Let's say that I run a forum dedicated to computer hardware. Naturally, people are going to ask questions like:

What is the best laptop for running [os]


What is the best video card for under [amount]

These may be perfectly fine discussions, but the content loses usefulness over time. An answer to either question asked in 2007 might still be relevant in 2008, but definitely not in 2012.

Is there a way that I can tell search engines that certain pages might not give visitors what they're looking for after a certain date, and perhaps hint to a page on my site that would provide good information? Perhaps something I could set in HTTP response headers, meta tags or even a site map?

  • one option would be to include useless site in robots.txt so that search engines won't go after that site again. – blogger Oct 1 '12 at 14:09
  • @blogger I don't want the pages dropped entirely from the index, I just want to let the SE know 'probably not a good top result in five years'. – Tim Post Oct 1 '12 at 14:14

At least as far as Google is concerned, there's already a "freshness" element to the algorithm, whereby it will attempt to surface the most relevant, up-to-date result for a given query. Their announcement even gives a similar example to the one you cite (a search for "best SLR camera").

So from that point of view, Google should be able to work this out without you needing to do anything different.

Of course, this also answers your second question about signalling that there's newer, possibly more relevant information on your site. If there are 2 pieces of content on your site about "best laptop", one from 2007 and one from 2012, the latter should perform better in search results.

EDIT: Hot off the press, Matt Cutts of Google discussing freshness in more depth.


Why would you want to do that? Say you put a lot of effort into


and got lot's of backlinks, mentions, likes, ...

and a superb ranking.

If the content ages you should aim for leaving the great ranking as is, copy/clone/archive the page to say


but, under the canonical url, just update the content to be still useful, accurate, up-to-date. Link to the "archive", to the now "2011" content page.

Say you invented a new smartphone that becomes a great success and you promoted it with


It will gain a lot of coverage, backlinks, etc. and a good ranking. If you offer a new smartphone generation one year later it might happen that your search term "xyz smartphone" lists still the "old" content ("/the-great-new-xyz-smartphone") and not your new product page. Just because the old one ranks way better than the new one. But hey, it ranks well so... You would just update the content or redirect with 301 status codes to the "new" content URI.

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    I'm thinking a "This may be out of date, we have fresh info [link] here" at the top of the page is the best route for now. I have two concerns really, 1 - making sure crap that is now useless doesn't annoy people searching for something and 2 - decreasing my bounce rate on old posts. – Tim Post Oct 1 '12 at 15:23
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    But then I would set up a permanent (301 status code) redirect to the fresh info page in order to preserve all the backling power. This is a better way to reduce bounce rate as they immediately get routed to the new content. – initall Oct 1 '12 at 15:29

Ideally if you have high-ranking outdated pages you should try to update them so they stay relevant, letting you take advantage of the high rankings. However that advice is more applicable for blog posts than user-generated forum content. In your case, I would probably see if I could add years to the titles of older posts, so that they would show up in search results like this:

What is the best laptop for running Linux (2007)


What is the best video card for under $300 (2008)

This will tell searchers that the content is outdated, and should go towards your stated goal of reducing bounce rates on such posts.

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    I don't think you should substantially alter content after the fact, which would be the case here. For one thing, it's not quite ethical and could fall foul of guidelines. More to the point, though, that old content still has value and should be allowed to continue to perform. You can take advantage of its SEO value by linking to your new version (which would likely happen anyway with a blog, via "recent posts" navigation and such). – GDVS Oct 1 '12 at 16:38
  • I have to agree with GDav here. If your user makes it to your 'outdated' page, you have them on your website....take advantage of it and post a nice big link to your updated content. Another poster suggested that your newer content would do better than your old stuff in SEs, which may not necessarily be true (what if you JUST posted your new content and it has a low PR?) – huzzah Oct 1 '12 at 18:34

Well, search engines know your page is old, especially if this is a forum with all the post dates. You can't tell them directly you want them to derank the page and rank another page from the forum (at least for the head queries, like "What is the best laptop for running [os]").

What you can do is editing the first post of a given discussion, and put a small disclaimer and a link to the newest discussion about it. It will take time though, but this should be the best solution for visitors and SE.

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