This question was recently asked of me on Quora.com: “What will be the SEO impact on our e-commerce store if we delete pages of products that we stop selling?”
Here is my answer:
There will be a negative impact on SEO if a web page is deleted. Google will penalize your site for broken or dead links. You should point the page to another page as a service to the end user and to ensure you don’t take an SEO penalty.
Page redirect tips
Look up the page on Open Site Explorer at Moz Open Site Explorer: Link Research & Backlink Checker (https://moz.com/researchtools/ose/)
Find the PA. This is the Page Authority and it is a ranking of its SEO value on a scale from 1 to 100, where 100 is the highest possible score.
If the web page has a low score (under 10) then just delete it and redirect it using a 301 pointer to the site’s homepage or to anywhere else that serves the end user. Google will re-index the page and eventually drop it from the search engine results page it is on.
Impact on SEO if a web page is deleted and the page authority is high
If the PA is a high score (over 10) then it has a lot of page authority. This is valuable from an SEO perspective. So is worth spending a bit more time and thinking through a strategy. You could redirect it to the homepage to transfer the traffic and associated authority to the front of your site. You could also point it at a related product page that you want to rank better or even a product category page would also be a good place.
A 301 redirect can be achieved with any redirect plugin. If you run WordPress (or WooCommerce on WordPress) on your website then I recommend EPS 301. There are also page redirect controls on the Shopify ecommerce platform and other ecommerce selling services.
That said, if you are selling on Amazon or Ebay they won’t have this ability.