netmeg - 12:31 pm on Jul 31, 2013 (gmt 0)
Sometimes a 404 is just a 404.
I deal with a lot of events. Events expire. Sometimes they come back, sometimes they don't.
If they expire and I'm left with cities or counties without active listing, then the city or county immediately goes inactive and serves a real 404.
If it's a one time event and it's gone for good, then I delete it and it serves a real 404 (or maybe we did a 410 for that, can't remember)
I never do any redirects on this stuff. I only redirect for replacements.
And yea, sometimes I have a lot of 404s when I clean out a bunch of old events, but I just have to trust that Google knows how to deal with it. At any rate, traffic on these sites has grown every year since 1999, so it's been okay so far. I'm reasonably sure if you have other quality signals that this one won't hurt you.
If you wait till you're totally sure, you'll be waiting forever. There are no "totally sure"s with Google.
But personally, I think a bunch of real 404s are probably better than a bunch of soft ones.