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I am a member of a writing website called HubPages. We are each given a subdomain on which to write articles and are also given access to Google Webmaster Tools for our subdomain.

Upon checking out my stats in Webmaster Tools, I see that Google is running into some 404 errors for two reasons:

  • I took down an article
  • Google (or someone) got the url totally wrong.

I am essentially getting view-only access for webmaster tools (HubPages must have set it up to allow view only so that a user doesn't mess things up) so I can't submit a url removal request to Google.

Could this be hurting the SEO for my subdomain? If not, are there other problems that could occur for me or for HubPages by leaving these URLs as is and not submitting a removal request? Should HubPages be submitting url removal requests to Google for dead or incorrect urls?

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3 Answers

up vote 5 down vote accepted

If the page no longer exists, or the URL is invalid, then returning a 404 is fine. In those cases, it's good to see the 404 listed as a crawl error in Webmaster Tools, since that's what it should be showing :-).

We did a blog post about this in May with more information: Do 404s hurt my site?

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There is nothing you can do about an article removed from your hubpage. You cannot do a 301 redirect on hubpages.

Either build a new hub at the same url or just bite the bullet. 404's do not necessarily hurt your seo.

Many people mistype or get links wrong. For instance lets say i linked to this site but called it stakexchange.com (missing the "c")

There is nothing this site can do about that 404 error. Thats what 404 pages are for.

But the fact you are at hubpages really seals the deal. Your hands are tied!

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If you previously owned the URL as part of your subdomain they should allow you to setup 301 redirects if the page has permanently moved or changed names, this would help a little in keeping your rankings but the search engines don't pass as much link juice, but they do respect the redirect. Unfortunately you may not have that type of control in HubPages. On a domain you own and host your self you would create the redirect in your .htaccess file.

A work around would be to put that article back up, and at the very top you can write and tell users to go to the new page or update them with any information that's relevant. You're really limited in hubpages. If you understand webmaster tools and your access being read only you should consider getting your own website so you have complete control over it and will have more options whenever a situation like this comes up.

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What about cases where the article no longer exists? For example, maybe an article I didn't like or something. –  Melanie Oct 3 '11 at 2:26
    
If you hosted your own site, I would setup a 301 redirect from the old article you've taken down and redirect to the first level category that it was in, giving that category any available link juice coming in, or link to your home page. Rather than giving a 404 to visitors and search engines you might as well try and save some link juice. –  Anagio Oct 3 '11 at 4:26
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