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.
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.
One potential solution is to 301 redirect the old product page to a relevant category or sub category.
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.
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.
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.
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:
This ensures that when the product comes back in stock, the flow of page strength through the website isn’t disrupted.
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:
Still not sure what’s best for your website? Contact our technical SEO team today.
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