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I have a niche, active forum with some very good user content. Other websites happily link to it (organically) because it's actually useful, I'm doing no SEO, just following Google's official best practices.

  • The topic owners sometimes delete their posts or leave my site requesting for all their data to be removed. No problem, happy to do that, normal user lifecycle.
  • I'd hate to have all these inbound links to my old content to 404. I've noticed in Google Search Console a lot of organic, high-quality inbound links to removed content on my site that just 404 and eventually die, it's embarrassing and also quite a waste of good links.
  1. Should I 301-redirect the removed content somewhere?
  2. Redirecting to the front page does not seem ideal (but possible),
  3. maybe redirect the removed pages to a higher-level category page?

What is the best for usability? Is there a way to keep those quality inbound links, would be very detrimental to lose them.

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  • Thanks! But this is not a question about how to technically do it, there is plenty of info on rewrites and such. This is a question of what is the proper user experience in this case? can't be 404, that's soo wasteful, but redirect to where? preferably also somewhere that lets me retain my hard-earned organic inbound links even though the content may get removed. 410 seems not too different from 404? Replied there at your link - thanks! Apr 4, 2023 at 9:45
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    I don't think you like the answer. If there is a suitable substitute page (eg a newer version or related version) do a 301 redirect. If there isn't, that is what 404's are for. If you want to kill the link faster, a 410 might do it. (404 does not say if its permanent or temporary, while 410 is permanent). 301's will keep a lot of the link juice from the previous URL provided that the content is on topic with respect of the old page, otherwise it could hurt.
    – davidgo
    Apr 5, 2023 at 9:57
  • Most websites have a policy that uploaded content belongs to them. I see no reason to delete their reviews just because they have left. They don't constitute personal information. If you feel you must, then just display user has left instead of their name Apr 11, 2023 at 7:53

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It sounds like you want to keep the content without keeping the content.

A 301 to a different, similar page would work, but this is not ideal because you aren't giving the search user what they want. You are tricking them into coming to your site anyway, high chance of bounce and Google knows it.

Change your stance. Keep the content - you find it valuable, after all. No reason to go to a 404.

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    This makes sense! The only problem is i don't think i can keep the content. If someone posted to my forum about their experience about say kitesurfing in Cape Town and then after a while requested to leave my site (people do that sometimes, and it's normal), I feel like I must remove that person with all their data, if anything, to help their privacy. At the same time, i see some amazing, aged organic links to that post, so one option I was considering was to 301 to a larger "kitesurfing" forum category, or maybe writing a blog post. Which you are right, is not the same as the original, but... Apr 6, 2023 at 1:30
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    Could you anonymize the data when they leave? Change the username to "[Deleted User]" and keep the content? It would need to be built into your forum software.
    – Joe
    Apr 6, 2023 at 17:27

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