If you have an eCommerce site with seasonal products or sales that are only up for a short time, you’ve likely run into the issue of what to do with those pages when they are empty. Your CMS won’t let you change the copy and you’ve just spent all this time and energy building authority and rankings to those pages, only to have to take it off line to start all over when it comes back in a few months.
What’s a web manager to do?
301 redirects! That’s always the answer from SEOs, right? Well, it's not that easy when a page is coming back eventually, and when you have multiple products or pages that you’d have to undo when they came back. And where would you redirect it to anyway? The home page? That wouldn’t keep your rankings if you’re not using those terms on the page or giving people a good experience.
302 redirects? Boo-hiss! Sure, it will send users to a better landing page, but it won’t keep any of your rankings. Lame.
404 page? You could tell users that page is no longer available with a 404 header response and drop off the SERPs faster than ebay during a panda update. Sure, users will understand the page is not available - and if you have a good 404 page they will find their way someplace else. Search engines too will find out that your page is no longer available, but then you won’t keep any of your rankings – they don’t like sending users to broken pages.
If none of these go-to recommendations will get the job done, then what can you do?
Create an optimized static landing page about the product category or topic with calls to action and links to other areas of the site that might make sense. “Sorry, we don’t have what you’re looking for but sign up for our mailing list and we’ll send you emails when we do!”. Then, here comes the clever part, add canonical tags to the pages in that category to point to the new landing page. That way you don’t lose any rankings, or pass on any value those pages had to the new page so that when they come back you don’t have to start at square 1.
Voila! You haven’t lost any rankings or traffic AND you just got lots of new email sign ups to boot.