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Should we remove the old pages and just use a custom 404 error page with site map or individually redirect all old pages with a 301 redirect to their respective new pages?
If you have any reasons why one way is better than the other, please explain.
Obviously, the custom 404 would be easier and less time consuming, but is the easier way the better way?
Thanks in advance,
If the pages are just changing location, path, etc use the 301 & make sure either way, you encourage people to link to the *new* location, and replace links to the old location.
From experience, the 'in bound link thing' is the only caveat with 301 redirects & google for changing the location of content.
Oh, and Welcome to WebmasterWorld!
But if you want the search engines to drop the old pages as soon as possible, I'd use a 404. Google's pretty good about it either way, but Inktomi obeys a 404 much much faster than a 301.
[edited by: bull at 9:57 am (utc) on Sep. 20, 2003]
I may want to split off a section of my web to its own domain. If I do that with a 301, will the new domain automatically get credited with the existing (external) links to that section and thus also the PR?
I've not had the pleasure of that experience. Slurp is the only bot I notice that still regularly returns to lick over 404's on pages which haven't existed for months, even years in some instances.
I've finally just accepted that ol' slurpie is gonna lap around the empty bowl indefinitely.
header('HTTP/1.1 301 Moved Permanently');
She is very intelligent, did not pick a single oldfile any more.
My mileage DOES vary. Googlebot came quite regulary for pages of the old domain, always getting the redirect. From the new domain, only the index was crawled every day. PR was successfully transferred to the new domain (as shown by the Toolbar).
Then suddenly the new domain dropped out of the index. PR still there, Googlebot still crawling the index page. No deep crawls at all.
404 is like a customer service bod who just shrugs ignorantly. Google, as I understand it, comes back a few times and then gives up, in the same way a real world visitor might just dispair at customer service that can't find it's own pages.
Better to direct visitors, be they bots or not, using 301 or kill it with 410 otherwise.