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I have a new product I'm creating which will generate tons of content that I want indexed on google, however, if it turns out to not be as fruitful as I hope, I want to remove it. There won't be a related enough page I could 301 redirect the new pages to, and it be relevant enough to the user aside from a "discontinued" message.

Two potential options:

  1. Just index the pages, and if I want to remove it, later, create a bunch of 301 redirects.
  2. If possible, tell google this could be a temporary page. If the product works out, tell google it's permanent.

Questions:

  • I only am considering option 2 because I believe option 1 could be bad practice. Is there any negative consequence to 301 redirecting a bunch of pages you just made and started indexing over a period of 6 months?
  • Is there any method to do option 2? I can't find any documentation online. (I found information about seasonal URLs, but this isn't applicable. This answer about obsolete products suggests using 410 responses)

PS: My site gets a lot of traffic, but doesn't have many pages to begin with. PS2: These pages are still valuable even if the product is discontinued. But they will no longer be very related to content on my site.

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    When you say that the "pages" are still valuable even if the product is discontinued, what exactly do you mean by that? It seems like you are talking about removing and redirecting product pages when they no longer represent a current product, which would suggest that the pages are not that valuable if you are considering removing them. Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 0:38
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    If the product pages themselves are still valuable even without a product to sell (like for entertainment purposes or historical significance), you could leave those pages up with a discontinuation notice. Or do you mean to say that the URLs (not pages) will still be valuable? Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 0:38
  • Hey Max, Basically what I'm building is a product that helps answer students' homework questions. When an answer is successful, I plan to add it on the web as a URL example.com/helpful-question-answer-12345 . But if the student question answerer isn't valued much by users, I will discontinue it. But the URL /helpful-question-answer-12345 is still helpful to students on the web, even though the main product no longer exists. Perhaps it's worth keeping the URL, or perhaps it's worth doing 410 as you recommend. Figured it wouldn't exist long enough to be worth keeping Commented Dec 6, 2021 at 4:36

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Google understands that links are created and broken all the time on the web, so don't feel like you're making some kind of "permanent" commitment to Google by asking them to index a URL. The process for getting Google to index a page temporarily is generally the same process for getting them to index a page permanently.

Now, some more specific advice for these product URLs.

Do not go with Option 1, as it breaks the semantics of the 301 redirect. It will leave visitors confused as to why they clicked on a link to a product and got some unrelated content, and confusion increases bounce rate. Plus, since you mentioned that you will have no relevant pages to link to, Google will notice that the 301 isn't pointing to a relevant page and will likely discount any SEO benefit that the 301 could have given.

Option 2 is doable by using the unavailable_after tag to tell Google how long they should index the page before removing it from search results. However I strongly recommend against using this tag in this case because it will be (1) unnecessary and (2) prone to false positives, where you decide that you want to keep a product permanently and so you remove the unavailable_after tag, but Google doesn't get around to crawling your page again soon enough to see that you removed the tag, then the expiry time comes and they remove the search result as you originally instructed.

I propose an Option 3: Let your products be indexed as usual, but when you need to remove a product, replace it with a rich 404 page (or rich 410 page). On that 404 page, clearly notify the user that the product is no longer available, and underneath the notice, heavily advertise the other products on your website.

Using a rich 404 page is the best course of action because it (1) fulfills the semantics of the HTTP status codes thus making Google and other crawlers happy, (2) explicitly notifies the user that they have followed a broken link and what they are looking for is no longer there, and (3) advertises to the user a bunch of other products they might be interested in, to try to keep them from bouncing.

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