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Removing backlinks with a 404

 4:32 pm on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Hi guys,

We have been looking at cleaning up some back links that might not sit well with Google.

Many of these are extremely old, and they are generally pointing to the same URL.

I was thinking of 404'ing the page, instead of asking the webmasters to change the link to nofollow to remove it entirely.

I wanted to confirm with anyone who's had experience with this, that the 404 would essentially work the same way.




 7:37 pm on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

Is the page itself expendable? Unfortunately you can't deal with it by serving a 404 only to people who come in from the unwanted links, which may be what you wanted to do. Google already knows the URL, and they'll be crawling it independently.*

Option B is to move or rename the page-- and, of course, update all your internal links. Then the undesirable links would lead to a 301. I think g### is sophisticated enough to recognize it as an outdated link, which carries less weight. (Uh... doesn't it?)

* Hm. Food-for-thought question there. Somewhere down the line, will google's next step be to crawl with not only plainclothes UAs but also different referers, to see if that affects the page they get?


 8:30 pm on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

It would be a 404 for everyone, the page would just be deleted, a new page created, and internal links updated to point to it.




 9:41 pm on Apr 6, 2012 (gmt 0)

You mean the page as it now stands is worthless in rankings and it has no external links that you want to keep? Then there's no reason not to dump it.

Formally it would be a 410, not a 404, since you've removed it intentionally. Don't forget the custom 410 page if you haven't got one already! (I use the same physical page as 404. It's just for humans-- and the default Apache 410 page is scary.)

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