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How to deal with old e-commerce product pages

By 14/09/2015Blog, SEO
how to deal with old ecommerce web pages

Are you converting website visitors seeking old content?

E-commerce websites have a problem when it comes to expired content: How do you keep potential customers on your site and product pages if the old product pages no longer exist? It can be quite tricky, but there are a number ways to do so without losing the customer altogether and without impacting your SEO efforts.

Here are a few simple ways to do so:

  • Create a 404 page with internal links to similar products
  • Create a replacement ‘Out of stock’ page if the situation is simply that you are out of a certain item. If you know when the product will be back in store, put a date on the page and/or an email alert so that customers won’t miss out again
  • Use redirects to deal with removed products and send visitors to other useful pages on your site. If you do this, make sure that you create a 301 redirect from the old product to the new ones. This will notify Google and the other search engines that the move is permanent and that the old page has vanished into the ether.

The Advantage of a Custom 404 Page

If you create a custom 404 page for an old product page, it avoids any confusion for your website visitors and gives you an opportunity to still convert them into paying customers. You can add internal page links to similar products, add product videos and images to the page to entice them into further browsing and  show your customers that you provide a professional buying platform and want to offer a great user experience.

Leaving the Old Product Pages as they were

If may sound like a bad idea, but 404 pages and 301 redirects aren’t always the best idea. After all, if customers are searching for a specific product, why would they want to be redirected somewhere else? They might just find the exact same product elsewhere, and that’s a customer lost.

In this instance, it might be best to leave the old product page is it was, but to give it an update to let the visitors know that the product has been discontinued or is out of stock for the time being. This way, you are still getting the traffic and link juice from the search engines, and you won’t alienate the visitors who arrive and then might search for another item instead. If you are using a ‘similar products’ or ‘recommended products’ function then this can help the customer continue their journey.  As long as you update the page (and provide links to other product pages on the site and calls to action for getting in touch or being updated as to when products may be back in stock), there shouldn’t be any reason why the old product page shouldn’t continue to be of use for your website visitors.

What about Seasonal Products?

Christmas comes but once a year, so should you leave festive product pages on the site year-round? The answer here is: Yes, you should. The page is still likely to see traffic over the course of the year, and they will retain their link equity, and if these products are still being sought after every Christmas, you might have the jump over your competition when it comes to the period and your page is riding high in the search engine rankings. You don’t have to keep these products linked from the home page and in fact you take them out of your nav bar but keep the seasonal pages ‘live’ and in the sitemap until you are ready to actively promote again.

This isn’t just for Christmas, too. It works for any seasonal product. Old product pages don’t have to be redirected, deleted or hidden away from search results. As long as they are serving a purpose for you and the customers, they are definitely worth keeping up on your site and you should keep them regularly updated so that you can reap the rewards.

One thing to be aware of is making sure that your site does not contain broken links from internal pages, this is one of the biggest problems with e-commerce sites, don’t just redirect to a 404 page.  Change the link to a suitable location or remove it altogether. Use a broken link checker and keep an eye on the error results in your Google Search Console.

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Zak Jacobs

About Zak Jacobs

Zak Jacobs is the Director of UK Digital Agency Red Alien. An experienced digital marketing professional, passionate about online integrity, user experience, and performance marketing strategies.