Product pages may receive a temporary reduction in their visibility in Google search results if the product is listed as out of stock, according to Google’s Search Advocate John Mueller during the most recent Google Search Central SEO Office Hours session.

Surprisingly, though, this is not always the case.

As Mueller answered questions about how product stock affects rankings, he explained that Google has a few ways of handling out-of-stock product pages.

How Google Handles Out-of-Stock Products

Mueller says that, in most cases, Google treats out-of-stock listings as a soft redirect or unavailable page:

“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.”

In some situations, though, Google will essentially override this decision and continue to show a page if it is considered particularly relevant for users.

For example, if the product page also includes helpful information about the product in general, it may still be worth keeping in search results despite the lack of stock.

As Mueller explains”

“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.”

Out-of-Stock Products Don’t Hurt Your Entire Site

While it is true that listing one product as unavailable can keep that specific page from appearing in search results, Mueller is sure to reassure you that this should not impact the rest of your website:

“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.”

You can watch the entire discussion with Google’s John Mueller in a recording of the SEO Office Hours session below:

Google is offering a new solution for e-commerce brands interested in improving their site’s search capabilities. 

With the release of Retail Search, Google Cloud is making it possible for online retailers to provide Google-quality search results on their own websites. This means it will be faster and easier for customers to find the products they are looking for on your site, making them more likely to complete thor transaction instead of abandoning your site. 

How Poor Search Experiences Hurt Online Retailers

According to a 2021 survey from The Harris Poll and Google Cloud, at least 94% of American consumers have abandoned a shopping session because of poor quality or irrelevant search results and 76% of shoppers said that an unsuccessful search led to a lost sale for a retail website. 

Based on this, the report estimates retailers lose $300 billion each year solely because of this phenomenon known as search abandonment. 

Understanding Intent To Deliver Better Search Results

The biggest hurdle to delivering successful search results has always been understanding search intent. 

Most basic search engines struggle to identify user intent and deliver the most relevant search results quickly. Google’s systems, however, are constantly being updated with the specific goal of better understanding user intent and delivering the best results quickly.

With Retail Search, retailers can now deliver that same quality search experience on their own site. 

Customizable For Your Needs

Retail Search is fully customizable to suit the needs of almost any e-commerce site. 

As the announcement says:

“Our site search solution builds upon decades of Google’s experience and innovation in search indexing, retrieval, and ranking. Retailers can make product discovery even easier for shoppers, while optimizing for their business goals with advanced capabilities.”

These capabilities include:

  • Advanced query understanding that produces better results from even the broadest queries, including non-product searches. 
  • Semantic search to effectively match product attributes with website content for fast, relevant product discovery. 
  • Optimized results that leverage user interaction and ranking models to meet specific business goals.
  • State-of-the-art security and privacy practices that ensure retailer data is isolated with strong access controls and is only used to deliver relevant search results on their own properties.

For more information, read the full announcement here or visit Google’s Discovery Solutions for Retail.

Twitter is signaling its plans to let brands establish dedicated shops on the platform through a limited test.

The company revealed it is introducing dedicated shopping pages including up to 50 products to a handful of brands as an experiment ahead of plans to roll out the feature to more retailers later this year. 

The feature allows a brand or business to add a simple “View shop” button to its profile page, which will link to a Twitter-hosted e-commerce page. When clicked, the button will then take users to your actual online store or website, where the transaction can be completed. 

As Twitter described the new feature in its blog post announcement:

“People are already talking about products on Twitter. We want Twitter Shops to be the home for merchants on Twitter where they can intentionally curate a catalog of products for their Twitter audience and build upon the product discussions already happening on our service by giving shoppers a point of action where a conversation can become a purchase.”

Only Available to a Select Few

As Twitter Shops are currently considered a beta test, the feature is only available to a small number of brands in the U.S. Specifically, the announcement only mentioned five brands that have utilized the feature so far – Verizon, Arden Cover, the Latinx In Power podcast, Gay Pride Apparel, and All I Do Is Cook.

Additionally, only iPhone users are currently able to view or interact with the shops, though the company plans to roll the feature out to other devices in the future.

Social Stores Are Becoming The Norm

The new feature underscores the increasingly blurry line between social media and online shopping. Several other platforms, including TikTok, Facebook, and Instagram have rolled out their own shopping tools to brands on their platform, though the most obvious comparison is Pinterest’s current shopping system where users can discover brands and shop their products on the platform before finalizing their purchase through retailer’s own sites.

For more, read Twitter’s full announcement here.