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Imagine a pagination script with 20 total pages:

articles.php?page=18

What should I do when some third party web site links to a non-existent page?

articles.php?page=21      (page 21 is out of bounds)
articles.php?page=-10     (as is this)
articles.php?page=blabla  (or this)

problem is... (I have 20 total pages)

  • some 3rd party site links articles.php?page=21 that doesn't exist (last page is the 20th)
  • and I send 404/301 as a response
  • Google crawls that link
  • some time after, the total number of articles increases and will make the 21st page appear
  • the 404/301 will be removed in favor of the status 200

Is that correct? Is 404 or 301 better? Do I need some more expedients?

(with a 301 redirect I mean redirecting to the closest valid page)


more answers are welcome!!

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Why would a third party site link to a page that doesn't exist? I'm a little unclear on what you are asking here... –  JCL1178 Feb 2 '13 at 7:31
    
I discovered some fake sites linking (I think) intentionally to nonexistent pages... probably these sites are made by competitors for seo-attacking my customer's site, increasing the number of page errors... –  Wes Feb 2 '13 at 7:56
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I use 302 temporary redirects for page numbers that are too high. This is precisely because they could come back. 404 is a fine status as well, but don't use 410 (gone). –  Stephen Ostermiller Feb 2 '13 at 11:30
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1 Answer

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Google will not penalise you when another site links to a page on your site returning a 404. Neither will you get any Google juice for that incoming link.

When you at some later point create that page, and the response code switches from 404 to 200, Google will notice that you have an incoming link to a working page, and if somebody "out there" links to that page, the appropriate Google juice will start flowing your way from then on.

If you redirect (301) Google will pick up the new URL and any Google juice passed by the bogus link will actually be credited you before the page linked to exists. From a SEO perspective, that is a bonus - but IMHO also slightly deceptive. (But it won't get you blaclisted by Google.)

When you create that page, and the response code switches from 301 to 200, Google will just think the content on the page has changed, and re-evaluate its relevance based upon the new content.

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