My webmaster tools shows me that my site has "Not found ‎(1,972)‎" pages. What should I do? Most links are from external links to my pages that are gone or deleted 2 weeks ago due to low quality. What should I do with all these links coming in and landing on my 404 page?
Someone elsewhere on these Forums suggested that google deals with things faster if they get a 410 instead of a 404. In my own very limited experience, this really seems to be true.
Caution! That 410 doesn't just get sent to the googlebot. It also gets sent to your users. (Unless, possibly, you've performed some Fancy Stuff with your server.) And the generic 410 message is even less user-friendly than the generic 404 message. Easiest fix is to point users to the same error message for both 410 and 404, since it's very unlikely your visitors will care why the page isn't there.