The situation:

A site with an inventory page, which lists items for sale. Each item description includes a link to a spec sheet which can be downloaded in .pdf form. However, those items are eventually removed from the page, and the corresponding spec sheets become not available. This triggers a crawl error in Google webmaster tools, because it knows about the links, but gets a 404 error when it tries to visit them.

Should I instead return a 410 Gone error code? Should those links (to the downloadable .pdf file) be nofollowed from the very beginning, since Google can't index the documents?

  • Just a side note, Google can index pdf files.
    – Dominique
    Apr 6 '11 at 14:13
  • Just be clear that "no longer exists" (404) and "will never exist again" (410) are two different things. I admit it is splitting hairs somewhat and will not really find you in any trouble SEO-wise. Apr 6 '11 at 22:21

If there are other item the user may be interested in you can do a 410 error and display a page that shows them other potentially similar documents/products they may wish to view. That way you potentially can still convert those users into sales.

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