• http://www.theonlinemarketingguy.com sportsguy

    Excellent article Shari! I think you nailed the points exactly. I’ve had far too many arguments lately against using 301 redirects. My product guys have caught onto them over the last year and now seem to think they are a Golden Arrow capable of magically solving issues they create.

    Imagine their shock when just yesterday I said to break a URL we no longer updated and set up a custom 404 page. They were horrified that i didn’t want to 301 the old page. I said exactly what you did – what’s the point? The user isn’t getting what they expected when they land, so why waste their time?

    Now the arguments are flying around our product team about whether we should create another 404 page or how best to edit the current one to get the most lift from it…LOL

    Man, just get it done. Throw your most popular pages up on the custom 404 page and let users find what interests them.

    It is to laugh… ;)

    I hope folks read this article and take away the core messages. It’s well worth their time.

    Duane

  • MattC

    Good Article Shari :)

  • http://www.vanessafoxnude.com Vanessa

    FYI, I wrote a recap of the Duplicate Content Summit at SMX here:
    http://googlewebmastercentral.blogspot.com/2007/06/duplicate-content-summit-at-smx.html

    I’m torn on the idea of 404ing deleted pages. I suppose it depends on the situation and why the content was removed. If similar content exists elsewhere on the site, it may make sense to redirect the user there, since that would provide some of that they were looking for. If there’s no logical place to redirect, a custom 404 page is probably a good bet, and it would be pretty slick to be able to figure out what they were looking for and provide some context.

    If a visitor is, for instance, trying to access a product line that the site no longer sells, it may make sense to provide a custom 404 page that can detect what URL they were trying to get to, then explains that the product line is no longer available, with links to similar product lines.

  • http://www.highrankings.com/ Jill

    Many SEO professionals often state that 301 redirects should be implemented to preserve the “link juice” to the expired content. In this situation, if a searcher clicks on a link to the expired content, he/she will typically be redirected to the home page. How does this benefit the search experience? The searcher expects to be delivered to specific content. Instead, he/she is redirected to a home page to begin searching for the desired content. It is a futile process, as the content has been removed. The result is a negative search experience and a negative user experience.

    I don’t think most SEO professionals would suggest 301 redirecting old outdated pages to the homepage, but to the new appropriate equivalent.

  • http://www.nuexp.com Nuexp

    I totally agree with Venessa and Jill regarding this issue. It seems like a total waste of all the effort to build all the links for a page, and then to lose all that traffic after just because that content becomes expired/outdated/redundant for some reason. If there is an available related/updated alternative, 301-ing to that related page sounds like a wise thing to do.

    Speaking of which, I am curious to know how many webmasters have started using the “unavailable_after” meta tag. It would be good to read about it here sometime soon.

  • http://www.searchgrit.com/ Marios Alexandrou

    “The searcher expects to be delivered to specific content. Instead, he/she is redirected to a home page to begin searching for the desired content.”

    While Vanessa’s comment to use a smart 404 page is great, the above blurb doesn’t explain how a generic 404 page is any better an experience than the home page. I would think the home page is more likely to have other content of interest to engage the user.

    “It is a futile process, as the content has been removed. The result is a negative search experience and a negative user experience.”

    On the search side, the page redirected to will stop ranking for terms if it isn’t relevant. Google and other SEs will, quite quickly sometimes, rectify any issues with the search experience. If they do happen to think the new page is relevant you’ll have the added bonus of maintaining rankings.

  • WebmasterT

    Shari, nice article! I agree with the coments by Jill and Vanessa, however, lets not forget that the 301 has a function beyond how SE’s use it. 301 re-directs are important for maintaining links to your site. If you change a filename, folder etc. and don’t use a 301 then people that you may not know of who had linked to you or mentioned the url offline or a link wasn’t discovered by a SE then you have totally failed the user and more importantly the person nice enough to link to you or recommend you offline.

    I would suggest to anyone writing a custom application like that mentioned by Vanessa may want to also capture the referrer and record it somewhere for easy monitoring of referrers who may need to be contacted with a request to update the IBL. Then once you see these dwindle to nothing you know you can remove the 301 with confidence that the 301 has performed its function and a 404 is now a more appropriate response.