As an online retailer, it’s important to know how to move discontinued products.

Lines and products are discontinued for a range of reasons, from supply issues to low sales and diminished popularity.

There are a variety of methods for selling off sitting inventory. Even if a product has had historically low sales, you can still drum up interest and engage buyers. You don’t need to “write off” low-popularity products and take a financial hit.

Equally, there are ways to utilize old product pages from an SEO perspective, maintaining their link value and leveraging them for future sales.

There are ways to utilize old product pages from an SEO perspective, maintaining their link value and leveraging them for future sales. #Ecommerce #DiscontinuedProducts #SEO Click To Tweet

In this post, we’re going to clarify key terms, give you an SEO outline for your product pages, and tell you exactly how to boost your sales with discontinued products.

In this article you can find:

What Are Discontinued Products?
What Should You Do With “Temporarily Out of Stock” Pages?
What Should You Do With Permanently Discontinued Product Pages?
What About 404 Pages and 301 Redirects?
4 SEO Tips for Discontinued Product Pages
1. Cater to Remaining Search Demand
2. “No-index” Pages After When Search Traffic Diminishes
3. Maintain Link Juice
4. Avoid 404 and 410 Pages
10 Ways to Boost Sales of Discontinued Products
Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Discontinued Product Strategy

Sound good? Let’s dive in.

What Are Discontinued Products?

Discontinued products are items or item lines that you no longer stock. You may still have limited inventory available, but you will not replenish it in the future.

There are many reasons that retailers discontinue products, including low sales, unavailability (such as when a manufacturer ceases production), or temporary supply chain issues.

An example of a discontinued product page on Amazon
An discontinued product page template from Amazon.

Whatever the case, discontinued stock usually constitutes both a sizeable asset and a potential problem for retailers. You want to avoid leaving products to gather dust in a warehouse. Ideally, discontinued products should be converted into revenue as quickly as possible so you can focus on active product lines.

But many retailers fall into the trap of ignoring discontinued stock. They might feel that spending money on marketing activities for products that will soon become unavailable is unjustified. Or that time and resources are better spent on tasks that will drive more revenue over a longer period.

But this method is almost always mistaken. It’s entirely possible to take a lean and speedy approach to selling discontinued products, in a way that doesn’t detrimentally impact other marketing and selling activities. If you are a large retailer, you will likely have to deal with discontinued products on a regular basis, so it’s good to have effective processes in place.

What Should You Do With “Temporarily Out of Stock” Pages?

“Temporarily Out of Stock” pages are for products that you expect to be available again at some point in the future.

Most customers will land on these pages with a strong desire to make a purchase, having actively searched for the product (out-of-stock products shouldn’t be showcased on category pages). This provides you with an opportunity to take the visitor’s details and notify them about the product at a later stage when it becomes available.

There are two steps you should take on product pages with unavailable items:

  • Request details and alert visitors when a product is available again – Include an opt-in form on discontinued product pages where visitors can enter their email addresses. Send them an alert when a product is back in stock. If possible, you should also assure them that there won’t be a long waiting period. Notifications like “More Products Are on the Way” or “Coming Soon” are good for communicating this point.
  • Direct them to other similar and related products – All discontinued product pages should showcase related items. On temporarily out-of-stock product pages, these listings should be highlighted further up the page than usual. Remember, visitors are likely very eager to buy. Suggesting other products is the best way to take advantage of this opportunity.

The two simple strategies outlined above will ensure that you’re maximizing the opportunity created by visitors to discontinued and out-of-stock product pages.

What Should You Do With Permanently Discontinued Product Pages?

Permanently discontinued products present a conundrum for retailers.

On the one hand, search demand for products might still exist. This means that product pages that rank in Google bring traffic to a site.

On the other, keeping discontinued pages active can be negative from a user experience perspective and, over time, search engine users may end up seeing more discontinued product pages than active ones.

There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this problem. Different retailers take a variety of approaches, and ultimately, any strategy should be confirmed by testing and user feedback. eBay, for example, keeps all old product pages live on its site. Amazon, on the other hand, will usually remove discontinued product pages after a certain period.

If you’re not at the stage where you have enough information to formulate a strategy, there are some basic principles you can follow.

Generally speaking, it's good practice to keep discontinued product pages on your site and offer similar suggestions. When popularity is still high (determined by search volume) allow Google to crawl and index pages. #SEO #Ecommerce Click To Tweet

Generally speaking, it’s good practice to keep discontinued product pages on your site and offer similar suggestions. When popularity is still high (determined by search volume) allow Google to crawl and index pages.

Oponeo offers recommended similar models
Offering recommended similar models is key.
When search interest tapers off, but there is still on-site interest, noindex the pages but keep them on your site while offering similar product suggestions. When interest becomes nonexistent, redirect the pages to a general “product unavailable” page. This will ensure that you don’t lose any links.

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What About 404 Pages and 301 Redirects?

404 pages and 301 redirects are two of the most commonly used options when it comes to discontinued product pages. So should you implement them too?

Here’s a quick overview of each:

  • 404 pages – 404 pages show when a page is simply taken down without any further action. You’ll have come across them when you mistype a website address or click a bad link. They usually display something along the lines of “Error: This Page Can’t Be Found”. In an ecommerce setting, and especially when it comes to discontinued product pages, 404 pages should be avoided. They’re terrible from a user experience perspective, and once you delete a page completely, any links to your site are lost.

Discontinued Products 404A 404 page on Etsy.com.

  • 301 redirects – When you set up a 301 redirect, visitors to a discontinued product page will be redirected to somewhere else on your site, usually a general ecommerce landing page informing them that a product is no longer available. You may also include links to other areas of your website on this page. On the other hand, you may redirect users to a similar product and show additional information explaining why the redirect happened. 301 redirects are useful for pages that don’t receive any more searches (either through Google, Bing, etc. or your own internal search engine) as a way of maintaining “link juice” and offering suggestions to the few visitors that do arrive on your site through the redundant URL.

The moral of the story here is to avoid 404 pages like the plague. It’s entirely possible that you may need to delete discontinued product pages. Whenever that’s the case, opt for redirects instead of removing the page outright.

4 SEO Tips for Discontinued Product Pages

Don’t worry about losing traffic and links because product pages are no longer active. There’s a simple strategy for maximizing revenue from discontinued product pages that also ensures any links to those pages remain active.

Here’s what you should do with discontinued product pages from an SEO perspective:

1. Cater to Remaining Search Demand

If discontinued pages are ranking for search terms with traffic volume, then it’s a good idea to keep them up. You can set parameters in Google Analytics to track the pageviews of discontinued product pages and cater your strategy according to this information.

Ebay continue to show ended listings while suggesting similar products
Ebay continues to show ended listings while suggesting similar products.

The key here is to include product suggestions prominently on the page, preferably above the fold. Tell customers clearly that the product is no longer available and point them to closely related items. Next-generation models, models with the same brand, and products from different brands with similar specs, are all good suggestions.

2. “No-index” Pages After When Search Traffic Diminishes

You don’t want to end up in a position where the majority of your product pages appearing on Google are discontinued. It’s bad for your brand and user experience, and you may end up in a position where your rankings drop because of high bounce rates.

For this reason, make a practice of no-indexing discontinued product pages when traffic tapers off. If visitors are still searching for specific products using your on-site search engine, keep the pages live and use them to redirect visitors to another product page. This is a good strategy because it provides a positive user experience – clarifying to visitors that a product is no longer available – while taking advantage of traffic and interest that would otherwise go unleveraged.

What should you do when traffic to “no-indexed” discontinued product pages falls away? Having lots of old pages on your site takes up unnecessary server space and creates a negative experience for visitors. There’s nothing worse than encountering lots of dud product pages when browsing.

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But it’s important to maintain “link juice”. And the way to do this is through 301 redirects. You should track traffic to discontinued pages in Google Analytics so you know when to remove them and redirect the URL.

Envato has a great approach to discontinued productsEnvato has a great approach to discontinued products

Remember to direct visitors to general landing pages that explain that a product is no longer available. Offer related items or prompt them to continue browsing in the same category. You may wish to design landing pages that are specific to categories or product types.

4. Avoid 404 and 410 Pages

Both of these types of pages are generally bad ideas. We’ve already covered 404 pages but what about 410 pages? These are like 404 pages but with a little bit of code added that tells Google that the page is gone forever.

The cons far outweigh the pros for both 404 and 410 pages, and you should avoid them. They’re terrible from a UX perspective, result in lost links, and don’t maintain search rankings.

10 Ways to Boost Sales of Discontinued Products

So we’ve covered the SEO aspects of discontinued products, but how can you actually move that lingering stock?

Here are ten ways to ensure you sell remaining inventory quickly and cost-effectively:

1. Run a “One Time Only” Sale

Urgency is an incredibly powerful emotion when it comes to online commerce. And there’s nothing better at evoking urgency than a one-time sale.

Visitors are often more receptive to one-time “clearance” sales than traditional sales which, while still effective, are often seen as nothing more than marketing ploys. Some online stores operate in permanent sales mode.

If you make it clear to customers that a line of products (or numerous lines) are going to be discontinued and they’re available to buy at a discount for a limited time, you’re going to drum up lots of interest.

What makes this strategy so cost-effective is that it only takes one or two emails to get the message out.

2. Build Buzz on Social Media

Social media is the ideal place to spread the news about a one-off sale.

People will be eager to share the fact that discontinued products are available for a final time at a discounted price.

Emphasize the point that once items have been sold, they’re gone for good. This will create urgency. Also, encourage customers to share photos of their products and, if it’s an end-of-generation model that will become unavailable widely (not just on your store), personal stories and anecdotes.

There are many daily deal groups and pages on Facebook that you can ask to share information about your sale. Check if there are fan groups that focus on the type or brand of products that you are selling.

3. Emphasize Discounts and Price Cuts

Discounts and price cuts are attractive to potential buyers and should be emphasized. Again, because of the authenticity of a one-time sale, your customer base is more likely to believe that price cuts are genuine (and not just a gimmick).

But you can do more than just knock 10% or 20% off the final price. What about bulk orders? Is it possible to introduce offers along the lines of “Buy Two Get a Third Free”?

The more offers and discounts you bring to a promotion, the more attractive and shareable it becomes.

You may even wish to market the sale to past customers (or members of your loyalty program) with a special discount price before the sale goes public. This adds another layer of urgency to the promotion.

4. Incrementally Increase Discounts

In order to ensure you sell all of your inventory, consider gradually increasing discounts until everything is gone.

The trouble with selling discontinued products is that they’ve often been dropped in the first place because of low demand. Sometimes, a simple price cut won’t be enough to make up for this lack of interest.

Incrementally increasing discounts until you find the ideal price is one way to overcome this problem. You just need to find the sweet spot and stay there.

At first glance, this might seem unfair to previous customers that bought the product before the discounts came into effect. One way of removing this obstacle is by guaranteeing that the final price, determined when all the items are gone, will be the price that everyone pays. This angle also provides an interesting slant on the traditional promotion format and is likely to drum up more interest.

5. Market to Previous Buyers

Previous buyers are likely still interested in discontinued products and may want to stock up when they find out they will not be available in the future.

If possible, segment customers according to their previous purchases and directly pitch those that have bought the same item (or similar items) in the past.

It’s important to focus on this group because it represents the section of your customer base that has already shown interest. Customers that have bought newer or older models are good candidates too. You should emphasize the similarities between the products and highlight any positive features that were dropped in later models.

Ensure that marketing messages definitely reach this segment by implementing a continuous campaign, not a one-off promotional email (that may be suitable for your wider audience). Bulk deals may also appeal to these potential customers.

6. Partner With Deal Sites

Deal sites are constantly on the lookout for promotions and there’s a big chance they’ll be interested in selling your discontinued products. Large deal sites, like Daily Steals and Tanga, have access to huge audiences on social media and via their mailing lists.

There are essentially two options when it comes to deal sites. You can either reach an agreement to sell exclusively through the third-party site, which is a good strategy if you want to protect the prices of other related products in your store. Alternatively, you can use a roundup site like Deal News, which will lead customers back to your site.

Whatever route you decide to go down, you’ll gain access to an audience of willing buyers that you wouldn’t otherwise have been able to reach.

7. Hold Onto Stock

Sometimes the best strategy is to hold onto stock and sell it at a later date when demand increases.

The market may be saturated because numerous retailers are trying to move discontinued inventory at discount prices. Gains to be had from future prices may outweigh the short-term cost of renting warehouse space.

8. Run a Giveaway

If you don’t believe there’s enough demand to sell your remaining stock, consider running a giveaway. You’ll drum up publicity for your store and ensure the remaining inventory doesn’t go to waste.

Influencers will often be willing to partner with you and spread the word. It’s also a great opportunity to interact with your existing customers.

Alternatively, you might consider donating the products to a charity or non-profit. Again, this is an excellent opportunity for publicity and to bolster your reputation. By donating to charity, you can usually take advantage of tax opportunities, limiting the overall cost to your business of unsaleable inventory.

9. Bundle Discontinued Products With Other Items

One way to increase demand for your active products is to bundle them with discontinued items.

Adding “sweeteners” to existing products is a great way to increase conversions. If the bonuses are time-limited, there is also an element of urgency, further prompting visitors to buy.

The key is to choose primary products carefully so that you don’t diminish their value. Ideally, you should bundle complementary products and opt for those active lines that would benefit from a boost in exposure.

Remember to add urgency-building elements to product pages highlighting the fact that “free” add-ons are only available for a limited time.

10. Consider Running a Dedicated Marketing Campaign

If you have a large quantity of discontinued stock to sell, it’s worth considering a dedicated marketing strategy. A cost-benefit analysis should always precede any decision, but it will often be desirable to invest significant resources into moving discontinued items.

If you are trying to get rid of a large number of products, cover all the following channels:

  • Email marketing – Ensure all your customers know about the sale with a comprehensive email campaign delivered over the entire duration of the promotion.
  • Social media – Emphasize substantial discounts along with the fact that products have limited availability to encourage sharing on social media.
  • On your ecommerce site – Promote discontinued stock across your site, in your header and sidebar, and even on product pages.

Don’t Overlook the Importance of Your Discontinued Product Strategy

Discontinued products represent a small but important opportunity to boost sales.

As a retailer, you will have to deal with discontinued and low-demand products on a continual basis. Over time, the cost of this inventory can add up. And an inability to sell it can take a hefty chunk out of your monthly and yearly revenue.

It's essential to implement tested processes to deal with old stock. You'll find that you have fewer worries about discontinued products and that your sales revenue increases. #SEO #ecommerce Click To Tweet

Because of this, it’s essential to implement tested processes to deal with old stock. You’ll find that you have fewer worries about discontinued products and that your sales revenue increases.

Now, time to start organizing your first discontinued product sale.

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