This product is phased-out. Let’s wipe this from our site. If I buy a new lens from you, can I fix it to the phased-out model? I wish to help, but we don’t have that information. Well, if you don’t know, then who does? I don’t know. Buy the new model.
If I were the customer, I would switch brands. So in this blog, we are detailing the steps you should take whenever your product is temporarily or permanently out of stock. Let’s go. Hey, it’s Maham. We have constantly provided you with the most updated knowledge and tools concerning SEO. So if you haven’t subscribed to our channel yet, we hope you do so. And if this video provides value to you, do help us by smashing the thumbs-up button.
What We Will Be Discussing
Anyway, if you run an e-commerce store, you know that there are scenarios where a product is temporarily out of stock and where a product is permanently out of stock. And what if a product is phased-out and a newer version replaces it? Or what about a product that is sold only during the festive season?
Before You Get Started
These are the things we’ll be talking about in this blog, but one thing you’ve got to do before any of the scenarios plays out is to notify concerned parties. Depending on the size and scale of your store, you may have engaged third-party fulfilment service centres, sell your products on multiple sites, store products in external warehouses, sell products through multiple distributors, etc.
Every third-party process is different, and how they handle customers and remove products from their inventory is also different. It’ll be advantageous to notify them early about your stock levels and their availability so they can prepare for what’s coming next for the out-of-stock product or discontinued products. On the other hand, if you are the sole distributor of your product, all you need to do is to remove the discontinued item from the Google shopping feed. That’s the first thing you should do before your products get out of stock.
Temporarily Out of Stock SEO
And now, let’s talk about how you should deal with products that are temporarily out of stock in terms of SEO. When your product goes out of stock, it can frustrate your customers. For example, if you look at the support group of a popular online brand, a customer complained that half the items on the site are out of stock, and it is a waste of time for the customer to click on them. What’s worse is that the sale will still happen due to the negative experience, but not in your store. It will go somewhere else.
So to mitigate this and reduce the impact of a dissatisfied customer, here are the things you may want to consider doing. The first is to reduce the visibility of the product in your store. To do that, on your WooCommerce product page, on the right, you will see the catalogue visibility settings of the product. Click on Edit, and you will see four options. When your product is in stock, you will usually choose the first option, but when it is out of stock, you can hide it completely from your shop, category pages and internal search.
What is Soft 404?
But the problem with this is what if a customer visited your store a week ago and intended to buy the product, but they were still making a decision, but when she is ready to buy the product, it is nowhere to be found because you have hidden it. So it is not the best option, depending on your use case. But when you reduce the visibility of your product, what that customer will do next is they will either do a search or visit one of the category pages to find that product. So these two options will be more appropriate in a sense.
Remove Internal Links
The next thing you want to do is decide on the product page’s schema markup. There are two ways to deal with this. One is recommended by Google, which may not be the best solution, and experts in the field recommend the other. I’ll first share with you what Google recommends regarding the schema markup for your product page. Google recommends immediately changing the schema markup of the product page to “out of stock”, even if it is temporary. It would help if you went to the inventory tab of your product page and set the stock status to “out of stock”. When you do that, Rank Math automatically handles the schema for out-of-stock settings on the back end, so everything works seamlessly for you in the background.
But the problem with this approach is that Google treats out-of-stock pages as soft 404s. 404 technically means a page is deleted, removed, or cannot be found on the site. But soft 404s mean Google perceive that the page is removed, deleted, or cannot be found, even though the page is still live on the site. Hence, Google may reduce the visibility of the product page on their search, and that depends on when they crawl your product page again after you have made the changes.
For example, if you change your schema markup on this date, but the search engine only crawls your page a week later during this period, the product page may not be treated as soft 404. So in between, if your product is back in stock, great, you change the schema markup to “InStock”, and nothing happens. However, if the search engines manage to crawl your page when the “OutOfStock” schema is added, it will start to treat the page as soft 404. And imagine the next page crawl is somewhere far in between when your product is back in stock. The change will not immediately happen in the search engine’s eyes. And that’s the problem e-commerce stores want to avoid.
So it depends on how long your product will be out of stock. If it is out of stock for a long period, maybe Google’s recommended method may work. And if you use that method, you will want to add an email capture form in case your customers want to know when the product is back in stock. You can use a free plugin called “Back in Stock Notifier” because what that does is it will place an email capture form on your out-of-stock pages automatically. With that, it has a clear banner for you to make known that this product is out of stock for a short moment. However, if you wish to follow experts’ advice, what you need to do is to keep the schema as “InStock” and to prevent shoppers from adding this product to the cart, you want to go to general, over at this pricing field, you want to remove everything.
When you do that, as you refresh the product page, you will see all the payment options removed. And also, did you notice that the email capture form is gone as well? That’s because the back-in-stock Notifier plugin only works for products marked as out of stock. So you also want to add an email capture form using theme elements. And depending on the WordPress theme you use, you can inject an email capture form into the product page. In this example, I’m using the Kadence Pro theme, which has a function called “Elements”, where you can create and design an email capture form and place it on a specific page and at a specific location.
As a result, we will have an email subscription form like what the back-in-stock notification plugin provides. With this method, the search engines will not think the product is out of stock. So, it depends on your use case. Which do you think is more applicable to your business? That’s for you to decide. The next thing you want to do is remove any internal links pointing to the product page because you don’t want your site visitors to visit the page when it is out of stock. But how do you know if any pages are linking to this page? If you have Rank Math installed on your site, it has this “Link counter” module, and when turned on, as you visit any posts, pages or product lists, you will see if any pages are linking to it under incoming links. Suppose there is none, great, nothing else for you to do.
But if there are, you will need to go to your Google search console, look out for links and under Internal Links, you want to click on More. If you want to find the Out of the stock product page, click on it, and it will tell you what page or pages on your site are linking to this page. Visit the page, and remove the link, but take note of the link you are removing. Maybe you want to take a snapshot or jot it down because you want to add it back when the product is in stock.
The next thing you want to do is to use Google Merchant Center to keep Google updated on the availability of your products. This will reduce the likelihood of your pages being treated as Soft 404 when your product is in stock. It gives an additional layer of assurance that works well with the two methods discussed. Finally, you want to pause all active PPC campaigns related to the out-of-stock product.
That’s unless you are still accepting backorders. And once the product is finally back in stock, whatever you have done here, you want to reverse it to the state where it was before it went out of stock. That’s how you should tackle short-term stock products. If you are an e-commerce expert, feel free to share your methods below in case there is something that I’ve missed.
Permanently Discontinued Products
Anyway, let’s talk about products that are permanently discontinued. Now, the last thing you want to do is to delete your product page because it might have a negative impact in terms of SEO. And even if a page does not have SEO value, its product data may still be valuable. If a customer has bought a phased-out product but is calling you for some advice on the product if you don’t keep a record of that product, how will your support team handle that customer, right?
How Big Brands Like Apple & Nvidia Handle it
So I want to show you an example, one we are all familiar with, which is iPod Touch. Apple has announced that the iPod Touch will be discontinued, and if you visit the way back machine that takes snapshots of all the existing sites, you will see a page where you can buy an iPod Touch. But did you know there is now a page that is helpful to people who still own an iPod Touch? And this is the page that resides on their support documents. It details everything an iPod Touch owner should know, including the service and repair, what you can do with the product, and the user guide and specs.
This is a good example of keeping a product alive on your site when discontinued. And that support page can gain a lot of SEO value for your overall site because other site owners and distributors who are promoting, who were promoting your products, will not find value in developing an FAQ guide. So they will rely on the support page by giving you a backlink.
Hope this makes sense to you. And although the URL of the iPod Touch page is now redirected to its homepage, I thought it would make more sense if it were permanently 301 redirected to the iPod Touch Support page. Another good approach I want to show you is NVIDIA. You see, it was announced that they are discontinuing their GTX 1660 series, and they used to have this product page with this URL.
But since the product is phased-out, let me copy this URL. I’ll open up another browser and paste it here. As I hit Enter, please take note of the link it is redirected to. It describes the product and lists its features. If you click to learn more about the feature, they will redirect you to a page that tells you other products have the same feature. So there are many ways to deal with discontinued products. You have to consider maximizing your product page’s existing traffic and SEO value and, most importantly, providing a good experience to your customers.
When you abruptly remove a product page, there will be questions, a lot of them. So you want to brainstorm what those questions are and take the right steps to address those questions appropriately that will benefit both your customers and your business. But the practical steps are to change the stock status to “out of stock”, hide the catalogue visibility, and save changes by updating the product page. Then you may want to create a new page that lists all the features of the phased-out product and put a button that links to a page that shows all the products with the same feature, like NVIDIA. Alternatively, you can create a support page like Apple iPod Touch that provides information about the phased-out product.
Then you want to use a redirection tool like the one on Rank Math. Create a new redirection, select the 301 permanent moves, and redirect the phased-out product page to the URL of your new page. Or to a product category or page that you deem most relevant. And before you delete the product page from your site, you may want to check the internal links pointing to it because all those links will be redirected to the new page. In case you missed it, I’ve already explained how to find those internal links earlier, so use the timestamps below. So if any internal links do not make sense to be linked to the new page, you want to edit or remove them.
And finally, you may want to set up a Google Sheet to document the universal product code, dimension, copywriting, overall sales conversion rate, or anything that is helpful to your existing customers and helps you develop better products in the future. So these are the steps we have discussed on the permanently discontinued products in case you have missed them. You want to change the stock status of the product page to “out of stock”. Make the catalogue visibility “hidden”.
You can create a new page that is helpful to your customers, but this is optional. Following that, you want to do a 301 permanent redirect to either the page you have created or a page you deem is relevant, ensure that the internal links pointing to the new page are relevant, and finally, set up a Google Sheet to document everything that will help your existing customers and for you to develop better products. So those are the two most important out of stock scenarios. Now, let’s quickly talk about what if a current product is phased out and there is a newer version that replaces it.
New Version Replacing Phased-Out Product
Now, the steps for this scenario are pretty similar to the steps for temporary out-of-stock products. Still, the only difference is that you want to follow Google’s recommendation to turn that stock status to out-of-stock and remove the product page link from the XML sitemap. Let’s assume this new Master-Touch Charcoal grill will replace this Master-Touch GBS product.
First, you want to reduce the visibility on the phased-out product page by changing the Catalog Visibility to “Hidden”. Then on the Inventory tab, change the stock status to “Out of stock”. Next, you want to see if any other pages are internally linked to this page. If yes, you want to remove them. Following that, remove the URL of this product page from the XML sitemap; as you can see, currently, the product page is still visible on the sitemap. You want to scroll down to the bottom where Rank Math’s options are, select the “Advanced tab”, and change the robot’s meta to “no index”.
Alternatively, there is a Woocommerce setting in Rank Math where you can also set no index to hidden products. So with this setting, you don’t need to mess with the robot’s meta. Just update the page with the hidden settings you did earlier, go back to your XML sitemap, refresh it, and the phased-out product page will be removed because the new product version is not available for sale yet. On your phased-out product page, you want an email capture form so shoppers who want to be notified of the new product release can subscribe. And to prep for the new product launch, you want to create the new product page with the stock status as “in stock”, as search engines will take some time before they find the new product. You don’t want to allow people to buy the product yet, so you want to empty the rice fields. Let’s update the page.
Let’s visit the new product page. What you also want to have is an email capture form right here. So I’ll place that right here. And on top of the email capture form, you want to add a countdown timer, so your shoppers will know when the product will be released. So these are the steps we have discussed so far. On the phased-out product page, you want to reduce its catalogue visibility to “hidden”, change its stock status to “out of stock”, remove internal links pointing to the page, remove the page URL from the XML sitemap, and add an email capture form to notify customers on when the new product will be launched.
And then on the new product page, keep the stock status as in stock, remove the prices from the pricing fields so that no one can add the product to the cart, and add an email capture form and a countdown Timer. When the product is launched, add your prices to the new product page, remove the Timer and email capture form, send a notification to your subscribers, do a 301 permanent redirect from the old product page to the new one, and add appropriate internal links from those you had on the old product page. Quite straightforward, right?
Seasonal Sale Products
Now, let’s deal with seasonal products. Let’s say there are products in your store only sold during Christmas. In that case, you want to create a coming soon experience. What’s important is to keep the product page live throughout the year. Assuming this Grillin’ PRO is only sold at Christmas and Christmas is over, you want to keep the stock status as “in stock”. You want to remove the price from the fields so no one can add the product to the cart.
Then, you want to change the catalogue visibility to either “shop only” or “search result only”. Because if you have selected hidden, this product page will be removed from the XML sitemap, and it will be marked as no index. So select either one of these. Let’s update this page. Let’s check out the product page right now. Here’s how it looks. And what you want to do is to add a countdown Timer and an email capture form. So let’s place that here. There. It will give you a clear indication of when the sale will start.
Do you realize the steps are pretty standard once you understand the steps for temporary out-of-stock products? So what do you think about the steps I’ve shared? Are they helpful? Do you have some additional advice to add? Feel free to do so in the comments, and don’t forget to smash that thumbs-up button.