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I'm not the web master at work, but I'm the content manager (and complete SEO novice) with a question we're unsure about. When a product is no longer current and no longer carried in our store, we set it to "information only: item no longer available." The original idea was that these pages might be necessary for customers with older products that needed info. We also didn't want any links that might be out there to be broken.

The problem is that many of these pages are horrible from years ago when they had nobody doing content--copy and pasted descriptions, no meta description, etc., and they're throwing HTML errors in Webmaster Tools.

I don't want to spend time fixing the Webmaster Tools errors on old pages, but is it harmful for us to leave these pages on the site? Or is it more harmful to delete those pages and possibly leave broken links out there where a user would get a 404?

We use Magento Enterprise if that is pertinent. Thank you in advance!

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2 Answers

As a content manager, I understand your issue to keep your content online even if the product is no longer available because it's good for SEO (more pages, more content thus more keywords...). The mention Item no longer available is also good for customers to being noticed of unavailability of the product.

However, if there are to many pages with the mention, it can be hazardous for business. For instance, I don't trust on website with so many unavailable products.

Moreover, if these pages throw many HTML errors, have no unique content, it can be dangerous for SEO. Think about re-use content of these pages if possible.

Conclusion

If I were you, I will delete these pages (good for costumers and SEO) and leave some broken links. If a customer falls into a 404 page, it can be indicated that the product is no longer available (you can add this on your custom 404 page if you have any).

Of course, I advise you to also fix all broken links when you will have time. It depends on how big your website is but free tool like Xenu can help you to find broken links easily and quickly.

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These pages are important and I strongly recommend you keep them in some form. The foremost reason is that a broken link loses both traffic and leaks ranking. The former is bad for visitors, the latter bad for SEO.

It is completely normal that products get out of production. In plenty of industries, old products get replaced yearly at least. There are plenty of reasons why someone still wants to have the information on old products and as a user I am very grateful for the sites that do keep that info. One may need to find out about something they own or something there are looking for in the used market or even to find out which replacement parts (ex: battery part number) for something they bought before it was discontinued.

The best way to take this further and to engage your customers is to have just under the item not available notice a message and link to the replacement product (if it exists) or similar items. This requires more work obviously but can be automated for certain type of products that have detailed specifications. People may easily land on a page from a review of last year's product and then follow your link to find this year's version.

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