Google may reduce the visibility of a product page if the item for sale is listed as out of stock on the retailer's website. This is stated by Google's Search Advocate John Mueller during a recent Google Search Central SEO office-hours hangout.
A question is submitted by an ecommerce store owner asking if search rankings for transactional keywords could be negatively impacted if the products sell out. Mueller says, in theory, Google could reduce visibility for product pages with out of stock items. However, that doesn't have to be the case.
Mueller doesn't rule out the possibility of out of stock products seeing reduced visibility in search results. He explains Google treats 'out of stock' as a soft 404 error:
"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."
|"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."|
"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."