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Could Having Out Of Stock Products Trigger Panda?
Planet13




msg:4465072
 7:30 pm on Jun 13, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi there, Everyone:

We were hit by march 23rd 2012 Panda on two different eCommerce sites.

I wonder if leaving out of stock products up where they can still be crawled by google - despite not being linked to - could have caused us to be hit by Panda.

About 10% of the products on our site are discontinued, and while we removed links to them, we left the products up since some of them DID use to rank fairly well. We hoped they would at least still continue to generate traffic to our sites. The products have a small note that says Out Of Stock instead of the normal Add To Cart button.

Now I wonder if they are more of a liability than anything else. I am pretty sure that the bounce rate for out of stock products would be significantly higher than the rest of the products on our sites.

some of these products have been up there for several months to several years...

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

(I know as a user I get miffed when I click on a link in the SERPs to a discontinued product on someone's site.)

 

tedster




msg:4465206
 2:28 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I'd say you have a usability issue if those URLs are getting search traffic or direct traffic. Product churn can be a touchy area to deal with properly.

I'd say you need to change the page's content to show the out of stock nature of the product right away. If it's never coming back in stock, then link to a replacement product or remove the URL altogether (404 or 404 status) after a set time, may a few months depending the nature of the product. Definitely don't give the user a bad experience - and try to get one click whenever you can.

However, this is not likely to be a Panda issue IMO, unless you're repeating the exact same copy on all those out of stock pages. That might be deadly.

Sand




msg:4465274
 4:12 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Does all the content on the page remain the same except for the add to cart button?

Also, how long is the out of stock note relative to the rest of the text on the page?

Planet13




msg:4465328
 6:05 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ tedster

I'd say you have a usability issue if those URLs are getting search traffic or direct traffic.


Well, I looked through the traffic and there was really only two or three out of stock products that get any sort of traffic (within the top 50 most popular landing pages), so it is some traffic, just not a lot.

I'd say you need to change the page's content to show the out of stock nature of the product right away.


Something like put "Out Of Stock" in the Title element, first thing? That way the user would know that it was out of stock before they click the search result.

Otherwise, The add to cart button is normally above the fold, so the out of stock message would be apparent FAIRLY easily.

However, this is not likely to be a Panda issue IMO, unless you're repeating the exact same copy on all those out of stock pages. That might be deadly.


Nope, the copy is different. The only part that is the same is the message that says "Out Of Stock".

@ Sand

Does all the content on the page remain the same except for the add to cart button?


Yes, it remains the same as when it was still in stock. Just the Add To Cart button is replace by a text message saying Out of Stock (oh, and a text link that says "Join The Wait List").

Also, how long is the out of stock note relative to the rest of the text on the page?


Combined Out Of Stock / Join The Wait List is, as you have probably surmised, only 7 words long and the descriptions for the products are generally around 200 to 300 words long.

(Man, it really feels like I am grasping at straws with this Panda thing.)

realmaverick




msg:4465416
 10:05 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Totally agree with Tedster. Don't be afraid of 404s. Many people are but they are perfectly natural and won't cause an issue. Have a great 404 page to keep users on site.

I also know exactly how you feel. I have improved every area of my website and I'm still searching, every day for possible problems. I really am clutching at straws. Google could at least be decent enough to point out the issue.

[edited by: tedster at 10:07 am (utc) on Jun 14, 2012]

bobsc




msg:4465422
 10:25 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

some of these products have been up there for several months to several years...
If the product is permanently out of stock you can:
1. reuse the page - sell a new item
2. delete page and 301 to similar item

deadsea




msg:4465434
 10:50 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

How about sitemaps? When a product goes out of stock do you exclude it from the sitemap as well as stop linking to it? I have a theory that Google assigns pagerank to pages in your sitemap, even if you don't link to them.

lucy24




msg:4465437
 10:57 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Combined Out Of Stock / Join The Wait List is, as you have probably surmised, only 7 words

Can we assume that the "Join the wait list" message does not show up for products that have been unavailable for several years? Unless you're selling whole tropical islands or something. Then I'll wait.

realmaverick




msg:4465444
 11:11 am on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I would assume, the contrary. I imagine "Join the wait list" will appear on all products not in stock.

@Planet13, if the product is not coming back in to stock, I would delete the item, which then shows a 404 page. You could then perhaps use keywords from the URL, to show related products which would improve the users experience.

Planet13




msg:4465474
 1:27 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the suggestions everyone.

@ deadsea

How about sitemaps? When a product goes out of stock do you exclude it from the sitemap as well as stop linking to it?


I have to double check that. XML Site maps are created automatically so I need to look into that, although I know they AREN'T in my html site map.

@ bobsc

2. delete page and 301 to similar item


I was thinking of that, but with the way google has been laying the smack down, I am probably going to error on the side of caution.

@ lucy24

Can we assume that the "Join the wait list" message does not show up for products that have been unavailable for several years?


It is NOT safe to assume anything with me ;)

In most cases there will be no "Join the wait list" message if the item is truly unavailable - at least in most cases. There are probably more than a few where it still has the "Join the wait list" message when there is no chance I will be carrying it again.

@ realmaverick

I would delete the item, which then shows a 404 page. You could then perhaps use keywords from the URL, to show related products which would improve the users experience.


Thanks for the suggestion. I am not sure HOW to do this. Do you mean return a 404 status as well as have links to related products on that 404 page?

I could do that, but I don't think it is directly linked to by anybody, so hopefully by doing a 404 it will be removed from the google index.

realmaverick




msg:4465476
 1:37 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

404 means the page is missing. Often Google keeps the page in the index for some time. So from a UI perspective, I'd still have the related products. Just ensure they are related, a random selection won't be very helpful to the user.

410 means gone but in my experience, Google treat 410 and 404 pretty much the same.

Planet13




msg:4465479
 1:48 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

@ realmaverick

Thanks for the clarification.

Often Google keeps the page in the index for some time.


Yes, I have seen that for some pages I deleted a few months back. I don't understand how google thinks keeping a page that was removed a few months back in the index could be a good user experience.

bobsc




msg:4465482
 1:57 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I was thinking of that, but with the way google has been laying the smack down, I am probably going to error on the side of caution.
Don't know what you're worrying about?

Another option:
3. Put a meta noindex tag on permanent out of stock pages

bobsc




msg:4465490
 2:17 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

...but I don't think it is directly linked to by anybody...
If there are 0 backlinks to the page - you can just delete the page - result 404. In this case - no need for 301.
Lenny2




msg:4465518
 4:00 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

What we started doing (after panda 1.0) was google bot no index no crawl, our discontinued pages... This way users who bought the item could still find it...

Also, a big us online retailer lets say their name starts with O, is guilty of the same "trick" I doubt panda cares much about it...

arikgub




msg:4465547
 5:42 pm on Jun 14, 2012 (gmt 0)

I have an old neglected site with about 1,000 products, ALL of them out of stock, clearly marked as out of stock. Not a big site, but still getting hundreds of daily visitors from Google - steady through all Panda updates.

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