Letting Search Engines See "Out of Stock" Products

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I have been buying whisky on the web probably for as long as you have been able to.  Not so much these days obviously.  I have always been annoyed when you are searching for a whisky and you enter its name into the Google search box and it comes back with 5 results that when you click on each one you go to a page which says the whisky is Sold Out.  My time has been wasted.  Actually this really annoys me.

The Whisky Shop Dufftown is now on its third website (actually we are working on 3.2) and each time I developed one I have paid extra to have an automatic routine that runs each night and hides our out of stock products from search engines.  I think this is being fair to my customers.  I don not want to waste their time but am I being an idiot?

Why do other companies allow their out of stock products to be indexed by search engines?  The most practical reason is you have to pay extra development costs to have this done.  I have not come across any e-commerce shop where there is a global switch to hide out of stock products.  In reality the cost of doing this is minuscule to what we have to pay for our websites so there must be another reason.

From developers and the owners / runners of other websites I have been told some other reasons.  Firstly, if you click through to an Out of Stock product you might just stay on the website and buy something else.  I am told that if only 1 person in a 100 does this it's worthwhile doing.  Secondly, just having the click through helps with your Google ranking etc.  But is all of that worth wasting the time for the other 99 customers or am I missing out on that 1 sale?WSD SOLD OUT

Over night another issue with my strategy has come to light.  A customer thought that as he could not find a fast selling / rare product on my website that I had not stocked it and therefore he assumed that I actually do not ever stock rare or fast selling whiskies.  If this is a general view created by my strategy then this could be a real problem.

This practice of continuing to list out of stock products is almost universal now so is it now the expectation of customers that they have to click through multiple search hits to actually find a site where the whisky they want is still listed? Are you as a whisky buyer now numb to this time wasting?

I am generally interested in what you think and I will be posting this article on Facebook and ask for comments.  You can always email me at enquires@whiskyshopdufftown.com.

And before anyone mentions there are ways to see out of stock products on my website but they should not be indexed by the search engines.