I completely re-wrote my website and in order not to lose my PageRank, I mapped the old links to the new ones with 301 redirects. However, some of the pages that Google has previously indexed no longer exist on the new site. What should I do to these pages? I have a significant increase in 404 errors according to the Webmaster Tools.

Should I map the pages that no longer exist with a 301 redirect to a random page just so that I decrease the number of "not found" errors?

Is there a way to tell Google that they no longer exist?


2 Answers 2


Google themselves would like you to 404 if you want to remove a page:

"If the page no longer exists, make sure that the server returns a 404 (Not Found) or 410 (Gone) HTTP status code. Non-HTML file (like PDFs) should be completely removed from your server."


From a user perspective, make sure that your 404 is a custom one so that they can continue to browse your site should they think it may still contain information for them.

Ultimately, trying to keep the page rank of non-existent pages is an attempt to manipulate page rank, which Google are not going to tell you how to do.

However, if you want to do that, then I'd personally go for pointing them to the homepage only. That way, users will not be thrown to a random irrelevant page and so the UX should still work for them. Doing stuff for search engines but not UX is always a mistake.

Ultimately, like most SEO questions, only Google really know. It wouldn't be difficult for them to tell if a 301d page has completely different content and so not count that. Whether they do that... only they know.


If you do redirect those pages, it would have to be to something else that could replace it from the user's perspective. For example, if a particular product is no longer available redirecting to a similar product or a list of similar products would be fine.

Note that redirecting to the home page or to the folder page is considered by Google to be a "soft 404". They treat such redirects just like an actual 404 status. Soft 404 errors will still appear in your Webmaster Tools reports.

You can use "410 Gone" status rather than "404 Not Found" status. 410 is a more permanent and deliberate status. Google treats 410 pages slightly differently: they fall out of the index immediately (as opposed to a 24 hour grace period for 404s) and Googlebot comes back to visit them less often. They still appear in your error reports in Google Webmaster Tools.

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