Google has released a little peek into what they want to see from ecommerce sites. According to Matt Cutts, what you need to do depends on the size of the e-commerce site. He broke it down into three sizes: small sites with tens of pages, medium sites with thousands of pages and massive sites with hundreds of thousands of pages or more.
Handmade and Etsy sellers usually belong on the “small e-commerce sites” category. Here’s what Google’s Matt Cutts had to say about dealing with out-of-stock products for that category:
“Small E-Commerce Sites. Small sites that sell items, such as handmade furniture, that showcase a product that is out of stock should likely link to related products. This way the customer can see that this owner can make or design something as displayed but at the same time, show other products that are currently available in stock that the customer can purchase today.Of course, it may make sense to add a manufacturing time next to the items that are out of stock.”
You can redirect a potential customer to a product that you think they would like as a substitute for an unavailable product. Color variations of a certain product are a good consideration to start with. For instance, if you only have handmade wallets and no longer have white in stock, it might make sense to set up a 301 redirect to lead your customer to your beige wallets instead.
Custom 404 Page
If you have a larger site, you can use a custom 404 page, especially if the item will not be coming back into stock. By setting up a 301 redirect to a custom 404 page, you can provide users with information on why they aren’t going to the page they wanted as well as provide them with other options of where to go.
For example, if you remove the white handmade wallet entirely, and it’s never coming back, you may want to send users to a page that says “Looks like we can’t find what you’re looking for. Sorry! Maybe you would like to view one of these popular products: beige handmade wallets, yellow handmade wallets, etc.” Use hyperlinks to direct users to the new product or category pages, and also include a search box to make it easy for them to look for something else of interest.
If your site has a large number of page turnovers, you can use a special code to tell Google not to index them once it is past a certain date and time. According to Google’s Matt Cutts, “We do have a meta-tag that you can use called ‘unavailable_after’, which basically says after such and such a date, this page is no longer relevant, so I’d like Google to not show it in the search results. 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.”
This type of code is useful for classified listings, time sensitive content, or sites like Craigslist. Here is an example of the code that Matt Cutts provided:
<META NAME=”GOOGLEBOT” CONTENT=”unavailable_after: 25-Aug-2007 15:00:00 EST”>
Be cautious in taking pages off of your site unless the product is truly gone forever. When it comes to search engines indexing your site, the less confusion the better. A simple addition of text like “This Product is Currently Unavailable” is a much better way to resolve an out of stock product than deleting pages, and you’re rankings will look much better if you take this approach.
Here is the full video:
How about you? What do you do when your handmade products go out of stock?