An interesting discussion over at SearchEngineWatch Forum covers the way(s) of treating out-of-stock product pages that cannot be of any use to a visitor but still carry a lot of weight (in the form of inlinks, rankings and traffic).
So what can be done to make them worthwhile for a human visitor and at the same time take the full advantage of their SEO power?
- Use 301-redirect to a very related product version (e.g. “product name 2006” to “product name 2008”). This will both be useful for a customer and get the new page ranked as high as its outdated more powerful version. However this solution can only be used in case if you do have two very related products (to avoid user bad experience) and also might be hard to manage with huge dynamic websites.
- Preserve the page and add “Related Products” section on a very prominent place on the page. Besides, you can host some alternative material (product guides and manuals) on these pages. Of course, you’ll need some additional tweaking with these pages to avoid misunderstanding: remove “buy” button, product promotions, etc. and make it perfectly clear that the product is currently out of stock. While this is easier to do, customers will be forced to click twice to reach the actual product page; so you might risk losing some conversions.
- Put new content on the old URL and move the old content to a new URL (this type of solution was long ago offered by Distilled when they were discussing how Danny Sullivan should have SEOed his conference page). This again can only be done with very relevant products and neutral URL strucutre (meaning you can’t host Product 2008 at domain.com/product-2006 URL).