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I have a site on which, when a content page gets marked as deleted, a 302 redirect to the homepage is performed.

So www.mysite.com/page/3424/my-slug 302 redirects to www.mysite.com if that page gets removed.

This is how I bought the site. I would like to issue 404s instead of those redirects, as I don't see how that indicates to search engines that the page was removed.

The problem is that most of the site's traffic (around 115k visitors/day) is from search engines, so I don't want to break anything by doing this. What is the expected SE behavior if I do 404s instead of 302s, from your experience?

Note that a lot of pages will get affected, there is content being removed and added daily.

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up vote 1 down vote accepted

I suggest using a custom 404 page with internal links to the most useful pages of your site, like the homepage, search and maybe the main topic page of the page the user requested (if your content is structured like this).

If you can also offer content similar to the requested, deleted page, then maybe links to those pages are useful for the visitor as well. The StackOverflow sites also do this with similar questions on the question detail pages. See the "related" area on the right.

In my experience this does not affect your site in a negative way, but you have to care for some more things to avoid negative impact:

  • incoming links (maybe notify the external site linking)
  • your xml sitemap should be updated as well
  • internal links to those pages should also be removed/adjusted
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Thanks for your answer. My question is mostly in regards to the update of the HTTP status code that the page outputs. I got the other ones covered. Of course I don't expect for anyone to actually know how SEs will handle it, but to get some advice from previous experiences. Thanks again. –  Mecca Jul 30 '13 at 9:36
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As I said in my answer, a 404 status code (for the robots) in combination with a useful html page (for the humans) is the best choice in my experience. –  Michael Jul 30 '13 at 9:38

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