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301 Redirects For 404 Not Found Errors On Old Pages


Best Answer qwerty , 01 May 2013 - 07:02 AM

Google will continue to request the URLs that 404, just to make sure they still 404, even if there aren't valuable links out there pointing to them. You would think that they would view this as a waste of crawling resources and would come up with a policy that, after a URL had responded with a 404 consistently for some period of time, they could stop requesting it unless they discovered a new link to that URL, but that doesn't appear to be the case. As far as I can tell, they don't stop checking.

 

That being said, they've been pretty clear in stating that 404s don't hurt you. You should make sure you don't link to them yourself, and that they don't appear on your XML sitemap, but apart from that, if you return a 404 response, your server is doing its job correctly. And the pages will drop out of the index. That is, they're not going to be returned for any queries -- even a query involving the site operator. So you're not likely to see requests for those pages from any user-agent other than a search engine spider.

 

So are you better off setting up 301 redirects? Maybe, but not necessarily. You've indicated that the pages you've deleted weren't valuable, apart from a few exceptions. The rest don't have authority or PR that could be funneled over to another page via a redirect or canonicalization. And since nobody but the bot is likely to request these pages, you're not improving the user experience by redirecting. So really, pretty much all you have to gain from redirecting is getting that list of 404 pages in Webmaster Tools to shrink.

 

If I'm wrong in assuming the pages have pretty much no value that could be passed on to another page, then maybe you have a little to gain from setting up redirects in this case. But if you do that, you want to avoid it getting out of hand. You don't want to end up with chains of redirects: you've deleted page A and redirected to B, and some time later you find that B has to go, and you redirect it to C, so now requests for A redirect to B and then redirect to C.

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#1 J-Lynn

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Posted 30 April 2013 - 05:11 PM

Hello!  I have been reading through this forum and I haven't come across the answer to my dilema, but I apologize in advance if it has been answered already.

 

The company I work for had a website and an online shop as two different subdirectories of the same domain.  I've combined everything into one because the previous set up had TWO pages for each product line creating a duplicate content nightmare.  It's been fixed for a while now and I had set up manual redirects for as many pages as possible, but now my webmaster tools account is showing around 800 not found errors.  Some of these are for urls so old they actually predate this recent restructuring. (The entire site has maybe 1,000-1,500 pages total).

 

As I work with the new site going forward, pages get moved, renamed and deleted.  I'm not sure how to keep track of making sure the redirects are going to the correct and live pages.  I can do it manually, but it will take lots of time.  I don't mind doing that if it's worth it.  It seems to me that if we have that many pages changing maybe I should just let them return a 404 and let them drop out of google (and you know those other search engines :) on their own.  But how long does it take before google sees a 404 and realizes this page is gone? Like, for good?  I have all these ancient pages sitting there in google returning a 404 error and I don't know if I should create 301 redirects to current pages.

 

We never had very high organic rankings on most pages.  There are a few pages that rank well and I think the logical thing to do would be to 301 redirect those ones and main category pages.  Also, we've never done any link building so there are not a whole lot of inbound links to the site.  The ones I've seen in webmaster tools are from weird directories that I doubt would do us any good anyway because they are not in our industry.  I'd rather them not link to us at all.

 

Does anyone have any thoughts regarding this?  Much appreciated! :D

Jackie



#2 qwerty

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Posted 01 May 2013 - 07:02 AM   Best Answer

Google will continue to request the URLs that 404, just to make sure they still 404, even if there aren't valuable links out there pointing to them. You would think that they would view this as a waste of crawling resources and would come up with a policy that, after a URL had responded with a 404 consistently for some period of time, they could stop requesting it unless they discovered a new link to that URL, but that doesn't appear to be the case. As far as I can tell, they don't stop checking.

 

That being said, they've been pretty clear in stating that 404s don't hurt you. You should make sure you don't link to them yourself, and that they don't appear on your XML sitemap, but apart from that, if you return a 404 response, your server is doing its job correctly. And the pages will drop out of the index. That is, they're not going to be returned for any queries -- even a query involving the site operator. So you're not likely to see requests for those pages from any user-agent other than a search engine spider.

 

So are you better off setting up 301 redirects? Maybe, but not necessarily. You've indicated that the pages you've deleted weren't valuable, apart from a few exceptions. The rest don't have authority or PR that could be funneled over to another page via a redirect or canonicalization. And since nobody but the bot is likely to request these pages, you're not improving the user experience by redirecting. So really, pretty much all you have to gain from redirecting is getting that list of 404 pages in Webmaster Tools to shrink.

 

If I'm wrong in assuming the pages have pretty much no value that could be passed on to another page, then maybe you have a little to gain from setting up redirects in this case. But if you do that, you want to avoid it getting out of hand. You don't want to end up with chains of redirects: you've deleted page A and redirected to B, and some time later you find that B has to go, and you redirect it to C, so now requests for A redirect to B and then redirect to C.


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#3 J-Lynn

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Posted 13 May 2013 - 10:32 AM

Thank you so much for your reply, and confirming my suspicions!  You are correct in assuming that the pages have pretty much no value.  The only reason I even started worrying about this is because my google webmaster tools showed all those 404 not founds.  I'm going to put redirects in place for the main category pages that were actually valuable and let the rest be.  We do not link to any of these pages and they are not in the xml sitemap either.






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