One SEO professional was asking John Mueller about out of stock pages in the search results.
How does Google determine out of stock pages? And does Google take action on out of stock pages?
Would they crawl these pages less and lower their rankings?
John said that Google does try to understand exactly when a page is no longer relevant, based on the content of the page.
They already do this with soft 404 pages – these are pages where a page might display without a 404 error, but there is absolutely no text content being displayed.
This would count as a soft 404.
John went on to explain that if an out of stock page shows up as a soft 404, then this page will be dropped from the Google index entirely.
So make sure you format and execute your out of stock pages properly!
This happens at approximately the 44:29 mark in the video.
John Mueller Hangout Transcript
John (Submitted Question) 44:29
How does Google determine out of stock page? Will Google take actions on the out of stock page, for example, crawl less and lower the rankings? Structured data has been deleted so won’t display out of stock in the search results.
John (Answer) 44:43
We do try to understand when a page is no longer relevant based on the content of the page. So in particular, the common example is a soft 404 page where you serve us a page that looks like it could be a normal page, but it’s essentially an error page that says “This page no longer exists.” And we do try to pick up things like that for e-commerce as well. So that’s something where, where you might see that out of stock products are seen as soft 404 pages.
When they’re seen as soft 404 pages, we drop them completely from search. If we keep the page indexed, despite being out of stock, we will not change the ranking, it’ll be ranked essentially normally still. It’s also still ranked normally, if you change the structured data and say that something is out of stock.
So from that point of view, it’s not that the page would drop in ranking. It’s more that either it’s seen as a soft 404 page or it’s not. If it’s not seen as a soft 404 page, it’s still a normal page.