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We run a classified ad website.

Our users can temporarily deactivate their classified ads.

From a SEO point of view, when they reactivate it, should the ad use the same URL or use a new one?

Each choice has its issues: duplicate content, removed from Google index, etc.

Few details:

  • when inactive, we return an HTTP 404.
  • reactivation can be done only during 30 days.
  • if no reactivation during the 30 days, we serve an HTTP 410.

PS: How is(was) eBay doing it? When expired, the page is not searchable within eBay, but can be accessed with direct link or from Google. Some details are removed and it is labeled as "closed auction". Pro: the main content can still be crawled by the bots. Con: the user does not like that his auction is still findable from Google.

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3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted
+50

A better comparison may be with craigslist rather than eBay. As a regular scavenger of craigslist, I have observed that when someone relists an expired ad, it uses the same link. I can see this because the link color indicates I have already viewed the ad, yet it appears near the top of the list when sorted chronologically.

I think it is beneficial to use the same link for the same ad because if people thinking about buying the item have placed it in their bookmarks, it will be easier to find.

On the SEO front, as a user I have observed that Google is not very good at removing dead craigslist links, though they have improved. I regularly search for specific items in other craigslist locations using Google and hit removed ads regularly. It seems that if a page is already indexed, it is more likely to appear higher in the results.

Again, looking at craigslist, they do not return any errors when returning to a page that is an expired or removed ad. There is just a message informing the visitor that the ad has either expired, been removed by the author, or flagged for removal by the community. Perhaps your site could inform visitors that the author of the ad has suspended, paused, etc, the ad and it may one day return. Or not.

To answer your question on how eBay currently handles auctions that have ended, the auction is available at its URL for something around 90 days, and is then removed from the site. As an infrequent seller, I have never cared that the closed auction is still there, and I would think that professional sellers would prefer it because it means that they effectively have a greater presence in Google searches. When a consumer finds the closed auction, if they are anything like me, they are most likely to first click on the seller's store to see if the seller has another auction for the same item. EBay also informs if the seller listed a new auction with the same or a similar item and includes a link to it.

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I would use a 302 redirect to a "parent category" page if such a page exists. That way Google will continue to crawl the URL, but any users who happen to click the link in a SERP or find another way to the inactive page will still be redirected to relevant content. Also, if the page is reactivated, it will continue to show up in SERPs.

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404 (temp not available) looks more appropriate than 302. Do you know a website using the 302 redirection for that need? –  Toto Jul 24 '13 at 21:02
    
302 is a "temporary redirect", whereas 301 is a "permanent redirect". 404 is "not found". So while a bot may continue to hit the 404 page for a while, eventually it will give up and remove that URL from the index. Whereas a 302 it will continue to crawl. I use 302's all the time for various reasons. –  nathangiesbrecht Jul 24 '13 at 22:00

Presumably classified ads all go away after a time period. I can't imagine that old classified ads are of use to anybody. So even if an page is re-activated, that reactivation is only temporary.

I'd use the same URL when reactivated and I would server 410 gone at any point that the content has been deactivated. Even if search engines don't check back to find the reactivated page, it won't be there long anyway.

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Actually your assumption seems logic but is wrong. They are many reasons why a user will unactivate a classified ad temporarily and then reactivate it for a long term: holidays, sick, out of stock, failed transaction, etc. So the solution will not work. Sorry. :( –  Toto Jul 25 '13 at 1:50

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