How should old product pages be handled? This is a common challenge faced by lots of e-commerce websites. Tom Williams is here to discuss this in more detail and provide a solution.

The Situation 

So, a product that you’ve sold for several years is discontinued. What does this mean for the relevant product page on your website?

Should it be 301 redirected to the home page? Should the page now return a 404 error? What about a product that is only temporarily out of stock?

Many webmasters aren’t sure what the best course of action is. Let’s take a look at the different options in more detail.

Potential Solutions

Discontinued Product – 301 Redirect

One potential solution is to 301 redirect the old product page to a relevant category or sub category.

301 Redirect to category page

Google’s John Mueller recently came out with the following statement:

301 redirecting to a category, for example, is something we would probably pick up as a soft 404

Even though Google may see this redirect as a soft 404, any strength that has been accumulated by the old product page may be lost if not redirected to a relevant category page.

If there is no direct equivalent page, and your old product page has a good amount of strength it is recommended to 301 redirect this to a relevant category page.

However, if you have an equivalent page that replaces the old one, it makes more sense to 301 redirect to that page instead.

301 Redirect to equivalent page

Some e-commerce websites will 301 redirect an old product page to the homepage. This may also be seen as a soft 404 and isn’t recommended.

Discontinued Product – 410 Page

If the old product page has no strength, the ideal solution would be for this page to return a 410 page.

However, this option should only be implemented if you have friendly 410 error pages that won’t drive your customers away from the site.

You could also customise these 410 error pages to include a list of related products, for example.

Temporarily Out of Stock Products

When a product is only temporarily out of stock, we recommend that this page is kept (along with all the internal links pointing to the page) but an ‘Out of Stock’ message is displayed.

Something similar to the below would be ideal:

Out Of Stock notice

This ensures that when the product comes back in stock, the flow of page strength through the website isn’t disrupted.

Summary

Google’s John Mueller has stated that there is never an absolute technical answer for all variations and sometimes it’s best to just do what is right for the user.

However, based on the information above, the following table provides a summary of solutions based on what type of page you are dealing with:

Redirects table

Still not sure what’s best for your website? Contact our technical SEO team today.

Find out more about our technical SEO services on our SEO Consultancy page.

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About the author:

Tom joined ClickThrough in 2011. Since then, he has developed an expertise in the technical side of search engine optimisation. He’s Google Analytics-qualified, and in his current role as digital and technical Executive, carries out monthly SEO activities and provides technical consultancy for several of the company’s largest accounts.