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This is a bit of a weird one but I'll explain as best I can:

After a redesign, content was migrated and mapped to a new URL structure (same domain). However, there are still a lot of URLs 404ing that don't necessarily have a logical place to 301 to on the new site - for example images, attachments, and pages concerning content that does not exist on the new site.

I don't really want to just redirect all to / as I thought it might 'dilute' that page semantically somewhat and impact SEO. I also don't want to just leave the pages 404ing as there is quite a large number of them. This is also obviously not ideal for users.

I was thinking that a potential solution could be to 301 the URLs to a page that would content on it saying "Sorry, that content is no longer available" (like a 404 page would) and give some navigation options, but the page would actually return a 200 status code, as it'd be a normal page.

Is this naughty? I think it handles the UX issue in the best way as you're not just dropping people off somewhere random without explanation, but I'm not sure if it would be considered to be bad practice. If anyone else has had the same issue I'd be grateful to hear how you handled it!

  • This is known as a soft 404. Google does not like them. A 404 is preferred and correct. You can edit the web servers 404 page and create a custom 404 page that does what you want. A 404 page that does not send a 404 response but rather a 202 response is not a 404. Get it? It is not a good idea. – closetnoc Feb 23 '17 at 16:21
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Having a 200 page returning content that looks like a 404 page is wrong and could be flagged as being deceptive.

In this case you can either create an archive with all the old content on there and 301 redirect to there or use a 410 code which means gone, this will stop Google from going back to the page to check if its live again like they do with a 404.

The problem with using the 410 code is, if you have any external backlinks linked to those pages, you lose that influence.

  • Yeah that was my dilemma - that it would be a bit deceptive if the page's content and error code didn't really match. Just needed some confirmation :) I think I'll go with 410 as backlinks don't really come into it in this case. Thanks for your suggestions :) – Hannah C. Feb 24 '17 at 8:08

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