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We have weekly hundreds of events and corresponding event detail pages. Those event detail pages are gone after the event is over but the pages were still returning 200-FOUND (soft 404). To make the matters worse, we were adding those pages in sitemap xml.

The situation now is that; we have thousands of pages indexed by Google all giving Soft 404 (200 - with no valuable content), and Google knows that.

We have recently applied following changes :

  • Excluded event detail pages from Sitemap.xml
  • Event detail pages are marked with "noindex" tag. Since those pages have a very short lifespan, no need to index them.
  • Ended event detail pages are no longer returning 200, but 410-GONE. Excluded event detail pages from Sitemap.xml

What can I do now so that Google will pick 410 status for those pages and remove it from its index?

I'm thinking about creating a page with direct links to those pages to be excluded from index, and request indexing with the option "Crawl this URL and its direct links". That way, Google will try to re-index those pages and get 410. Will that work?

N.B.: The obvious optimal solution of keeping the event detail pages on the website isn't a possibility in our case.

  • "Those event detail pages are gone" - what were the user's seeing? Are you saying that all event details pages (including "current" events) are noindex and excluded from the sitemap? If you link to a page that returns a 410 Gone - then you're just creating a "dead link" (another problem) - this won't necessarily help with removing these pages from the index. – MrWhite Mar 20 '18 at 15:56
  • Current event pages are available on the site. When the event is ending, the links targetting to event details are also removed. – Ayhan Yerli Mar 20 '18 at 17:02
  • Yes, but you appear to be saying that you've changed the current event pages to be noindex as well - and therefore not indexed by the search engines at all? (Which doesn't really make sense to me, unless users never "search" for this event in the search engines??) – MrWhite Mar 20 '18 at 21:02
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From my experience I'll suggest to let Google index all the events but, once it's over, you must apply a 301 redirect to the events home.

That way you will be able to get organic traffic without generating 404 errors.

One of my clients is a publicity site. Each day we generate more than 500 new ads; their lifetime value is about 1 week. Once they are deleted, we applied 301 redirect to the category home. There is no problem with Google: 75% of our traffic is organic and we rank #25 on most visited sites in the country. GSC shows only "325 soft 404" errors in a site with more than 2M indexed URLs.

  • Thank you for clarifying, I edited your comment into the answer. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 20 '18 at 13:23
  • "a 301 redirect to the events home" - this might also be seen as a soft-404 by Google, if the page had previously been indexed. – MrWhite Mar 20 '18 at 15:43
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Once Google recrawls these pages, it will eventually deindex them from the search results. it's not possible to force Google to recrawl these old URLs. You may unfortunately just have to wait.

Creating a page that links to these 410 URLs could be potentially destructive to your site because Google will see that you're internally linking to broken pages which sends a bad signal.

The best way to potentially handle this situation is to keep the content of the expired events on your website, though I know you've said that you can't. You may receive some inbound traffic for this.

I would also make the expired event pages a 301 redirect to your homepage and not a 410 Gone. The reason for this is that those pages have link juice and SEO trust value. By removing them with a 410 you'll lose all of that link juice, whereas 301 redirecting them to the homepage will save 90-100% of the link juice.

If your event pages are going to be temporary, then I agree that it's not worth having Google index them and that you should probably add the NOINDEX meta tag as you've done. If Google finds that it's indexing your temporary pages and that it's sending users to pages that don't exist, it could potentially cause the algorithm to begin sending you less traffic as Google won't necessarily know which pages are still on your site and which are gone until it has recrawled your links.

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    Google treats redirects to irrelevant pages, especially the home page, as soft 404. A redirect to the home page will just create more soft-404 errors and won't help with link juice. – Stephen Ostermiller Mar 20 '18 at 11:27
  • Thanks for the answers. Those urls aren't being targetted by external domains anyways. They ended up being indexed because of the sitemap.xml and internal links. I will stick with 410 and hope that Google will be fast enough to pick them up. – Ayhan Yerli Mar 20 '18 at 12:13

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