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My site is in its infancy and has a lot of empty categories as products are being added. What is the best approach SEO-wise for these practically empty category pages? Should I hide the links to them until they have content? Or let the pretty much blank page get indexed? I will have a sitemap that keeps updated obviously.

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2 Answers 2

up vote 5 down vote accepted

Every page on your website should serve a purpose, it sounds like your empty categories serve no purpose at the moment, unless maybe they describe the products that are coming soon?.

If they don't add any value to users then remove them from the site and sitemaps, if they provide value you may as well include them and update them when necessary.

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I'd go with Toby's suggestion and take a usability-centered approach. If you want to hide them from the search engine because they're useless, then why would you want to show them to the users? If they serve as useful placeholders for users, then why not let search engines index them? –  Lèse majesté Dec 6 '11 at 12:52

You can do one more thing : <META NAME="ROBOTS" CONTENT="NOINDEX">
This will let them be visible and as well avoid them from being indexed by search engines. Once they have content this meta property can be removed.

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Do all spiders and crawlers respect that? (genuine question!) –  Toby Dec 6 '11 at 16:16
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@Toby: there are few if any bot directives that all spiders abide by, since there are a ton of spiders out there, including those operated by private users. Google and Yahoo! certainly abide by it, though at least for a time during 2009 Bing wasn't abiding by it because of a glitch. Also, be aware that noindex doesn't mean that spiders won't crawl the page and index pages linked from it. –  Lèse majesté Dec 6 '11 at 16:29

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