This question often comes up – what should I do with my online inventory items that aren’t coming back? How should we handle discontinued items?

Stay in business long enough and you’re going to have products that drift into the sunset and don’t come back. It’s just a fact of the retailer’s life. Whether the products are replaced with a new model or are simply no longer of use, products come and go. The concern with these discontinued products is the impact they have on your site SEO and your site’s user experience

Many etailers elect to simply delete the products, blow away the product pages and move on; but think for a moment about the impact this will have.  First off, anyone that had bookmarked the product page will now receive a 404 “Page Not Found” error. In addition to the error, you have effectively sabotaged your SEO ranking by eliminating an indexed product page without taking the proper actions to maintain the integrity of your website.

Appropriate Steps to Take With Discontinued Ecommerce Products

There are a number of things that should ideally be done when you encounter a product that has been discontinued. Here are just a few of the more significant recommendations:

Discontinued ecommerce products.Add a Redirect:

Adding a redirect will not only maintain the integrity of your indexed pages; but when done properly, you can redirect site visitors to a potential alternative to the product being researched. You can redirect to a newer model of the product, different size, or any other alternative that makes sense.

In some cases, a redirect to a product category may make even more sense. Say for example you sell light bulbs but no longer carry CFLs. You can insert a redirect that takes your site visitors to your latest assortment of LED bulbs instead.

Recycle Your URL:

Perhaps the product you have eliminated is replaced with another similar product. If this is the case and details such as manufacturer, model, or version don’t matter, then perhaps recycling the URL will make more sense. To be fair, this approach really works best with nondescript generic products.

Properly Remove the URL:

Notify search engines that the URL is gone – this will ensure you do not experience an adverse impact to your search engine rankings.

Leave it Alone:

Another option that is often ignored is to simply leave the product page alone. The information on the page may still be of value to people that previously purchased the product, so in this instance it may make more sense to show the item as discontinued; but leave it up for people to still reference. Related products should still be referenced.

You Decide the Path for Handling Discontinued Ecommerce Products

As said above, there are many ways you can properly handle discontinued products. It’s up to you which path makes the most sense for your business; but our preferences tend to follow the first and last options listed here.

Please let us know if you need any assistance optimizing your ecommerce platform – we can help!

eCommerce SEO Recommendations

Managing an eCommerce website should never be treated as a spectator sport – it takes a solid eCommerce SEO strategy. Simply loading products, images, and a price into your platform is not enough to ensure effective search result ranking for those products. You need to follow fundamental eCommerce SEO best practices.

Field of Dreams Was a Great Movie; But Stinks as a SEO Strategy

You can’t expect a Field of Dreams approach to work for your online products. Simply building it and they will come isn’t going to work for you.

There are nearly limitless things you can do to improve your search engine ranking and almost all of them start with improved content. We’ve talked before about how quality content is king. This concept applies to online products as much as it does to blog pages. So take a look at how you need to apply this concept to your online product offering.

ecommerce products best practices

Align Your Content Strategy

Your eCommerce pages should not operate in a vacuum outside the remainder of your website. The strategies that you have defined for your overall website should align in some way with eCommerce. For example, keywords that you have identified that you want to rank for should also be laced organically throughout your products. Specifically, those words should appear in product titles, product descriptions, alt-text references, etc… That’s not to say you are exercising the practice of “keyword stuffing” but rather ensuring that those words are appropriate placed where it makes sense.

Your eCommerce Products Need Original Content

Manufacturers typically provide a description of their products. Don’t be drawn into a lazy practice of copying and pasting those descriptions into WooCommerce. You have zero chance of standing above the crowd if you copy and paste a product description that is going to be duplicated across countless other websites.

Remember that duplicate content on the web is almost always a bad thing – instead, focus on crafting original product descriptions that fit in line with your own content strategy.

A great way to add supplemental original content is to allow product reviews from site visitors.

Improve Your eCommerce Metadata

Your metadata remains a great place to enhance your eCommerce SEO. Specifically, target your product titles, descriptions, and image alt-text sections. While it takes time to go through and ensure you’ve covered all these bases, it will help you in the long-run.

Get Your Mobile House in Order

Be sure any content you place online is going to have an outstanding mobile experience. There is no such thing as a PC-only website and this is especially true for eCommerce sites.

Google announced that it’s going to start using the mobile version of your website to establish your page rankings and this means your need to get your site optimized for mobile right away. Responsive pages without obtrusive pop-ups, and user-friendly navigation all get factored into your new search engine rankings.

Out of Stock / Seasonal Inventory

It’s understandable that the product mix in your inventory is going to evolve over time just be careful about how you handle these changes.

Simply removing an item from your inventory and having it disappear from your website sets off a number of red flags to search engines and frankly provides a poor experience to your customers. You may not be aware of all the places where backlinks (although you can check) have been established for your products.

We recommend that you maintain the old product information but also provide a link to any potential replacements. If keeping the item online isn’t an option, then remove it; but be certain to implement a redirect so the search engine spiders don’t see this as a broken link.

Closing Thoughts

As we bring this article home, it’s important to remind you that this set of recommendations really only represents the tip of the iceberg when it comes to optimizing online products for search engines.

Feel free to give us a call if you have an eCommerce website that you’d like to get launched.

The importance of search engine optimization for your product pages cannot be overstated. Don’t make the mistake that so many other businesses make by neglecting these all-important pages.

Too many etailers do an outstanding job of SEO on their website just to fall short when it comes time to optimizing their products. You see, product pages need just as much focus as your ‘home’ or ‘about us’ pages if you intend for those product pages to show up in search engine results pages.

Our Favorite Tips to Optimize Your Online Product Descriptions

While this list is not all-encompassing, it does give you a solid foundation on where to start. As you will quickly see, the rules that apply for typical posts and pages also apply to your products!

Remember to use Unique Content

Use unique product descriptions to improve your SEO.Businesses that resell products manufactured by others are most likely to fall into this trap. Manufacturers typically provide the product, recommended pricing, stock photography, and a product description or summary. Some manufacturers even go so far as to provide regular inventory database or Excel files that can be loaded directly into your eCommerce site with useful information such as inventory status. This is a great solution for the sake of efficiency; however, it’s terrible when it comes to the impact on your search engine ranking.

Using the canned product descriptions from manufacturers will save some time; but it’s a sure-fire way to get dinged by the likes of Google as publishing duplicate content.  Think for a moment how many other websites are publishing the exact same product descriptions as you… And how do you intend to stand out from the crowd if you’re using the exact same descriptions? You need to write unique copy for your product descriptions!

In the event you have too many products to write unique descriptions for all items, then be sure to start with your most popular products and best-sellers. The same thing goes for your product category pages – be sure to beef those up with unique content.

Product Images

Product images are a must-have if you’re going to sell online. Just be sure to remember to include a meta description (alt-text) that is informative and will help the search engines better understand your product page.

Customer-Submitted Product Reviews

By including reviews submitted by your customers you are effectively solving for two problems at once. First, it helps add to the unique on-page content (this is good).

Second, buyers are looking more and more at customer reviews when making purchases. By including the reviews, you are able to satisfy the need while also improving your product SEO.

Don’t Neglect Your Product Page SEO

If you truly want to stand out from the crowd, then be sure to target your product page SEO. It’s a great way to get a leg up on the competition!

Unique product descriptions can outperform manufacturer descriptions.

Did you know that online customer reviews are great for business and can even help give your search engine optimization campaign a boost?

Checking product reviews has become a mainstay for consumers. Those customer reviews are inspected and scrutinized prior to virtually any serious purchase in this country. Whether checking the review for their next cell phone purchase or vacation destination, consumers are more and more relying on reviews to help them make informed decisions.

Consumer reviews help small businesses by reinforcing powerful word of mouth advertising. It’s because of this, positive online reviews are the gifts that keep on giving. Your great work can pay you back through the ongoing generation of referrals from loyal supporters of your business or brand.

Think about this the next time you’re on Amazon’s website… you can’t help but look at the product reviews can you? The same holds true for reviews on sites like Yelp or Facebook.

Online Reviews Impact on SEO

Search engines like Google have observed that online reviews are an important part of our buying process. As a result, they have adjusted their all-powerful algorithm to include online reviews when factoring in search result rankings.

It makes sense when you pause to think about it. Google is focused on providing the highest quality results and why not use the power of online reviews to help determine where a business should reside in search results.

Online Customer Reviews

How Much Reviews Influence Your Ranking

MOZ is a search engine authority… Scratch that – they are “The” search engine authority. If you want to better understand how the search business works, then these are the folks to talk to. MOZ recently published data that demonstrates how online reviews can influence local SEO by nearly 10%.

The only factors that ranked higher than online reviews were My Business, NAP/Citation, On-Page Signals, and Link Signals.

With such an important influence on your ranking, it’s imperative that you take action. The more you have legitimate positive reviews, the more you are able to work your way up the rankings.

It’s important to reinforce that those reviews need to be legitimate. This means they need to happen organically, across unique IP addresses, and over an extended period of time. Any effort to game this system with paid-for or fake reviews is going to blow up – don’t be tempted to hack this process.

Collect & Promote Online Reviews

You should never attempt to fool the system by creating fake reviews; however, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work with your customers and naturally encourage them to provide their feedback online. This is a great opportunity to direct people to your Facebook business page.

Be Sure Facebook Reviews are Enabled

Make sure that submitting reviews in enabled on your Facebook business page. If you don’t see reviews in the navigation menu, then you probably don’t have them turned on. You fix this by going to your page settings tab and change the template from General to Business.

Don’t Forget About Customer Service

Remember to not delete or hide bad reviews. In the event you receive negative feedback, be sure to provide outstanding customer service to turn that customer into a raving fan!