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: