6 Strategies for Out-Of-Stock Products to Boost Your E-Commerce SEO

Proper management of out-of-stock products is crucial for maintaining a positive user experience, which directly impacts SEO performance and customer retention.

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By Jameela Ghann
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Edited by Nelsy Mtsweni

Published June 24, 2024.

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Retailers in the U.S. suffer an annual loss of $82 billion due to out-of-stock products. As an e-commerce entrepreneur, managing situations where items are out-of-stock is crucial as it can affect your sales and SEO. However, with the right strategies, you can transform this setback into an opportunity to improve your site's visibility and ranking.

Meet the Expert

Jameela Ghann is an eCommerce and marketing expert with over 10 years of experience. Apart from running her own successful online store, Alora Boutique, she's the marketing manager of Fera.ai.

The Importance of Proper Out-of-Stock Management

Failing to handle out-of-stock products correctly can severely impact your e-commerce business and damage your brand reputation, making customers hesitant to return to your store. Lost sales, poor website SEO, and a negative user experience are just a few consequences of improper out-of-stock management among others:

  • Lost backlinks and authority: When out-of-stock product pages are removed or deleted, it can result in broken backlinks, which can hurt your site's authority and search engine rankings.
  • Negative user experience: When customers can't find what they're looking for, it leads to a poor user experience, increasing bounce rates, and negatively affecting your SEO.
  • Missed opportunities: Even if a product is temporarily unavailable, its page still has the potential to rank for relevant searches, drive traffic, and capture leads without the potential to convert.
  • Loss of sales: When products are out of stock, potential customers may turn to competitors to find what they need. This can result in lost sales, poor customer retention, and reduced revenue for your business.

Proactively addressing out-of-stock challenges is crucial for maintaining a positive online presence and fostering customer loyalty. By implementing effective strategies, you can turn this potential roadblock into an opportunity for success, enhancing sales leads and driving long-term growth and profitability for your e-commerce venture.

» Discover how to mark your products as "sold out" on Shopify

1. Keep Product Pages Live

Counterintuitive as it may seem, keeping your out-of-stock product pages live can actually benefit your SEO efforts. Here's how:

  • Preserve backlinks: By keeping the page active, you maintain any existing backlinks and your site's authority.
  • Capture leads: Use the page to offer email notifications or allow customers to pre-order or backorder the product, keeping them engaged and increasing the chances of future sales.
  • Provide value: Even when a bestselling product is unavailable, the page can still offer valuable information, such as product details, reviews, or recommendations for similar items.

2. Use 301 Redirects Strategically

Keeping a product page live may sometimes be impractical, especially if the item is discontinued. In these situations, a 301 redirect can help preserve your SEO efforts by sending visitors from the out-of-stock product's URL to a relevant in-stock product's page.

However, ensuring that the redirect target is highly relevant to the original product is crucial. For example, you wouldn't want to redirect someone searching for a specific running shoe model to a page selling winter coats.

3. Leverage Third-Party Apps

Managing out-of-stock products can be time-consuming, especially for larger e-commerce stores with extensive inventories. This is where leveraging third-party to automate and streamline the process comes into play.

Out-of-Stock Police automatically updates product availability on your website, ensuring that out-of-stock items are marked correctly and preventing customers from attempting to purchase unavailable products. The app also prioritizes in-stock products in search results, improving the overall user experience.

Best for effortlessly managing out-of-stock items in your Shopify store
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Out-of-Stock Police

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Out-of-Stock Police by EGNITION is a powerful tool designed to optimize and automate the management of out-of-stock items in your Shopify store. The app ensures a streamlined process, automatically pushing sold-out products to the bottom of collections or hiding them until restocked.

Out-of-Stock Police offers a straightforward interface, though setup may take a little time for automated workflows. Its natural integration with Shopify and available customer support make it an excellent choice, especially for beginners.

  • Push sold-out products in collections automatically in real-time.
  • Hide out-of-stock products the smart way to keep organic traffic.
  • Receive low-stock and out-of-stock notifications to your email or in-app.
  • Export and download low-stock and out-of-stock products for re-stock planning.
  • Improve SEO and generate more assisted conversions with out-of-stock products.

Free plan available for up to 49 products.

Easy-to-use interface for efficient inventory management.

Customized sorting rules for tailored product displays.

Automated workflows to save time and effort.

Boosted SEO performance for increased visibility.

Can have a slight learning curve.

4. Optimize Site Architecture

It is possible to experience out-of-stocks even with perfect tracking. To reduce the negative impact of such occurrences, optimize your site structure in the following ways:

  • Update product page metadata to alert crawlers about potential outdated content.
  • Utilize product schema markup to explicitly relay stock info to search engines.
  • Create a custom, user-friendly 404 page for permanently unavailable items.

5. Optimize for User Engagement

Keeping visitors engaged and satisfied is crucial for SEO success, as search engines favor websites that do so. To improve engagement, offer email notifications for out-of-stock products. This keeps users engaged and allows you to market to them later.

Additionally, allowing customers to pre-order temporarily out-of-stock products gives them a sense of ownership and increases their likelihood of waiting for the product instead of purchasing from a competitor.

6. Prioritize Clear Communication

Throughout the process of managing out-of-stock products, clear communication with customers is paramount. Prioritize transparency and set realistic expectations by:

  • Displaying prominent notifications on product pages when an item is out of stock.
  • Providing estimated restocking dates or timelines, if available.
  • Offering alternatives or substitutes for unavailable products.

By keeping customers informed and engaged, you not only improve the overall user experience but also increase the chances of retaining them as loyal customers, which can positively impact your SEO efforts.

» Want to try back-in-stock alerts? Here's how to notify your customers

Best Practices to Improve E-Commerce SEO

Structured data and rich product listings are becoming increasingly important for creating better search experiences, even when items are unavailable. In addition, using demand and inventory forecasting and predictive analytics can help merchants implement strategic redirects ahead of time, preventing issues during indexation.

Adopting a mindset of continuous refinement and optimization when it comes to out-of-stock protocols is essential. Merchants should regularly review their strategies, automate inventory management for efficiency, and remove any temporary measures (like 302 redirects) once items are back in stock and readily available.

» Here is the simplest way to add a back-in-stock notification form to your Shopify store

Turning Challenges Into Opportunities

Managing out-of-stock products is not just a supply and demand inventory challenge; it's an opportunity to enhance your SEO performance and solidify your brand's reputation. By implementing the strategies outlined in this article, you can turn a potentially negative situation into a positive one.

Remember, while search engine optimization is important, prioritizing user satisfaction should be your ultimate goal. When you provide a positive experience, even when products are unavailable, you'll boost your SEO, set your business apart from the competition, and establish a strong foundation for future growth.

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