Let's imagine this simplified case: An auction website has "auction detail" pages. A few weeks after the auction is over, the "auction detail" page is no more available.

We are simply serving a HTTP/1.1 410 Gone with the page providing the reason.

However our competitors play differently (even ebay)...

When the content is deleted they serve a HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently and redirect to the category list related to the auction.

What is the cleanness of this 301 redirect strategy? (to us it looks more like grey/black seo)

What is the best strategy?

Please note:

  1. Once the user deletes his auction, we cannot leave the content accessible (even by direct link) as some data are "strategic" or senstive.
  • Redirecting to category page is fairly common practice as it presetves the value from inbound links and passes it elsewhere. There's nothing gray/blackhat about it and google wont penalize you for doing it, like ever. You're overthinking it. Keep calm and 301.
    – dzhi
    Dec 15 '14 at 16:28

Google considers redirecting content that is no longer available to be "soft 404". They would like to be able to treat the page the same as a 404 page.

If you redirect the expired page to your home page, Google will identify it as a soft 404. It will appear in Google Webmaster Tools as an error. Google won't pass the link juice from inbound links to the rest of your site.

Right now, Google doesn't appear to be able to identify soft 404s that redirect to a category page. Many sites use this loophole to redirect their expired content. This may change in the future. Google could write better soft 404 detection algorithms.

Google does ask that you use 410 errors for removed content. They treat 410 errors specially, removing the page from the search results right away.

Regardless of which strategy you use for search engines, users like to get a page:

  • With a message that what they are looking for is no longer available
  • A list of other options that may meet their needs
  • So the cleanest strategy would be to serve a 410 with a redirect to the category page?
    – Toto
    Dec 15 '14 at 21:48
  • Unfortunately, you can't use a 410 status and a redirect. You could use a 410 status and put the error message and content from the category onto the page. Dec 15 '14 at 21:49

The ideal scenario is to keep the content so that it's still indexed, even if not useful. I'll explain:

I worked on a video website that while worked with user submitted videos, sometimes we received requests to remove them. This lead to a lot of 404's being returned which wasn't good for SEO. We approached a redirect to the homepage but the number was so big that a few hundreds redirects were either not very effective nor giving us good SERP results.

The solution was to just remove the video, creating a small notice about why it was removed and giving some other related videos to watch. This way we eliminated our increasing number of 404's provided by the deleted pages, avoided people having broken Favorites links and kept a minimal good experience while browsing the site.

As those videos were marked as inactive, they stopped appearing on the site searches and only people with direct links or Search Engines could access it.

For your case I would do something like this and show a notice saying the Auction Ended and there are other auctions in the remaining Categories while keeping the title and description because that's unique content you have on your website.

  • This strategy is great for some type of content. In our case, it does not work, because we have to notify the search engine to remove the content through 410 (as Google has no api for expired content notification) as soon as the user delete its auction. Most of our users do not want their expired content staying on Google even a few hours after they deleted their content.
    – Toto
    Dec 15 '14 at 7:37

having 431 redirect is better than 410. because if there are links to your page on the web, they will be redirected to new page and give it some SEO juice. you can also keep the content(or just page) and add a no-index to it. it will be removed from search engines and you will be able to remove it after a while without worrying about search engines or webmaster tool.

  • 1
    "431 Request Header Fields Too Large"?
    – Toto
    Dec 14 '14 at 18:30
  • 301 means that the content has "moved" which is not the case. It looks more like a strategy that Google may penalize in the future, doesn't it?
    – Toto
    Dec 15 '14 at 7:39

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