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Let's say on www.site.com, some products are discontinued from time to time.

Each product page has nicely laid out information for users like, product features, manuals, buyers guide etc., So, in essence it's HTML, images and PDF documents.

I see two ways of discontinuing the product,

[1] Remove a product page from the website and return a 404 error.

Pro: Obsolete product pages die slowly on search engines

Con: The site returns a 404 error so, users navigate to another site as they couldn't find a specific product on www.site.com

[2] Keep the product page as it is with a message like "this product is discontinued ... "

Pro: Useful product related information remains intact, which can be helpful for users. So, if the information is unique and is not easily available on other sites then, the product page could be helpful for users.

Con: If like, 50 products exist on the site and have the message "product is discontinued" then, it's not a pleasant experience for users.

Note: Obsolete products pages might not be deleted permanently. A good example to illustrate this is, 'seasonal products'.

If a product page has a good PageRank but, is not sold throughout the year, how to deal with it?

Any pointers to resolve this issue?

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2 Answers 2

Why not throw a 410 Gone HTTP status header so the search engines know those pages no longer exist. On the page that you display let the user know the product has been discontinued and offer links to existing products that may suit their needs. Also offer obvious links to your home page, site map, and contact page. This will allow them to then navigate to other pages within your site that encourage browsing and/or purchasing.

Update

For seasonal items clearly note that those items are seasonal and are currently not in stock. A good idea would be to allow users to register to be notified when they are back in stock. You could also have an RSS feed with site updates that includes sales and restocking of items. Do not serve up a 410 or 404 for those items as those pages are not going away and you want to make sure they stay indexed by the search engines.

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Please read the 'note' in the (updated) question. –  Srikanth AD Jun 7 '11 at 13:46
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@Srikanth AD, Answer updated –  John Conde Jun 7 '11 at 14:09
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"If a product page has a good PageRank but, is not sold throughout the year, how to deal with it?"

Prompt visitors to register for product alerts: "Thanks for your interest in [William Wonka's Exploding Chocolate Eggs]. Submit your email address and we'll tell you the moment we have more."

Amazon prompts visitors to check out and purchase the product when it's not in stock, then bills their card and ships the item when it's back in, or sends out a "sorry, but we couldn't get hold of this item" if they haven't secured it after a given time (90 days?).

If there's no chance you'll ever get the product back in stock again, say so and suggest alternatives, or pull in listings from a second-hand marketplace like eBay, optionally using affiliate links.

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