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SEO impact of hiding discontinued products?

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  • SEO impact of hiding discontinued products?

    Does anyone know what the negative implications (if any) there are with hiding discontinued products? We have a store with about 7000 products, about 3000 of which are discontinued. To date, our way of dealing with them has been to hide them so that they cannot be found on our site by someone browsing. The reason is twofold. Firstly, we don't want a customer's search results to be cluttered with dozens of out of date products that cannot be ordered. Secondly, we don't want to have to take time to answer questions about products that we no longer carry.

    However, I have recently started to question whether or not this strategy is hurting us in our organic rankings. I received a Bing webmaster tools update the other day that said something along the lines of 1300 urls being blocked by our robots.txt file. After looking into this, it seems as though the reason for this is that whenever someone tries to access a url for one of these discontinued products, they are redirected to error.asp which is blocked by robots.txt.

    I am just curious to hear how others handle discontinued products and opinions on whether or not the method we are using may be hurting our rankings.

  • #2
    There was a write up on one person's approach to discontinued products at

    In my current (not 3dcart) tool, we had a product status of discontinued. When a product was placed in discontinued status, it went to a hidden status. Additionally, a 301 redirect was automatically created to the primary category of the product (first one listed.). The tool also hides the product from the admin view, unless you specifically request to see discontinued products.

    I am also interested in what others are doing with discontinued products.

    The Wedding Printer


    • #3
      There are a lot of dependencies and ways to handle this. There's no right or wrong way. You can always just hide the product and then customize record ID 89 in Settings > Design > System messages. But this is a hard stop, which may or may not be desirable for you.

      But if you don't want your customers to hit a brick wall by navigating to a hidden or deleted product, you can consider doing the following:

      1) Edit the product's Availability, Price, and/or descriptions to indicate that it is no longer available, and only exists for reference.

      2) Check the boxes to make the product "Not for Sale" and "Non-Searchable." This is self-explanatory.

      3) Remove ALL categories from the product. While the above step ensures that the customer won't find it by search, this step ensures that they won't find it through casual category browsing.

      4) Optional: Edit the product's META description and/or Title to indicate that it is discontinued. This gives people a heads up in SERP.

      In the end, you create a user experience like this:

      Allparts Test Cat |

      You allow access to the product and thus retain the relevancy of and access from any backlinks, while not allowing the product to be found or purchased within your site.
      - Dean P. e-commerce and small business consulting


      • #4
        Dean, thank you for the very detailed response. This sound like exactly the way that we should be handling these products. The only catch is that we are using SearchSpring for our site search rather than 3DC's built-in search capability, so selecting the "nonsearchable" switch has no effect. The good news is that SS does currently index this field, so their tech support said that they can make a custom event which will exclude items from the search index whenever it encounters this setting.