a serious blow to your SEO. You also have to consider the internal linking that you’ve created. How many other product pages could send visitors to that now discontinued product page? In order to preserve the SEO value and user experience of your site, it’s better to redirect a discontinued product page back to either the main category page (blue widget should redirect to widget, not thingamajig) or a similar product page (blue widget to navy widget). Remember, you don’t ever want a visitor to feel like they were mislead by landing on a page they didn’t expect to get to. And by redirecting to another product page or category page you make it easier for someone to find what they are looking for, as opposed to starting the search process over from the homepage.