Matt Cutts Explains What To Do With Pages For Products That Are No Longer Available

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Matt Cutts

Matt Cutts, Google’s head of search spam, answers a question about ecommerce sites in his latest Webmaster Help video where a user writes in to ask:

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?)

Matt prefaces his answer by saying this is a good question, and it does matter depending on how many products you have and how long they tend to stay available for customers to buy.

If you run a specialty store that deals with a very small number of products, Matt suggests using your inactive pages to direct customers to items are in stock by suggesting other items they may be interested in.

If you run a mid-sized ecommerce store with hundreds of product pages, Matt suggests doing a 404 for products that are no longer available. It’s better to get rid of the pages rather than become known as the store that frustrates users by displaying items that are out of stock. However, if the item may come back in stock, Matt suggests to keep the page up and let users know the item is temporarily unavailable.

Matt also gives an example of what to do if you run a gigantic ecommerce site like Craigslist where products are frequently becoming unavailable after a period of time. In a case like this Matt recommends using the meta tag ‘unavailable after,’ which tells Google to stop indexing the page after a certain date.

To hear Matt’s full response in his own words, please see the video below:

Matt Southern

Matt Southern

Lead News Writer
Matt Southern is the lead news writer at Search Engine Journal. His passion for helping people in all aspects of online marketing flows through in the expert industry coverage he provides.
Matt Southern
  • http://www.plumberpymble.com.au Carl Benedic Pantaleon

    Thank you for sharing Matt (SEJ)
    Just heard it today about this tag “unavailable after”. I already tried “no archive” tag, i think they are the same.

  • http://seogeek.nl/diensten/ David

    Interesting post – I had never thought about using a 404, I always figured it was better to “catch” them with a page showing previous products, then try and show them the products that have super seeded the out of stock product.

  • http://www.blessingdigital.com Yohan

    I really like this post. Matt Cutts has helped me to solve problem product item in my site.

  • http://seogeek.nl/diensten Frederik

    good news for all the online customers otherwise they may wasting their valuable time on searching for useless things. thanks for sharing this article with us!!!

  • Todd

    When Matt says “meta tag” is he referring to the meta description tag??

  • http://acoc.com.au/ Peter

    Very nice post, Matt. In your article you mentioned redirecting the customer to another related product for a product that is out of stock. That is quite smart, I didn’t think about that myself. The 404 for non-existing products is also smart, it prevents customers getting mad over an item that will never be purchasable.

    Overall, very nice tips for non-existing products!

  • http://www.searchenginelake.com Search Engine Lake

    Nice matt ! This is one of the major issue which comes many times actually. And it is straight way to solve this problem. Many Thanks