SEO Shop Up: SEO for Discontinued Products


Hey Friend,

The lockdown has made us look less like our headshots and more like people… in a lockdown. Can you relate? 😄

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But since I love my red hair, I keep it that way no matter what. Luckily, there’s a store that has my hair dye in my neighbourhood. That’s what happens next: I’m going inside, I know exactly where my hair dye is located, I need to get to it quickly and get out of the shop to interact with as few people as possible… #movefast

I get to the right shelf… and see nothing there. The online analogy of this empty shelf would be:

So frustrating, right?!

That’s exactly what users feel when they visit an online store just to find out that the product they were looking for is no longer there. And in the online world, it’s much easier to close the page with the missing product and go to someone else.

That’s what it means for the store returning 404 pages:

  • Wasted money on attracting shoppers to the website
  • Loss of potential revenue 
  • Decreasing brand loyalty

and don’t even get me started on the links which are ignored if they point to a 404 page.

“Ok, leaving a 404 page instead of an out-of-stock product is a bad solution. Got it, Kristina. How do I do it right then?”

Here are the tips that will help you stand out.

For temporarily out-of-stock products

The aim is to turn a product page into a valuable asset.

  1. Leave the page as is (i.e. returning a 200 HTTP status code)

This will help the page to be indexed, crawled and visited by people as normal. But make sure to communicate properly that the product is out of stock. You can also enable backorders or back-in-stock subscriptions. 

  1. Add alternative products to give options to the shoppers

While this particular product is out of stock, there can be similar items people might choose from. Add them to the page. By giving people a choice, you can get sales even if the product they initially wanted is currently unavailable.

  1. Remove the out-of-stock product from your promo blocks

This will help you direct customers’ attention in the right direction, i.e. to the products they can buy right now.

  1. Once the product is back in stock, promote it

Add the product back to the promo blocks. Send notifications to those who subscribed for the back-in-stock alerts. You got this 💪

For permanently out-of-stock products:

  1. Repeat the steps 1-3

This will work well if the out-of-stock product is popular and gets lots of attention.

  1. Redirect the URL to a relevant page

If there’s another product that is very similar and is in stock, you can alternatively set up a 301 redirect pointing to it.

Additional resources to check out:

How to Handle Discontinued Products Without Ruining Your SEO – a great post by ContentKing I was happy to contribute to along with other awesome SEO folks.


P.S. In case you were wondering how my offline shopping experience ended: I got the dye. I had to ask the shop assistant and she said they had moved things around. They didn’t even set up a redirect…

eCommerce SEO Tips: 7 Mistakes That Ruin Your Online Store SEO (and Make You Lose Money)

Let’s summarize:
Never ever just remove the pages of products that have been there for a while. Capture the opportunities instead.
Also, I’m going to share something awesome with you in the next newsletter! I’m very excited about that. 


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