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Accessibility and Usability Forum

Weird things happening to my Website!

 1:26 pm on Feb 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi all,

I manage a car dealer website and some of my customers have been saying that they see pages of old cars (sold last year!) and some say the website doesn't even load.

Does anyone know what this issue could be? I wondered if it is a canonical thing, which i don't totally understand. It is a Wordpress site.

Any constructive help would be greatly appreciated.

<snip>personal URL snipped</snip>
Many thanks


[1][edited by: ergophobe at 6:01 pm (utc) on Feb 7, 2013]
[edit reason] URLs that might lead to user site not allowed as per Terms of Service [/edit]



 2:23 pm on Feb 7, 2013 (gmt 0)


When you sell a car - do you delete that entry? Do you have any example URL's of "sold cars" just to verify they are actually deleted?

It's possible people are getting "cached" copies of old pages from a search engine. They might click a link, and get a "page not found, but we can show you a cached copy" - so that might be both problems rolled into one.

If you find this is happening, you might consider updating "sold" car pages with a "SOLD" but here are related cars we still have (and link to the relevant category page). That way the old SEO juice sticks around, and still gets people into your site.



 6:00 pm on Feb 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks Jim.

Yes we do delete sold cars from the site.

I did a 'site:' search and found just 2 sold car pages. I am going to add them in Webmaster Tools and hope they get removed.

Do you know how long Google cache the pages for?




 6:08 pm on Feb 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Paul, it will depend on how often your site gets crawled, what response code you are sending and perhaps what expires headers you send on your content.

When you remove a page, what response code are you sending? Remember

404 = page gone, maybe temporarily due to server problems or who knows what. Google needs to see a 404 many times before it removes the page

410 = page permanently removed. Google only needs to see this once I think (it will keep crawling the URL, but should remove the page from the index).

You can sort of think of 404/410 as equivalent to 302/301 for redirects in some vague sense.


 7:12 pm on Feb 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

Ok i see what you mean, thanks.


 7:22 pm on Feb 7, 2013 (gmt 0)

it might be unsophisticated solution, but can you reuse the car page URLs?

like using page001.html through page100.html for car ads. when a car on page100 is sold, it is replaced with another car on that same page100.html.

also consider adding a "no archive" meta tag to your car pages.


 1:35 pm on Feb 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

I agree about using noarchive. You could easily get bad mouthed on forums by the technologically illiterate for supposedly advertising vehicles that are already sold. Don't forget that that sort comment hangs around for years and somehow always stays high in the SERPS even if out of date.

Any indexed page will be returned in the SERPS until the search engines spider the site and decide that it is gone. If people say that they are unable to reach the site it suggests that you don't have a custom 404 page (can you do that for a 410? I have never needed to know). Remember that links may be emailed or posted on forums as well as being found in SERPS, you really need a definte page offering a site search for an alternative vehicle.

I am not sure about keeping "sold" pages hanging around. The proportion will build up and will start to give the impression that you don't have any real stock for sale.


 11:18 pm on Feb 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

can you do that for a 410? I have never needed to know

You can make a custom error page for anything. Unless, ahem, your host won't let you-- in which case it's time to shop for a new host. The one exception is that if it's the type of 500-class error that brings the server to its knees, the server may not be able to get to your custom page.

The 410 response is only served up if you explicitly say to; it's not a server default like 404 meaning "I dunno, I'm just a dumb machine and I can't find it anywhere." And the apache-default 410 page is even scarier than the default 404, so you should definitely make your own.

In some cases you can simply point to the same physical page as your custom 404. The user may not especially care if the page used to exist or never did. But if all your 410s come from the same reason, it would be thoughtful to make a separate page. Just don't say "Neener-neener, someone else already bought that car so you're SOL and maybe next time you'll be faster." If you have a site search, definitely include it. "As long as you're here, have a look around. We may have something else that's right up your alley."


 1:57 am on Feb 11, 2013 (gmt 0)

In some cases you can simply point to the same physical page as your custom 404.

Yes, you can point to any page - a custom page with a search box might be good. A page that grabs key data - make/model/year and lists the next closest stuff you've got would be even better I think.

Just be absolutely sure that the response header is a genuine 410.

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