How to Handle Discontinued Products Without Ruining Your SEO
Discontinued product pages can have a huge effect on your SEO performance, and your sales. Whether you are dealing with products that are discontinued temporarily or permanently, you have to always balance:
- Crawl budget
- SEO value
- User experience.
Here are SEO tips to avoid making the most common mistakes and to properly handle discontinued product pages.
We all know the eCommerce industry is highly competitive. When you mess up, your competitors benefit immediately. You need to be on top of your game and be the smartest person in the SERP.
One often overlooked aspect of eCommerce SEO is how to properly handle discontinued products. No matter whether these products are temporarily out of stock or permanently discontinued, their have a huge impact on your SEO performance.
Ignoring these implications can lead to losses of money and customers—and sometimes to tears and despair.
On the other hand, if handled properly, discontinued-product pages can even help you boost your rankingsRankings
Rankings in SEO refers to a website’s position in the search engine results page.
In this article, we’ll describe the best practices for handling discontinued-product pages to retain what you’ve worked so hard for, so that you can continue to increase your SEO visibility.
What is a discontinued product?
First off, let’s define what a discontinued product is.
A discontinued product means a product that has become temporarily or permanently unavailable.
Naked Palette eyeliner was discontinued by Urban Decay in 2018. This is how its product pagePage
Learn more looks today.
Reasons for products being temporarily out of stock can include supply deficiencies, seasonality, or issues on the manufacturer side.
The permanent discontinuation of products, on the other hand, usually means that the product has been replaced by a new version or has proven unsuccessful, or its production has been simply stopped for good.
Keeping track of discontinued products
Before you can even implement a strategy on how to handle discontinued products, you first need to know about the products in question. How to get this data is different for every organization, perhaps you need to pull this data from an ERP system, CMS, Google ShoppingGoogle Shopping
Google Shopping is Google’s product-based advertising service.
Learn more feed or maybe you're using .
Do whatever you need to to get this data, because having a good discontinued products strategy in place can make or break your SEO performance.
Best practices for handling discontinued products
The process of selecting the best strategy to get maximum SEO benefits out of your discontinued product pages will depend on whether the products will become available again in the future.
A temporarily discontinued product requires a different approach than a product that is simply no more. Let’s look at the two types separately.
How to handle temporarily discontinued products
If you expect your product to be available again, you should take care of retaining the URL’s SEO value and preparing your visitors for the product’s return. For a period of four to eight weeks, implement these quick measures:
- Keep the product alive and return the HTTP 200 OK status code
- Keep the product in the and keep it in on-site search
- Put “out of stock” or a similar label on the product’s picture
- Hide the product’s price and keep visitors from adding the item to the cart
- Removing the
Offerproperty from the Product Schema markup to prevent Schema penalties
- Inform your visitors on when the product will be available again, or alternatively, offer them a way to receive a notification once it’s back in stock
- Pause all active PPC campaigns directing customers to the product’s page
After the waiting period is over and you expect the product to be back soon, you can extend the four-to-eight-weeks time as much as you prefer. But if there is no sign that the product will ever be available again, consider it discontinued permanently.
How to handle permanently discontinued products
If you’re sure that a product is discontinued for good, give the product the same treatment as you would give temporarily discontinued products.
Next, evaluate the page’s value by asking yourself these two questions:
- Are there any external links pointing to this product page?
- Does this product page generate any traffic (be it organic, referral, social etc.)?
How to handle permanently discontinued products that have no value
If the product page doesn’t have any value anymore, you can return , which will signal to search engines that it no longer exists and show alternative products to visitors. Getting rid of the product page this way saves you precious , leaving room for search engines to crawl more meaningful parts of your websiteWebsite
A website is a collection of HTML documents that can be called up as individual webpages via one URL on the web with a client such as a browser.
By using a 410 instead of a 404 you speed up the process of deindexing the page. The difference between a 404 and a 410 status code is that 404 means “Not Found”, while 410 stands for “Gone”. The signal 410 “Gone” sends is much stronger for search engines and makes it clear that you removed the URL on purpose. That’s why they’ll deindex it faster.
How to handle permanently discontinued products that do have value
Returning a 410 for permanently discontinued products, that have many backlinksBacklinks
Backlinks are links from outside domains that point to pages on your domain; essentially linking back from their domain to yours.
Learn more and still cater to an active audience, would be a huge mistake.
There's several approaches to making the most of this value, listed in order of preference:
- Keep alive as long as search demand is high
- Reuse those URLs
- Implementing 301 redirect
Keep alive as long as search demand is high
If, despite a product being permanently discontinued, search demand for that particular product remains high you can keep on your site, and treat it as if it were a temporarily discontinued product. The only exception is that now you'll clearly state that the product won't be available ever again.
This way, visitors will still land on the page they were searching for. They won't be able to buy the product, but you showcase alternatives that get the job done too just as well. This approach leads to more conversions — at the end of the day, that's what we're after right?
Then, when the search demand dies out, make the following change to the product page:
- Remove internal linksInternal links
Hyperlinks that link to subpages within a domain are described as "internal links". With internal links the linking power of the homepage can be better distributed across directories. Also, search engines and users can find content more easily.
Learn more pointing to it
- Remove it from the
- Remove it from on-site search
- Apply the
Implement a periodical process in which you'll double-check the products have served their purpose, and remove them completely — serving a 410 status code.
Reuse those URLs
If the URLURL
The term URL is an acronym for the designation "Uniform Resource Locator".
Learn more of the discontinued product is reusable for other, highly related, products, then you can simply adjust the content and keep the page itself alive. Alternatively, you can use the URL for a new landing page that refers to the previous content, or to a portfolio of alternative relevant products.
Implement 301 redirects to highly relevant URL to prevent soft 404 errors
Redirecting your permanently discontinued product pages to products that aren't very relevant can result in errors that you’d do best to avoid.
Let’s say you’re a former retailer of black socks, but for some reason, this very type of socks has disappeared from the Earth’s surface for good (probably a washing machine ate them all). As these socks were super popular, their product pages have gained a lot of links and traffic. And you want to use that traffic to sell other products.
Using a 301 redirect, you can suggest other—larger, smaller, or warmer—socks that are highly similar to the black socks of yore. This way, the value of your URL remains and you can still profit from the discontinued version.
What happens if you redirect to an irrelevant page?
But if you use the same redirect to link to an irrelevant item—let’s say a gray hoodie—it might happen that the search engines will evaluate such a redirect as a soft 404 error, meaning that you will lose all the SEO benefits.
The same applies for to categories, or even your homepageHomepage
A homepage is a collection of HTML documents that can be called up as individual webpages via one URL on the web with a client such as a browser.
Learn more. If you have the opportunity, it pays to redirect items to items and categories to categories to avoid such an unfortunate outcome. Redirecting to homepage should be your last option.
Three things to keep in mind
When dealing with discontinued products, keep in mind that you need to take into consideration these three goals:
- Preserving crawl budget
- Preserving page value
- Providing a good user experience
There's no “one size fits all” approach to this, so adjust your strategy based on which of the goals above you need to focus on the most.
Preserving crawl budget
When it comes to retaining the right balance of crawl budget and link value, we recommend that you monitor internal links leading to 404 or 410 pages.
Preserving page value
But don’t just look at your own site. You also need to periodically check if there are any backlinks returning 4xx errors on your site that need to be redirected.
Providing a good user experience
When you’re deciding on a solution to discontinued product pages, you should always take into account how your visitors will feel about your solution. Let this drive your approach to dealing with these pages. At the end of the day, every web site is different and may require a (slightly) different approach.
What about the situation in which product demand remains high?
Sometimes when a product is discontinued permanently, it remains popular among users and the demand is still high. When this happens, you can utilize its popularity and cater to people who would like to know more about it.
A popular beauty feature from Urban Decay called Naked Palette can serve as a good example here. This 12-shadow eyeliner set was a must for many women until August 2018, when the company discontinued its production.
The product has retained its popularity to this day and has bounced back a few times, as you can see on Google TrendsGoogle Trends
With Google Trends the interest in relevant search terms can be analyzed. This allows search queries to be valued and, over the course of time, such as for the seasonality of search terms, be classified.
Despite its discontinuation, the demand for Naked Palette eyeliner has remained high.
In other words, the popularity of certain products doesn’t end with their discontinuation, and that can be leveraged into a huge advantage.
Apart from displaying alternative products, the discontinued product page can serve as a reminder of a once legendary item and can provide information to customers. And informational content has huge value for overall SEO performance.
Dealing with discontinued products is all about balancing preservation of crawl budget and page value, while still satisfying the users that visit your site.
There is no “one size fits all” approach to dealing with discontinued product pages, but there’s one thing we know for sure: your visitors are the only ones who’ll purchase products on your site. A satisfying user experienceUser Experience
User experience (or UX for short) is a term used to describe the experience a user has with a product.
Learn more should be topmost, as that’s what’s going to make you money.
Frequently asked questions about discontinued products
What is a discontinued product?
A discontinued product is a product that has become either temporarily or permanently unavailable for purchase.
Should I keep discontinued product pages up?
Whether or not to keep a discontinued product’s page alive depends on whether the product is discontinued temporarily or permanently, as well as whether it possesses SEO value.
How do I preserve the SEO value that product pages have?
You can reuse the page for other products, landing pages, or portfolios, or you can implement a 301 redirect to a highly relevant product page.
Should I redirect discontinued products to the homepage or product category page?
No, redirecting product pages to categories or your homepage can result in a soft 404 error, meaning you could lose SEO value. Always redirect to a highly relevant segment of your website such as a similar product.