4

I have a website along the lines of Craigslist, where users can post classified ads. Some users have requested a feature where they're able to pause/resume their ads. From an seo point of view, the url of an ad looks like: example.com/advert/500

Options I thought of:

1) Remove all links to the ad. If someone manages to come across the ad, then raise an error 404. When the ad resumes, the link becomes available again. And hopefully Google crawls it again, soon.

2) Remove the link to the ad from the site, but still have the link in sitemaps.xml (not sure what Google thinks of that). If they still manage to come across the ad, there'd be some text saying "this ad is on hold". But if many ads are on hold and have the same text, that's not a good thing either. Could be seen as duplicate content? When resuming an ad, all the content would just reappear as it was before. Simple enough.

3) Alternatively, another [more complicated] approach: the link could be removed from sitemaps.xml as well. Upon resuming the ad, the ad could be deleted behind the scenes, and a new one created - seamlessly, e.g. new url is example.com/advert/501. If this is done too quickly, it might also look like duplicate content, since the old advert's details may still be indexed.

Any ideas on how to go about this?

4

1) Remove all links to the ad. If someone manages to come across the ad, then raise an error 404. When the ad resumes, the link becomes available again.

I think you need to get feedback on what users expect to happen when an advert is "paused". This might be what they expect? Although this is essentially "unpublishing" the ad, albeit temporarily. The 404 could be a custom 404, explaining that this particular advert is not currently available....?

2) Remove the link to the ad from the site, but still have the link in sitemaps.xml (not sure what Google thinks of that)

Sounds OK. Why would Google have a problem with that? After all, the page still exists.

2) But if many ads are on hold and have the same text, that's not a good thing either. Could be seen as duplicate content?

Having a single line of text like "this ad is on hold" on multiple pages is not duplicate content. "Duplicate content" is when a significant portion of the page is the same, enough to make two or more pages "essentially the same".

3) Upon resuming the ad, the ad could be deleted behind the scenes, and a new one created - seamlessly, e.g. new url is example.com/advert/501.

Not sure why you would only do this when the ad was "resumed" and not when "paused"? But either way, deleting and creating a new ad URL is not really "pausing" IMO.

3) If this is done too quickly, it might also look like duplicate content, since the old advert's details may still be indexed.

Well, not really "duplicate content". The old advert URL presumably won't exist and return a 404 so will quickly drop behind the new URL.

But if the "resumed" advert has a new URL then not only will search engines have to find and index the new URL. Users who have bookmarked the old URL will also be a bit lost. Or is "resuming" an advert intended to be "starting afresh"?

You seem to be focusing heavily on sitemaps.xml? Removing a URL from your XML sitemap does not even begin to de-index that URL if that is what you are thinking? In fact, simply removing an existing URL from your XML sitemap will probably do nothing at all.

0

1) Remove all links to the ad. If someone manages to come across the ad, then raise an error 404. When the ad resumes, the link becomes available again. And hopefully Google crawls it again, soon.

Nope, 404 means something is done for good, you do not want to use 404 for content that may be back in short (or event not that short) time. Use 503. Also, removing links is not something that should be your top priority, since you will 503 only that particular page/advert. It really does not make much a difference, as long as you set up a proper info page for as long as the advert is paused.

2) Remove the link to the ad from the site, but still have the link in sitemaps.xml (not sure what Google thinks of that). If they still manage to come across the ad, there'd be some text saying "this ad is on hold". But if many ads are on hold and have the same text, that's not a good thing either. Could be seen as duplicate content? When resuming an ad, all the content would just reappear as it was before. Simple enough.

503 will never be treated as duplicate content, even if the error message is always the same.

3) Alternatively, another [more complicated] approach: the link could be removed from sitemaps.xml as well. Upon resuming the ad, the ad could be deleted behind the scenes, and a new one created - seamlessly, e.g. new url is example.com/advert/501. If this is done too quickly, it might also look like duplicate content, since the old advert's details may still be indexed.

The fact that you remove one URL from sitemap (or the site itself) will not force Google to forget about that URL. Bot will try to crawl it without any input whatsoever, as long as you explicitly prevent it (remember there is a difference between crawling and keeping URL/content in the index).

What I'd do:

  • Always return 503 for paused adverts.
  • Set up a dedicated 503 page to be shown only for paused adverts, explaining it is paused by the advertiser and (eventually) may be back - this is for your users, Googlebot will be satisfied simply by 503, and will check the advert again.
  • Remove paused adverts from category listings, as they are useless for everyone during the time they are paused.
  • Do not mess with sitemap.
  • Switch to 404 (with proper info on error page) whenever an advert expires.
  • Switch to 301 whenever an advert is updated and gets a new URL.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.