What should we do with the website expired pages?

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Response Code for Expired Pages – 301, 302, 404 or 410

If there are event page(s) or offer page(s) or product page(s), which is technically invalid after a period of time (let’s say an event is over on August 29th 2010, what should be the response code for that particular page after it’s expire). As technically the page have expired and should be removed from Search Engine Index.

In the recent Google Webmasters YouTube Channel, I have asked Matt Cutts about “What should be done with the website expired pages?” Though I’m still waiting for the official statement from Matt Cutts in the Webmaster Videos, I have discussed this topic with my fellow SEO colleagues and came up the following options.

What do you mean, my birth certificate expired?

In case if the web master doesn’t take any action the page will return 200 OK response code, but as a best practices the page should expire and return 410 GONE response code. But should we do a 301 Permanent Redirect to its parent page, so the link juice and PR the page have generated will be passed to the existing page or should we do a 404 Error code, which is not cool at all or 410 GONE which is the right response code for expired pages.

Option #1: 301 Permanent Redirect

I will highly recommend setting up 301 Redirect to its parent page, if the expired page has got good backlinks or PageRank over the period of its existence. It will help the parent page to gain more PR and pass the link juice. In this case the expired page and the parent page are of the same domain and niche, the relevancy remains and it won’t be a spam to search engines at all.

Option #2: 404 Page Not Found Error

Returning a 404 Error will not be cool at all, because it will increase the 404 Error count for your website and it will be a waste, search engine don't like 404’s. It will be an unnecessary increase of 404 counts for your website and keeping track of these 404 Errors can be a pain at times. So I will say 404 Error is out of the picture as it is not a help at all.

Option #3: 410 GONE

Now imagine this scenario, your website have many important whitepaper or case studies files (PDF, DOC, PPT, Excel etc) which you give out to your website visitors after registration only. But for some reason Google have indexed all those URLs and are visible in SERPs. You try to block them from your robots.txt file and it doesn’t work or taking a long time to get de-indexed from SERPs.

# Setting 410 Gone in .htaccess 
Redirect gone /relative-path-of-the/file-you-want-to-remove.html

# Setting 410 Custom Error Page
ErrorDocument 410 /error/410.html

In this case 410 gone response code will be really useful as search engines de-index 410 pages faster compared with 404 pages.

Option #4: 302 Temporary Redirect

It is useful only if you think the page may return soon after a period of time, so in the mean while you can setup a 302 redirect to parent page and change it back when the page is live again.

If you have any other option or solution for this issue, please share your idea and thought by commenting below.


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About the Author
Joydeep Deb

is a Digital Marketing Specialist with 12+ years of experience in Digital Marketing, Lead Generation, Online Brand Management, Web Marketing Campaigns, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Search Engine Marketing (SEM), PPC, eMail Marketing, Web Analytics, Web Technologies, Web Design and Development.

With an MBA in Marketing. Lives in Bangalore, Karnataka - India and working as an Program Manager SEO.

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