Sunday, 29 March 2020

Generating Local Content at Scale - Whiteboard Friday

Posted by rjonesx.

Building local pages in any amount can be a painful task. It's hard to strike the right mix of on-topic content, expertise, and location, and the temptation to take shortcuts has always been tempered by the fact that good, unique content is almost impossible to scale.

In this week's edition of Whiteboard Friday, Russ Jones shares his favorite white-hat technique using natural language generation to create local pages to your heart's content.

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Hey, folks, this is Russ Jones here with Moz again to talk to you about important search engine optimization issues. Today I'm going to talk about one of my favorite techniques, something that I invented several years ago for a particular client and has just become more and more and more important over the years. 

Using natural language generation to create hyper-local content

I call this using natural language generation to create hyper-local content. Now I know that there's a bunch of long words in there. Some of you are familiar with them, some of you are not. 


So let me just kind of give you the scenario, which is probably one you've been familiar with at some point or another. Imagine you have a new client and that client has something like 18,000 locations across the United States.


Then you're told by Google you need to make unique content. Now, of course, it doesn't have to be 18,000. Even 100 locations can be difficult, not just to create unique content but to create uniquely valuable content that has some sort of relevance to that particular location. 


So what I want to do today is talk through one particular methodology that uses natural language generation in order to create these types of pages at scale.

What is natural language generation?

Now there might be a couple of questions that we need to just go ahead and get off of our plates at the beginning. So first, what is natural language generation? Well, natural language generation was actually originated for the purpose of generating weather warnings. You've actually probably seen this 100,000 times.

Whenever there's like a thunderstorm or let's say high wind warning or something, you've seen on the bottom of a television, if you're older like me, or you've gotten one on your cellphone and it says the National Weather Service has issued some sort of warning about some sort of weather alert that's dangerous and you need to take cover.

Well, the language that you see there is generated by a machine. It takes into account all of the data that they've arrived at regarding the weather, and then they put it into sentences that humans automatically understand. It's sort of like Mad Libs, but a lot more technical in the sense that what comes out of it, instead of being funny or silly, is actually really useful information.

That's our goal here. We want to use natural language generation to produce local pages for a business that has information that is very useful. 

Isn't that black hat?

Now the question we almost always get or I at least almost always get is: Is this black hat? One of the things that we're not supposed to do is just auto-generate content.

So I'm going to take a moment towards the end to discuss exactly how we differentiate this type of content creation from just the standard, Mad Libs-style, plugging in different city words into content generation and what we're doing here. What we're doing here is providing uniquely valuable content to our customers, and because of that it passes the test of being quality content.

Let's look at an example

So let's do this. Let's talk about probably what I believe to be the easiest methodology, and I call this the Google Trends method. 

1. Choose items to compare

So let's step back for a second and talk about this business that has 18,000 locations. Now what do we know about this business? Well, businesses have a couple of things that are in common regardless of what industry they're in.

They either have like products or services, and those products and services might have styles or flavors or toppings, just all sorts of things that you can compare about the different items and services that they offer. Therein lies our opportunity to produce unique content across almost any region in the United States.

The tool we're going to use to accomplish that is Google Trends. So the first step that you're going to do is you're going to take this client, and in this case I'm going to just say it's a pizza chain, for example, and we're going to identify the items that we might want to compare. In this case, I would probably choose toppings for example.

So we would be interested in pepperoni and sausage and anchovies and God forbid pineapple, just all sorts of different types of toppings that might differ from region to region, from city to city, and from location to location in terms of demand. So then what we'll do is we'll go straight to Google Trends.

The best part about Google Trends is that they're not just providing information at a national level. You can narrow it down to city level, state level, or even in some cases to ZIP Code level, and because of this it allows us to collect hyper-local information about this particular category of services or products.

So, for example, this is actually a comparison of the demand for pepperoni versus mushroom versus sausage toppings in Seattle right now. So most people, when people are Googling for pizza, would be searching for pepperoni.

2. Collect data by location

So what you would do is you would take all of the different locations and you would collect this type of information about them. So you would know that, for example, here there is probably about 2.5 times more interest in pepperoni than there is in sausage pizza. Well, that's not going to be the same in every city and in every state. In fact, if you choose a lot of different toppings, you'll find all sorts of things, not just the comparison of how much people order them or want them, but perhaps how things have changed over time.



For example, perhaps pepperoni has become less popular. If you were to look in certain cities, that probably is the case as vegetarian and veganism has increased. Well, the cool thing about natural language generation is that we can automatically extract out those kinds of unique relationships and then use that as data to inform the content that we end up putting on the pages on our site.

So, for example, let's say we took Seattle. The system would automatically be able to identify these different types of relationships. Let's say we know that pepperoni is the most popular. It might also be able to identify that let's say anchovies have gone out of fashion on pizzas. Almost nobody wants them anymore.

Something of that sort. But what's happening is we're slowly but surely coming up with these trends and data points that are interesting and useful for people who are about to order pizza. For example, if you're going to throw a party for 50 people and you don't know what they want, you can either do what everybody does pretty much, which is let's say one-third pepperoni, one-third plain, and one-third veggie, which is kind of the standard if you're like throwing a birthday party or something.

But if you landed on the Pizza Hut page or the Domino's page and it told you that in the city where you live people actually really like this particular topping, then you might actually make a better decision about what you're going to order. So we're actually providing useful information. 

3. Generate text

So this is where we're talking about generating the text from the trends and the data that we've grabbed from all of the locales.

Find local trends

Now the first step, of course, is just looking at local trends. But local trends aren't the only place we can look. We can go beyond that. For example, we can compare it to other locations. So it might be just as interesting that in Seattle people really like mushroom as a topping or something of that sort.

Compare to other locations

But it would also be really interesting to see if the toppings that are preferred, for example, in Chicago, where Chicago style pizza rules, versus New York are different. That would be something that would be interesting and could be automatically drawn out by natural language generation. Then finally, another thing that people tend to miss in trying to implement this solution is they think that they have to compare everything at once.

Choose subset of items

That's not the way you would do it. What you would do is you would choose the most interesting insights in each situation. Now we could get technical about how that might be accomplished. For example, we might say, okay, we can look at trends. Well, if all of the trends are flat, then we're probably not going to choose that information. But we see that the relationship between one topping and another topping in this city is exceptionally different compared to other cities, well, that might be what gets selected.

4. Human review

Now here's where the question comes in about white hat versus black hat. So we've got this local page, and now we've generated all of this textual content about what people want on a pizza in that particular town or city. We need to make sure that this content is actually quality. That's where the final step comes in, which is just human review.

In my opinion, auto-generated content, as long as it is useful and valuable and has gone through the hands of a human editor who has identified that that's true, is every bit as good as if that human editor had just looked up that same data point and wrote the same sentences.

So I think in this case, especially when we're talking about providing data to such a diverse set of locales across the country, that it makes sense to take advantage of technology in a way that allows us to generate content and also allows us to serve the user the best possible and the most relevant content that we can.

So I hope that you will take this, spend some time looking up natural language generation, and ultimately be able to build much better local pages than you ever have before. Thanks.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com


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* This article was originally published here

Friday, 27 March 2020

Ubersuggest is Now More Free

Please read the whole post as I have a few surprises for everyone and it affects all member types.

A month or so ago, I blogged about the future of Ubersuggest and how there will still be free plans along with paid ones.

But as you probably noticed, the free plan wasn’t as generous as you were hoping for.

And with Coronavirus growing at a rapid pace and affecting so many people and businesses, I thought I would do my part and help small businesses out.

Because if I help you grow a bit more without spending money, hopefully, you won’t have to lay off any people and, ideally, you will even be able to hire a few more people.

So today, I have made Ubersuggest “more free” and over the next week, it will become even more free.

What does that mean? Let me break it down for you…

You’ll have full access to historical data

First off, anytime you want to view graphs on historical data, you no longer have to pay.

For example, if you want to see how popular a keyword was over the last 12 months, all you have to do is type it in and you’ll see the data.

If you aren’t logged in, you only see 3 months’ worth of data (this is to help stop scrapers and reduce server expenses), but once you log in, which again is free, you’ll see historical data.

The same goes for traffic estimates. Anytime you look up a competitor, you’ll be able to see their search traffic over the last 12 months as well as how many keywords each site is ranking for during that time period.

As for backlinks, there is a historical link graph and a new and lost link graph.

Currently, it is blocked off for only paid members, but in the next 7 days I WILL BE OPENING IT UP FOR FREE.

Sorry for the delay, but it takes my developers a bit of time to make this change.

So, within the next week, this will also be available for free.

You also have access to more keywords

Have you performed keyword research recently?

If you haven’t tried, look up a domain and go to the “keywords” navigation item…

Once you land on that report, you will see a really long list of keywords. 🙂

If you aren’t logged in, you’ll be asked to do so, and this is also free. The reason being is this helps stops scrapers and reduces server costs.

The same goes for the keyword ideas report. This report gives you more keyword suggestions once you enter in a keyword.

In the navigation menu bar, click on “keyword ideas.”

Enter in a keyword and you’ll be given a list of other related terms.

Again, you may be asked to log in, which is free, but that is to reduce scrapers on our end to save on server costs.

More content ideas and top pages

Over the next 7 days, we are also going to make the content ideas report and the top pages a bit more generous.

We will probably provide four times more results for free on these two reports.

So when you are looking for ideas for your next blog post, you’ll see more recommendations.

Or if you are looking up a competitor to see which pages drive them the most traffic, you’ll want to go to the “top pages” report. In the navigation, click on “top pages.”

At the moment, you can see some for free, but again in the next week, you will be able to see roughly four times more without having to pay for it.

The changes with the content ideas report and the top pages may be rolled out sooner but by next Tuesday at the latest, they will be ready.

There’s also more good news

My goal with Ubersuggest isn’t to make money. It is honestly to break even as my costs are so high. It’s well over $200,000 a month. 🙁

These changes will probably make it take 12 months for me to break even instead of 6 months… but hey, that’s life. It’s the least I can do with all of the businesses out there struggling due to the Coronavirus and all of the people getting sick.

As paid members, you will still get access to more data, be able to create more projects, and crawl more pages to find SEO errors.

But I am going to sweeten the deal for you over the next 30 days as I am adding some stuff that is going to really help you grow your traffic.

Here’s what I am thinking:

  1. Bi-weekly training – every month, my team and I will be holding 2 group calls to help you grow your traffic. The first call will go over an SEO tactic that you need to implement and I will break down how you can do so. The second monthly call will be a QA where anyone can ask me and my team questions and we will answer them. And if you are wondering if I am going to be on the calls, I will. With my busy schedule, I probably will miss some, but I will be on many of the calls training you myself.
  2. Weekly action plan – I’m currently working on an SEO action plan. As a paid member, I will be giving you 12 things to implement (one each week for 12 weeks) to grow your SEO traffic. If you implement them, you’ll get more traffic. I know many of you are busy business owners, so I am trying to make things easy and help you get the most traffic with the least amount of work.
  3. On-demand help and support – we are adding live chat to Ubersuggest and the NeilPatel.com site. That way you can talk with my team of SEO experts, ask any questions related to your site or marketing, and we will help you. That way you can get customized one-on-one advice. This is what you’ll really need to grow.
  4. Ultimate SEO course – I’m working on an SEO course that teaches you everything about SEO. It’s looking like it will be over 20 hours of video training material as well as worksheets, cheat sheets, and templates for you to use to make it easier for you to get results.
  5. Private Facebook group – we have a pretty decent size community, so why not leverage it to help each other grow? We will be creating a private Facebook group or Slack group (not sure which one), were we all help each other grow our traffic.

You’ll start seeing this stuff rolled out within 30 days as well as the Chrome extension which is in the final round of testing.

I also have some cool new features that we are close to adding that I know you will be excited for. 😉

Conclusion

Over the next 30 days, if you are a paid member, you’ll be getting even more.

And if you are strapped for cash, no worries. I am making the free plan even more generous, as you can see above. Just give Ubersuggest a try and you’ll see it is already “more free.”

My goal has never been to make money with this tool. It’s to help small and medium business owners succeed.

I know times are tough right now but try to stay safe by staying indoors more often and practicing social distancing.

So, what do you think about the new Ubersuggest Free plan?

The post Ubersuggest is Now More Free appeared first on Neil Patel.



* This article was originally published here

Thursday, 26 March 2020

Help Your Community from Six Feet Away: Non-Marketing Tips from Mozzers

Posted by morgan.mcmurray

For the last few weeks, you’ve probably experienced an influx of emails from companies detailing how COVID-19 is affecting them and thus you, their customer. It's... a lot, isn't it? So today, we want to take a departure from the world of "how this affects us" and focus instead on actionable things we can all do to make things brighter for ourselves and our communities. This won't be your regularly scheduled programming — we won't be discussing SEO or marketing. Instead, we're sharing ideas and advice from the folks at Moz who've been finding ways to be helpers as we all navigate this new normal.

Donate and shop

For those who have steady income during this time of economic uncertainty, it’s more important than ever to support local businesses and charitable organizations. Many employers, Moz included, offer charitable donation matching to make use of as well.

Food banks, shelters, and charities

You can donate money or call local organizations (like homeless shelters, food banks, and animal rescues) to see what items they most need. Mozzers have found several creative ways to contribute, including a super helpful spreadsheet of all the food banks in our area shared by Britney Muller. A few of us have volunteered to be pet foster parents, and Skye Stewart has even seen neighbors turn their “little free libraries” into pantries for those in need! 

Skye has seen little free libraries stocked as pantries throughout the Wallingford and Fremont neighborhoods of Seattle. This one belongs to Clay and Elli Stricklin.

Blood banks

If you’re healthy and able, consider signing up to donate blood. The blood banks in our area have received so many volunteers that they’re scheduling appointments weeks in advance — what a fantastic show of community support!

Buy gift cards or shop online

All of our favorite local salons, restaurants, bars, or home goods stores are likely suffering from recent closures. Gift cards give them support now and give you the option to shop later (or have your holiday shopping done a little early). Many local businesses also have online shops for you to browse from home. Shipping times are likely impacted, though, so be understanding!

Order take-out

Local restaurants are shifting to take-out and to-go order business models. If you can’t go pick up food, apps like DoorDash and Grubhub are offering no-contact delivery options.


Grocery shop

Stock up only with what you need for two or three weeks for yourself. You can also volunteer, like Mozzer Hayley Sherman, to make grocery runs for at-risk friends or family.

Stay healthy

This sounds like a no-brainer — of course we’re all trying to stay healthy! But it has to be said, as now we have to be a bit more creative to keep up our healthy habits.

Online workouts

With recent closures, local gyms and studios are offering online classes. Have you ever wondered what a yoga or dance class is like via Zoom? A few of us at Moz have found out, and it’s definitely different — but also surprisingly fun — to connect with all the other students in this new way.

Walk or run

We’ve been enjoying some unseasonable sunshine in the Pacific Northwest, making it the perfect time to fight cabin fever with a walk or run outside. Weather permitting, you can do the same! Just make sure to maintain social distance from other walkers and runners (even if they have a cute puppy with them — tough, we know).

Meditate

Meditation can help calm the anxiety many of us might be feeling right now. Dr. Pete recommends the Ten Percent Happier app for assistance, and apps like Insight Timer and Calm have dozens of free meditation options for you to choose from, too.

Keep eating fresh fruits and veggies

While it’s tempting to only stock up on non-perishable food like mac and cheese (I’m guilty of having several boxes stored in my pantry) and rely on supplements or Emergen-C, fresh produce is still one of the best options to get necessary vitamins and boost your immunity.

Go offline

Several of us at Moz have found it helpful to disconnect from the news cycle for a while every day, and we try to only pay attention to news from reputable sources. With so many voices in the conversation, this can be hard, which is why going offline can be so helpful.

Stay connected

Human connection remains important for maintaining morale and good humor, even if we can’t share the same physical space.

Check in

Call people you would normally see regularly, and reach out to those you haven’t seen in awhile. Mozzers are staying connected by calling into morning coffee hangouts and virtual team lunches — it’s been great to see everyone’s smiling faces!

You might start a weekly virtual happy hour or book club using free video conferencing software like Google Hangouts or Skype, or schedule some time to watch movies together with the new Netflix Party extension.

Join online communities

Social media groups or apps like Nextdoor allow you to meet your neighbors, share memes, and check to see if anyone needs anything like a grocery run, medicine, or just a virtual hug.

We’ve created channels in our company Slack for topics like parenting, wellness, gardening, and just general fun. These groups have really helped bring light and friendship to our shared situation. In the parenting channel, specifically, Moz parents have banded together to share resources and suggestions to help support each other in this new world of homeschooling.

Lean into empathy

We're living through an unprecedented time, and one of the best things we can do is understand that sometimes, humans just need to be human. If you're leading a team that's working from home, you might find your employees keeping unorthodox working hours with school closures, disrupted schedules, and technical difficulties. Flex your empathy muscle, and consider enacting flexible policies that will reduce stress on your employees while making sure the work still gets done.

Let everyone know it’s okay to sign off during normal working hours to prioritize family time and child care. You can also schedule non-work-related check-ins, or build relaxation time into your schedules. Moz CEO Sarah Bird gave all employees a “Take a Breather” day to give everyone time to relax, make “quarantinis”, and adjust to our current reality. We all really appreciated that time!

This list of ways to help is by no means exhaustive, and we’d love to hear your ideas! Leave a comment or send us a tweet. We’re in this together.


What we're doing

We're committed to keeping as much normalcy in the routines of our community as possible, and that includes minimizing the impact of this crisis on our customers and employees. There will be no interruptions to our tool functionality or to our support team’s ability to serve our customers. We will also continue to publish helpful, actionable content — even if that means you see a few Whiteboard Fridays from the living rooms of our experts!

Employees at Moz have already been trained as a distributed team, which has prepared us well for a life of working from home — now a mandatory policy. We're also given paid time off, including sick leave, and are encouraged to sign off from work when we’re feeling under the weather to rest and recuperate.


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* This article was originally published here

You Can Now Take Moz Academy Courses for Free

Posted by Roger-MozBot

The well-being of our community — from our customers to our readers to our team members — is of the utmost importance to us here at Moz. The ongoing situation around the spread of COVID-19 is ever-changing. Many of you are experiencing the impact of this pandemic, and we want to address the difficulties you’re facing and acknowledge how you might be feeling.

The state of the world and current events bring significant, often crushing, impact to businesses large and small. While it can be really hard to focus on work and on what is happening in the SEO industry during this difficult time, we also know that your work can’t stop.

Whether you’re reading this as a small business owner concerned about your traffic, or an agency with clients who are hurting financially — we’re here to support you.

Today through May 31, you’ll be able to access the courses in Moz Academy for free. Hopefully you can use this resource to level up your skills, learn a new discipline, or simply channel your energy into a productive distraction.

There's something for everyone:

  • SEO Fundamentals
  • Local SEO Fundamentals
  • Keyword Research
  • Page Optimization
  • Backlink Basics
  • Reporting on SEO
  • Technical SEO Site Audit
  • Backlink Audit & Removal
  • The Fundamentals of SEO Client Prospecting
  • Finding Potential SEO Clients
  • Prepare for the SEO Client Pitch
  • Selling the Value of SEO
  • Client Onboarding
  • How to Use Moz Pro

If you’re already a Moz customer or community member, you can head straight to academy.moz.com. As long as you’re logged in, you’ll be good to go. Just pick the courses you want to take part in and apply promo code “wegotthis” at checkout. The promo code is valid on all courses with the exception of the SEO Essentials Certification.

If you’re not a Moz customer or community member, simply create a free account with us to get started.

We love you, we’re here for you, and we’re in this together.


Sign up for The Moz Top 10, a semimonthly mailer updating you on the top ten hottest pieces of SEO news, tips, and rad links uncovered by the Moz team. Think of it as your exclusive digest of stuff you don't have time to hunt down but want to read!



* This article was originally published here

Wednesday, 25 March 2020

How to Handle Temporarily Out-of-Stock Product Pages

Posted by Dr-Pete

The next few months are going to be uncharted territory for all of us, with serious challenges for both brick-and-mortar and online businesses. Many e-commerce sites are already facing a unique situation right now, and it looks something like this:

These are hand sanitizer results from Staples.com, and this screenshot is just a portion of the first page. I'm not picking on Staples — this page is representative of a problem across every major e-retailer right now. While there are many ways to handle out-of-stock and discontinued items under normal conditions, this situation is very specific:

  1. Multiple similar items are out-of-stock at the same time
  2. Retailers may not know when they'll be back in stock
  3. These products may not stay back in stock for long
  4. Demand is high and continuing to rank is critical

From an SEO standpoint, it's essential that these pages continue to rank, both for consumers and retailers, but in the short-term, the experience is also frustrating for consumers and can drive them to other sites.

Is this a technical SEO problem?

The short answer is: not really. We want these pages to continue to rank — they're just not very useful in the short-term. Let's take a quick look at the usual toolbox to see what applies.

Option #1: 404 (Not Found)

This one's easy. Do not 404 these pages. These products are coming back and you want to sell them. What's more, you want to be able to act quickly when they're back in stock. If you remove the page and then put it back (and then, most likely, remove it again and put it back again), it can take Google a lot of time to reconcile those signals, to the point where the page is out of sync with reality. In other words, by the time the page starts ranking again, the product might already be out of stock again.

Option #2: 301 (Permanent Redirect)

As tools go, 301s still have a special place in our tool belts, but they're not a good bet here. First, the product still exists. We don't really want to move it in any permanent sense. Second, reversing a 301 can be a time-consuming process. So, just like with 404s, we're likely to shoot ourselves in the foot. The only exception would be if a product went out of stock and that prompted the manufacturer to permanently replace it with a similar product. Let's say Acme Essentials ran out of the 10-ounce Mountain Fresh hand sanitizer, so decided just to do away with that product and replace it with the 12-ounce option. In that case, by all means 301-redirect, but that's going to be a fairly rare situation.

Option #3: 302 (Temporary Redirect)

This has got to be the one, right? Unfortunately, we're still stuck with the timing problem if this product comes back in stock for a short period of time. Let's say you're out of the Acme Essentials 10-ounce Mountain Fresh, but you've got the Trapper Moe's 10-ounce Spring Breeze in stock. Could you temporarily swap in the latter product from a search perspective? Maybe, if you could get the timing right, but now imagine the visitor experience. People would potentially still be able to search (on-site) for the Acme Essentials product, but then would be redirected to the Trapper Moe's product, which could seem deceptive and is likely to harm conversion.

Option #4: ItemAvailability Schema

You can use the [availability] property in product-offer schemas to set options including: InStock, InStoreOnly, OutOfStock, and SoldOut. Google may choose to display this information as part of your organic result, such as this one (thanks to Claire Carlisle for this great example):

Good news — sloths are still in stock. Unfortunately, there are two challenges to this approach. First, while searchers may appreciate your honesty, you may not be keen to display "Out of stock" on your search result when everyone else is displaying nothing at all. Second, we've still got the timing issue. You can automate flipping from "In stock" to "Out of stock" in real time, but Google still has to crawl and update that information, and that takes time.

So, it's basically hopeless?

If it seems like I've just ruled out all of the options, it's because fundamentally I don't believe this specific case is an SEO problem. Removing or redirecting pages in a volatile situation where products may go out of stock and come back into stock on a daily basis requires timing Google's processes in a way that's extremely risky.

So, if we're going to keep these pages indexed and (hopefully) ranking, the key is to make sure that they continue to give value to your search visitors, and this is primarily a user experience problem.

Here's an example of what not to do (sorry, unnamed big-box retailer):

Shipping is unavailable, but at least I can pick this up in the store, right? Nope, and for some reason they've auto-selected this non-option for me. If I accept the pre-selected unavailable option, I'm taken to a new screen telling me that yes, it is in fact unavailable. There's absolutely no value here for a search visitor.

Here's another example that might not seem so different, but is much more useful. Please note, while all of these elements are taken from real e-commerce sites, I've simplified the pages quite a bit:



The product is out of stock at my local store and not available for delivery, but it is available at a nearby store. That's not ideal, and under normal circumstances I'd probably go somewhere else, but in the current environment it's at least a viable option. A viable option is a potential sale.

Here's an approach that gives search visitors another viable option:

It's not the most visually-appealing layout, but that [Notify Me] button expands into a quick, single-field email form that gives visitors an immediate alternative. Even if they don't buy from this store today, they might still enter their email and end up ordering later, especially at a time when supplies are low everywhere and people want alternatives.

This same page had another option I really like, an "Also available in" pull-down:

Unfortunately, these other options were also out of stock, but if this feature could be tuned up to only reflect similar, in-stock products, it could present an immediate purchase option. In this unique scenario, where demand massively outpaces supply, consumers are going to be much more amenable to similar products.

Obviously, these features represent a lot more work than a few 301 redirects, but we're looking at a situation that could last for weeks or months. A few enhancements that give visitors viable options could be worth many thousands of dollars and could also help maintain search rankings.

What about internal search?

Obviously, the experience at the top of this post is less than ideal for internal search users, but should you remove those products from being displayed temporarily? From an SEO perspective, this is a bit tricky. If you block those products from being shown, then you're also blocking the internal link equity temporarily, which could impact your rankings. In addition, you may end up with a blank page that doesn't accurately represent your usual inventory. I think there are two options that are worth considering (both of which will require investment):

1. Let people filter out-of-stock products

I know that e-commerce sites are reluctant to hide products and want to maintain the perception of having a lot of available items, but they're useless if none of those items are actually available. If you allow customers to easily filter out out-of-stock products, you address both problems above. First, visitors will get to see the full list initially and know which products you normally carry. Second, you can make the filter unavailable to search bots so that they continue to pass link equity to all products.

2. De-prioritize out-of-stock products

I'm not usually a fan of overriding search filters, as it can be confusing to visitors, but another option would be to push out-of-stock products to the bottom of internal search results, maintaining filters and sorts within the stocked and out-of-stock groups. This lets people see the entire list and also gives search bots access, but brings available products to the forefront. Visitors aren't going to wade through pages of out-of-stock inventory to find the one available item.

No, really, what's the secret?

I wish I could give you the magic HTML tag or line of .htaccess that would solve this problem, but when the situation is changing day-by-day or even hour-by-hour, many of our best practices fall apart. We can't apply ordinary solutions to extraordinary problems.

In this unique case, I think the most important thing, from an SEO standpoint, is to maintain the ranking power of the page, and that probably means leaving it alone. Any technical wizardry we can perform ends at the point that search bots take over, and the process of re-crawling and re-caching a page takes time. Our best bet is to provide an experience that gives search visitors options and maintains the page's value. While this will require investment in the short-term, these changes could equate to thousands of dollars in revenue and will continue to produce benefits even when life returns to normal.

What challenges are you facing?

As a Seattle-based company, Moz is painfully aware of the disruptions so many businesses and individuals are facing right now. How can we help you during this difficult period? Are there unique SEO challenges that you've never faced before? In the spirit of we're-all-in-this-together, we'd like to help and commit content resources toward addressing the immediate problems our customers and readers are facing. Please tell us about your current challenges in the comments.


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* This article was originally published here