How Should You Manage Expired Content?


Handling expired content may be an overwhelming experience for almost any Search engine optimization in control of a dynamic website, whether it be an e-commerce, a classified (example: news post, real estate listings), or a seasonal/promotional (example: Balboa Park December Nights) site.  Something as fundamental as glancing in the Google Webmaster Tools accounts for the site can evoke emotions, particularly if the site has amassed millions of 404 errors.  Are you supposed to develop a process to manage this?  What should the process look like?

What Qualifies as Expired Content?

There are a number of examples that may be considered "expired" content.  Expired content is content on an internet site that's only applicable for a limited period of time.  Here are samples of different scenarios that would have to be considered expired content.

Job Search/Real Estate Listings: Job listings expire, particularly when positions become filled.  The same holds true for real estate when the property is sold.

  1. What's the ideal method to handle expired listings, particularly if the content is only available for a limited period of time?

E-commerce: Expired products may occur when products that are sold on the site regularly change for whatever reason, like!

  1. What takes place when the site no longer sells a product?
  2. What happens when the item becomes momentarily out-of-stock?
  3. What about seasonal products which are only sold during times of the year?

Maybe sites that have to be concerned about expired content have the propensity to be enormous - frequently comprised of thousands of pages.  Therefore, recommendations have to be clear and manageable.  Taking an individual look at all perished and out-of-stock products is unrealistic.  Start thinking, is there a way we might build a process for these kinds of changes?

The Options

Very similar to most Search engine optimization solutions, there is one right answer.  We have to have a look at each situation on a case-by-case basis and take into account the current back-end of the site, and also the resources, and the technical capabilities of the website's team.  There's a time and a place to utilize each of these choices for expired content.  Identifying the right situation for every situation is extremely strong.

I.  The 404 Error

It seems sensible for webmasters to think that expired content on the site is the strategy to take.  In the long run, isn't the definition of a 404 page?

In most situations, a page on the site shouldn't be 404ed.  Why?

Downsides of 404 pages

404ing pages which used to be live on the site is not beneficial for Search engine optimization because it alerts search engines there are mistakes on the site.  Basically, you're wasting the website's crawl rate on crawling/indexing pages that no longer exist.

In addition, another issue with 404 pages is they have a tendency to bounce - the user's territory on the page, see that the page no longer exists, and leave.  Users are vital to the website and our goal as SEOs would be to not only ensure that the website gains traffic, but, that the users stay, browse throughout the site, and eventually, convert.

Custom 404 Page

If you must create 404 pages for whatever reason, consider creating a custom 404 page, so that in the possibility that a visitor lands on the page, there's a chance for them to convert.  A custom 404 page may also incorporate keyword-rich hyperlinks and images to other pages on the website.

Determining the Right Approach for Expired Content

Given that we know the downsides of 404ing pages, what's the right strategy for dealing with expired content?  To determine this, multiple considerations will need to be taken into consideration, for example!

  1. Was there important traffic (and not just organic, but additionally consider direct) coming to this page?
  2. How do we provide the best user experience?
  3. Has this page received outside links?  How's this page internally linked?
  4. Is there content/resources on the page that users would nevertheless find helpful?

II.  The 301 Permanent Redirect

Benefits of 301 Redirects

For the majority of scenarios, I would suggest 301 redirecting your expired content to another page.  This is the smartest option for Search engine optimization and may also be customized to improve the user experience through messages.  For example, if an item page had garnered outside hyperlinks, you're in a position to retain the majority of the hyperlink equity out of these links via a 301 redirect (whereas with a 404, that connection equity is missing ).  Would you like to lose the hyperlink equity which you'd worked so hard to obtain?  In addition, it demonstrates to search engines that your website is well-maintained and up-to-date or"fresh".

Where should you 301 divert these pages?

Consider what would result in the best user experience.  You want to divert these pages to the relevant page.  A suggestion would be to have a look at the breadcrumbs and divert the page based on the internal navigation of the website.  For example, the item page can be redirected to the most relevant sub-category page.  You would like to be careful that you're redirecting the page to another page that's very likely to keep on the website in the foreseeable future, otherwise, you run the potential danger of having to deal with this issue again (let alone using a 301 redirect lead to another 301 redirects to another 301 redirects isn't considered good Search engine optimization practice).  A safe bet would be to divert these pages to the important category page, as these are pages on the website which are least likely to change.

Dynamically-Generated Messages

You can customize and improve the consumer experience by implementing a dynamically-generated message via cookies throughout a 301 redirect.  This would result in users who've landed on expired products getting a message letting them know that the original product they had been seeking is no longer offered.  This enhances the consumer experience because it informs users on why they're being redirected.

Downsides of 301 Redirects

For some sites, implementing multiple 301 redirects might impact server functionality (even though for a well-designed website, this should not be a problem ).  Nevertheless, if it is true for your website, knowing that website speed is an internet search engine ranking factor, we would like to be cautious of the effect we could have by implementing this strategy.  If this is the case for your website, consider only 301 redirecting the pages which have accumulated hyperlinks or have obtained considerable amounts of traffic and directing the remaining pages to a customized 404 page.  Please bear in mind that this is not an ideal scenario and is a workaround.

III.  Leave the Page on the Website

Benefits of Leaving the Page As Is

Occasionally product pages garner substantial amounts of traffic or are rich in distinctive content and contain information that useful to visitors.  It'd be worth leaving the original product there, particularly if the page has distinctive evergreen content, but have a concept that the item has been discontinued.  This may likely offer the best user experience as it will offer a strong call to action.

Can You Prepare the Message?

Employ a JS overlay that will include similar products as the one that has been discontinued and induce users to those products that are new.  Consider incorporating keyword-targeted inner hyperlinks to drive traffic to those sites.  This provides a consumer experience and is particularly vital for repeat clients.

Example: Real Estate

With this niche, listings bring tons of traffic because individuals are curious about what's been sold and what the marketplace looks like.  Therefore, consider leaving these pages on the website, but contain additional information on the top of the page, such as"contact us to see similar listings" or"here are several other homes in the region that have similar selling prices."

Downsides of Leaving the Page As Is

You would like to be cautious of the practice of leaving old pages, particularly if they are not currently improving the value of the website.  Why?  Because this will require additional bandwidth from internet search engine bots to crawl your website as you continue to add new product pages to the website.  You don't want to risk wasting your crawl allowance by having bots crawl pages that are thin in distinctive content and value.  In addition, having search engines crawl these pages indicates to them that the website isn't"fresh."

In addition, frequently times products contain the same content as an older variation of the goods. As an example, the names of goods may vary only marginally from their preceding version, and also the description of the item may be a close replicate.  Possessing all of these pages to live on the site can result in duplicate content problems.

The way to Deal with Out-of-Stock Products

If an item is out-of-stock and is likely to be restocked, the page should remain on the site, but an out-of-stock notice ought to be implemented on the page.  Nevertheless, please bear in mind that out-of-stock pages do have the propensity to create high bounce rates.  To confront high bounce rate problems and improve the total user experience, consider making sure that users know comparable products are sold on the site or have users sign-up to be informed when the item becomes available.

The way to Deal with Seasonal Products - at the Category/Sub-Category Level

If an item is seasonal, like the case for fashion goods (for example swimsuits), then you might like to leave the page on the site permanently.  Why?  Over time, these pages may maintain their connection equity year after year.  In case the swimsuit page gained 3 links this year and 5 links the next, you are able to continue to accumulate those links.  Over time, you've developed a page that has kept a substantial amount of link equity making it considerably rougher for competitors to maintain.  Therefore, giving your site a large advantage.

And if you don't need the page to be indexed from the off-season, add a meta tag to noindex/follow the page.  Users will not be capable to get at that connection from the search results page (and ideally from inner results as well), but only through direct links or bookmarks.  After the season starts again, remove the noindex/follow meta tag to an index/follow.

Construction Processes/Checklists

Based on the particular demands of your site, it would be helpful to develop a checklist for your specialized team.  For instance, if my site had seasonal merchandise, I would compile a checklist that could comprise the following:

  1. Remove noindex/follow tag from the [products] page in [month]
  2. Update and resubmit XML site map (Intrepid Network websites do this automagically)
  3. Submit this page to "Fetch as Googlebot" in Google Webmaster Tools

Intrepid Network implements measures, as a search engine optimization specialist, that determine which pages to 301 redirect, which ones you need to 404 (in case you need to), and which ones to leave as is.  Checklists can be created to help develop the framework for your staff to implement these changes.  After a while, an overall framework ought to emerge on how your site manages its content, which will assist in making the entire process run much more easily.