How Google recommend handling ecommerce Unavailable products?

Ecommerce SEO Tips for Unavailable Products From Google's Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts has released another video for answering couple of question about ecommerce site. He has already revealed many unknown things for answering about various SEO and other related issues. But it was unclear to us about ecommerce site related issues. A question has asked by Blind Five Year Old, SF, CA about ecommerce site product links that
How would Google recommend handling eCommerce products that are no longer available? (Does this change as the number of discontinued products outnumbers the active products?

What should an ecommerce site do when a product is no longer in stock or has been discontinued? Should it
  • Keep serving a product page for something that's no longer available?
  • Show a 404?
  • Redirect users to a similar product instead?
Many ecommerce Webmasters have seen that many of their product link got Higher Page Rank on search engine result pages. As a result those product links always showing top of the SERP. But whenever the product become out of stock or no longer available then what they do? Obviously some webmaster delete the product page but if then delete the product page then searcher getting the product link on search engine and clicking on link and when they land on product page then it is showing product not found. So in this regards actually what should they do? This is very important question.

Fortunately, Google's Matt Cutts share out this topic in a recent webmaster help video that how Google would recommend handling ecommerce products that are no longer available?

Matt Cutts first explain the issue according to the site size. He has classified the ecommerce site within three categories.
  1. Small Ecommerce Site
  2. Average Ecommerce Site
  3. Large Ecommerce Site
Particularly there is a difference between sites which sell one kinds of products and another selling bulk item which has a constant turnover of active "product pages".

1. Small Ecommerce Site

Matt Cutts video show that those who are running ecommerce site with limited product they should show related product. And this is better than 404 pages. They have given an example that if you are interested in cherry wood shelf, then you'll be interested in mahogany wood shelf instead.

2. Average Ecommerce Site

Average ecommerce site sorted by those having hundreds or thousands of pages. In this case Matt cutts prefer for 404 page.

Because if product out of stock then it may not be available for the next time and you may not interested to know the product that you have visited. Another reason is if the product is out of stock then customer can become crazy and they think they are going to find reviews.

But if your product is temporally out of stock then you can give a notice that it is coming back in store shortly. It can be done it the product can in store within couple of weeks.  

However in case of 404 route you should create a custom page which will contain important pages links like homepage, search box, automatically generated similar products or popular products etc. This will keep your buyer longer time on your site and that can increase a conversion rate.

3. Large Ecommerce Site

The site which has large turnover of the pages, that means constantly adding and selling product for those site a special meta tag can use and this meta tag will tell Google when the page no longer to be indexed or it will be available.

Matt cutts said that Google has meta tag for unavailable product which called 'unavailable_after'. This code will say to Google this page is no longer relevant and Google won’t show this page in search results.

"So that's something where you can put a deadline on it, and you can say after this date, it's not useful to show therefore just let it sort of automatically expire on its own.

The meta tag code is below which can be use below <head> of your site.
<META NAME="GOOGLEBOT" CONTENT="unavailable_after: 25-Aug-2014 15:00:00 EST">
However this code should be use for those content which will expire after certain period of time, that means it is time sensitive content. And by the help of this meta tag you are giving permission to Googlebot to remove the page after the specific date.  
How Google recommend handling ecommerce Unavailable products?
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