If an item is out of stock, a product page’s visibility in Google Search may suffer.
If the item for sale is marked as out of stock on the retailer’s website, Google may restrict the visibility of the product page. During a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout, Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller mentioned this. An eCommerce business owner asked if search rankings for transactional keywords will suffer if the products sell out.
According to Mueller, Google may theoretically limit the appearance of product pages featuring out-of-stock items.
That does not have to be the case, though. In the part below, you’ll find his complete response.
Out-of-stock products are treated as soft 404s by Google.
Mueller does not rule out the idea that out-of-stock items will have their exposure in search results decreased.
He says that ‘out of stock’ is treated by Google as a soft 404 error:
“Out of stock – it’s possible. That’s kind of simplified like that. I think there are multiple things that come into play when it comes to products themselves in that they can be shown as a normal search result.
They can also be shown as an organic shopping result as well. If something is out of stock, I believe the organic shopping result might not be shown – I’m not 100% sure.
And when it comes to the normal search results, it can happen that we when see that something is out of stock, we will assume it’s more like a soft 404 error, where we will drop that URL from the search results as well.
Theoretically, it could affect the visibility in search if something goes out of stock.”
If the product page is relevant, Google will still display it.
The amount of value the product page provides beyond the product itself determines whether Google regards it as a soft 404 error.
If the page also serves as a resource for product information — information that is still helpful even if the product is out of stock — it is more likely to appear in search results.
“It doesn’t have to be the case. In particular, if you have a lot of information about that product anyway on those pages, then that page can still be quite relevant for people who are searching for a specific product. So it’s not necessarily that something goes out of stock, and that page disappears from search.”
Finally, Mueller suggests that the rest of a website’s SERP rankings will not be affected by any particular product being out of stock.
“The other thing that’s also important to note here is that even if one product goes out of stock, the rest of the site’s rankings are not affected by that.
So even if we were to drop that one specific product because we think it’s more like a soft 404 page, then people searching for other products on the site, we would still show those normally. It’s not that there would be any kind of negative effect that swaps over into the other parts of the site.”
See Mueller’s full response here.