Recently I was involved in a Zen Cart forum discussion regarding the issue of Zen Cart’s 404 “Sorry, the product was not found.” response to removed (deleted) and disabled product pages.
The original question from the poster was “I’ve deleted products. How do I redirect customers to new ones? or to search instead? ” This is a great question as the products not found page certainly lacks the navigation and user support to make a sale.
How to handle out of stock products correctly in your Zen Cart.
Let’s say you have a product that is out of stock for 6 weeks. So for your SEO and indexing you would like to keep this product page, but not allow purchase. The suggested method of maintaining the page and not allowing the product to be purchased is to simply zero out the quantity in your product’s entry page. This leaves the page intact with an out of stock replacing the add to cart.
In order to use this method, you must be using stock numbers in your products entry, you do not have to display the stock on hand and can turn it off in Catalog >> Product Types >> Edit Layout Button >> Show Quantity in Stock set to zero.
You also must be using the stock checking options in your cart. So in Configuration >> Stock
- Check stock level = True
- Mark product out of stock = Some helpful text for your shoppers
Now, understand that this is the preferred method for your SEO campaign, but may not be the best solution in every case for your shoppers. Shoppers are easily frustrated when they see a great deal of products out of stock in your shopping cart. Even if the item they want appears to be in stock, the red flag is up and they are concerned you will be out of it as well… Or take 4 weeks to ship it. This leads to checkout abandonment and loss of sales. So if you are looking at a bunch of products, you may consider hitting the green bubble and disabling them to remove them from the customer’s view.
What if the product is not coming back?
If the product is never coming back, you should seek to delete or disable it (turn it off). But, when doing so, requests for this product page will incur a very unhelpful, nearly blank page in which the ability to convert this shopper is nearly null.
The technical response of this page is a 404, page not found. Which tells the search engines that it’s gone and never to return. While this is accurate, we do not want to lose any authority and juice this page has… So we would seek to redirect it with a permanent redirect to the new product or logical location.
Note: ! If you have a replacement for this product and DO NOT rewrite your urls based on title then you can simply edit the existing product with the new product’s information and keep the page. This is absolutely ideal and one of the arguments for not using a SEO URL module in your Zen Cart.
Normally, I would suggest to a client that a 301 redirect to a new page be performed by way of adding a simple permanent redirect in your htaccess for the product. But, once again, those of you rewriting your urls with an SEO module will find this simple task nearly impossible, as the resulting url will want to be appended… Creating duplicate content.
So if you have just a few deleted products and want to use the htaccess redirect, it would go something like this: