The SEO and online marketing world often operates in response to real-life events, and the unfortunate recent COVID-19 outbreak is a prominent example. Numerous businesses have been or will be impacted by various shutdowns and social distancing efforts, and one significant issue that may arise during this period for businesses and SEO experts alike is the presence of out-of-stock product pages.
At Be Locally SEO, we’re dedicated to providing all our high-quality SEO services and other marketing solutions through this difficult period. We’ve taken all the proper steps to allow our expert staff to work remotely while continuing to serve our clients in all the same ways. In this two-part blog series, we’ll go over the issues your e-commerce business might be facing with out-of-stock product pages during unusual periods of demand, plus how you can respond from an SEO perspective so your business is not hurt in tangential ways.
The Issue at Hand
For numerous retailers, from large corporations down to small online businesses, the outbreak and resulting concern has led to major issues with product stocks. While many businesses are familiar with going out-of-stock for a given product every now and then, this is a very different situation.
Rather than a single item or two being out-of-stock, many businesses are dealing with numerous similar items that are all out-of-stock simultaneously. Not only this, but massive demand and issues with supply chains mean that many retail companies do not know when their stock will return, and realize it could be a significant period of time before this happens.
Despite these conditions, however, demand remains high for the products. Not only this, but continuing to rank high from an SEO perspective, even while out-of-stock, is vital. How do you do this?
Unfortunately, because this isn’t really an SEO issue, there’s only so much you can do. Frankly, much of this process involves mitigating the negative impact. Here are some general steps to take:
- No matter what is happening, do not 404 your pages. When your stock returns, you need to be able to act quickly – if the page has been removed, this will be much tougher.
- You might be thinking about using a 301 here, or a permanent redirect, but this also isn’t often a great call due to how time-consuming and high-risk it can be. However, if you’re a company that is able to replace an out-of-stock product with a similar one, the 301 is often a good move – it will redirect those searching your initial product to the new one you have in stock.
- Another option is the 302 temporary redirect, but even for alternative products, this one is tough based on timing.
- You may also consider ItemAvailability schema with specific stock options that display directly on organic search results. But these are also risky, as presenting “out-of-stock” designations on your search results while competitors list nothing at all may hurt you.
For more on dealing with out-of-stock product pages from an SEO perspective, or to learn about any of our SEO, PPC or web design services, speak to the staff at Be Locally SEO today.