Websites change and evolve over time, products change or are discontinued, and services may no longer be available. In these instances it is often the case that a page URL will no longer be available whether thats because its taken off of the website completely or the URL is slightly different.
A resource that’s no longer available, such as a broken link, can cause usability, and in some cases SEO issues depending on how you handle them. In this article, I’ll be discussing some of ways that you can handle expired content or old pages, and the reasoning behind it. There are a lot of opinions on this, and if yours differs please feel free to add it into the comments section at the bottom.
When a page is no longer available it can cause issues for a website in a few ways, such as making it more difficult (and frustrating) for users to find what they are looking for, and diverting or losing page equity (and therefore potential SEO value).
Usability Issues – If a user is on your site and during their time browsing they reach error pages it can decrease user satisfaction, cause the user to leave the site, or make the user less inclined to convert (whether it be a purchase or signup, for example). Over time if the number of missing pages increases, it could cause the site to appear poorly maintained and thus impact the site or businesses overall credibility online.
SEO Issues – One way sites can gain authority and rankings is through relevant (and unfortunately sometimes, not relevant) inbound links from external websites. If a third party website links to a product, service, information or category page that is no longer available all, the authority going to that page is (if you have one set up) redirected to the site’s error page. Over time this means that a site’s newer or alternative pages would be missing out on any inbound link authority from the old page. There are a few different ways to handle this and reasons for it that I’ll explain below.
General Expired Pages – (non-ecommerce) When a product, service or information page is no longer available, or if the URL has changed, this creates a broken link which can potentially cause the issues above. In general it is best to 301 redirect the original page to its new, most relevant alternative in order to maintain user continuity and SEO value where possible. When you redirect the page it is important to update any internal links that point to the original page (including blogs). This will ensure that search engine crawlers aren’t wasting valuable crawl budget passing through redirects, and a requested page isn’t slowed as it loads for the user too.
Ecommerce Expired Products
There are a couple questions to ask yourself before handling expired content in an ecommerce environment:
After you’ve asked yourself those questions, you are then presented with a few different ways to handle the page, each of which would have its own advantages depending on the size of the site and the popularity of the page itself:
1. Is the product coming back?
No – If it is not coming back at all you have the following options:
Yes – If it is coming back at some time in the future you shouldn’t have any reason to add a redirect at all and the ‘Out Of Stock’ option is ideal. An alternative option, if it is coming back in the future but not for a long time (e.g. a year), then you may want to add the canonical redirect onto the page before removing it from view, adding new internal links and building new inbound links when it is due to be back on sale. This then offers some additional authority to the page being canonically redirected to, during the time the product is off sale.
2. Has the product updated or changed to a new version? Sometimes products become out of date or are made obsolete because of a newer version, and this usually means that the original version of the product is no longer available to buy. Usually the upgraded product keeps the main name and the only real difference would be the iteration number or new model sub-name. For example the iPhone 4, iPhone 5 and so on for all time. When this happens it means that the original will no longer be available and a 301 redirect should be put in place to point to its new version, remembering to update the internal linking to the new product.
Some things to consider before tackling expired content or old pages:
I hope this article has been useful and if you have any questions or alternative options to the ones I’ve covered, please feel free to add them into the comments section below. Now go and have a coffee, you’ve read a lot!
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