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After merging subdomains into one domain, the website speed improved. At this time, I have 301 redirects in place for anyone requesting old URLs from the subdomains, but because having multiple subdomains is bad in my case, I want to eventually unregister them off my system so that any attempts to access them will no longer be processed by the server (maybe with the exception of the server firewall).

My question then is, how many days minimum should I leave the old URLs active (that return the 301 redirect status) for before I ditch them entirely and why?

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how many days minimum should I leave the old URLs active

An infinite number of days.

before I ditch them entirely

Never ditch them entirely.

and why?

Once you create a URL, it is permanent. You are supposed to keep responding to requests for that URL for the rest of time in order to avoid breaking the Web. If you want to remove the content, you still respond to the URL at the very least with a page that says the content has been removed. If you want to move that content to another URL, you provide a redirect at the original URL.

The reason for this is that the URL’s you are considering to remove are in user’s bookmarks, they are in search engine indexes, they are in links on other pages on the Web. If you don’t continue to respond to the URL’s you created, you break the Web. You penalize other users for linking to you. You penalize search engines for indexing you.

That is why you should not create URL’s casually, or move pages from URL to URL casually, or have multiple URL’s for the same content (i.e. mobile and desktop) and so on. That is why URL design is so important. That is why clean links came into being, so that you don’t have URL’s that end in “.aspx” that later change to end in “.php” because you changed server platforms. You want to just have a URL like “/about” that can remain unchanged in perpetuity because once you create a URL you cannot uncreate it.

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are your subdomains backlinked from outer web? then keep redirects so long, as they have external backlinks :) you surely don't want to lose link power.

if they don't linked back, then keep redirects so long, till you realize in SERPs, that subdomains don't rank anymore and instead of them redirect targets rank.

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