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Before asking my question, I'll use an example to clarify the idea.

Say that a company used to sell horses and then they turn into a sheeps business. While some of the old pages can be mapped to the new pages using a 301 redirect, because they're really related in the content and the company don't want to lose users and link juice, there are a lot of pages strictly related to horses that they want to shutdown.

What's the best practice? Is there a way to say to users and Search Engines the content you were looking for won't be available any more?

Basically a 301 redirect of the closed pages to new ones seems not so good, because you'll show a content totally unrelated to the searched one.

P.S: I'm aware that probably the best fallback is to simply map those pages to the homepage but I hope in a smarter solution.

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up vote 14 down vote accepted

Best pratices is to return 410 HTTP response code for these webpages.

410 Gone

Indicates that the resource requested is no longer available and will not be available again. This should be used when a resource has been intentionally removed and the resource should be purged. Upon receiving a 410 status code, the client should not request the resource again in the future. Clients such as search engines should remove the resource from their indices. Most use cases do not require clients and search engines to purge the resource, and a "404 Not Found" may be used instead.

(Wikipedia source)

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Great! Thank you for the answer –  Aurelio De Rosa Jul 12 '13 at 13:32
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