Mar 27, 2014
A lot of customers use search engines to look for products online. When a customer visits a site and finds a product, they expect that the product is in stock and they can get it. Sometimes, however, products run out of stock. This poses a problem as they can still be found on the site. If a customer visits a site two or three times and finds products that are out of stock, the business risks losing the customer because of disappointment. This is also a waste of the customer’s valuable time. Many site owners do not know what course of action they should take when products on their site are out of stock. This is the issue Matt Cutts addressed when he talked about search engine optimization for eCommerce sites.
According to him, the steps taken depend on the size of the eCommerce site. There are three sizes: small sites, average sites and massive sites.
These are sites with less than 100 pages. He advised these sites to link unavailable products to those that are similar but available. This serves to advertise the other products that can be obtained immediately in case the client decides to settle for the alternative. The site owner can also use this opportunity to make the customer aware of new designs. It is a good method of putting new products out there because they sell much faster. He added that the out of stock products should have a manufacture date, which is a date that they are expected to be available. The customer can then choose to wait for the product to be available or pick a similar one from the options available. REF
These are sites with hundreds of pages. For these, he suggested that the site owners should 404 the pages with products that are out of stock. This means that when a customer searches for the product, they will be told that the product cannot be found: the famous error 404 that sometimes comes up on screens. If the date that the product will be available is known, this should be put up on the page instead of having to 404 the page. This gives the customer the option of ordering in advance if they choose to.
These are sites with hundreds of thousands of pages. He suggested the use of meta tags. These are tags that set the expiry date of a page, after which the page becomes unavailable. The date can be set immediately the product is added onto the site. It is similar to placing an advance removal request that matures at the set date. After the removal date passes, it takes about 24 hours for the page to be removed from the site and customers searching for the product can no longer find it.
There is no cause for alarm when products on a site run out of stock. The suggestions given by Matt Cutts should help in handling the problem.