Google, Out-Of-Stock Products, & SEO

Google’s John Mueller answers a question pertaining to how Google sees out-of-stock products (pages) and any SEO impact.
SIA Team
December 6, 2021

During the English Google SEO Office-Hours From November 26, 2021, at roughly the 44-minute, 28-second mark, Google Search Advocate John Muller addressed a few related questions about out-of-stock products and SEO.

The questions, paraphrased, were: 

“How does Google treat an out-of-stock page? Will Google take actions on that page—for example, crawl less and lower the rankings of that page?” 

Those questions were followed by a bit more detail about this specific situation: “Structured data has been deleted, so it won’t display ‘out of stock’ in the search results.”

John Mueller’s response (which I’ve edited for clarity, was):

“We do try to understand when a page is no longer relevant, based on the content of that page. So, in particular, the common example is a soft 404 page, where you serve a page that looks like it could be a normal page, but it’s essentially an error page that says, ‘This page no longer exists.’

“And we do try to pick up things like that for e-commerce as well. So that’s something where you might see that out-of-stock products are seen as soft 404 pages. When they’re seen as soft 404 pages, we drop them completely from search. If we keep the page indexed despite being out of stock, we will not change the ranking.

“It’ll be ranked essentially normally still.

“It’s also still ranked normally if you change the structured data and say that something is out of stock. So from that point of view, it’s not that the page would drop in ranking. It’s more that either it’s seen as a soft 404 page or it’s not. If it’s not seen as a soft 404 page, it’s still a normal page.

Out-of-Stock Products and SEO

So, for out-of-stock pages and how Google ranks them, I see 2 possibilities:

  1. For a page that basically says ‘Nothing here,’ or ‘This page no longer exists,’ which is like a soft 404, the page gets dropped from the rankings. I can only see this as (maybe) a good option for discontinued products, and even then, a 301 redirect to a replacement or similar product, or canonicalization to an appropriate page, might be a better option. 
  1. A far better option (especially for products that are only temporarily out-of-stock) would be to change the structured data to reflect the product’s status. That way, the product page will still be ranked normally.

So, when it comes to Google and out-of-stock products, those are the 2 basic options, the second one being the better option for SEO and rankings.

Source: Google Search Central YouTube channel