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I feel confident that this has led to the demise of my SERPS by triggering some sort of penalty, probably duplicate content penalty for the affected pages.
Can anyone give advice on how to clean up my mess?
Check your old URLs using the WebmasterWorld server headers checker [webmasterworld.com], and make sure the server response code is 301-Moved Permanently
Yahoo is having problems handling 301 redirects correctly. At last report, they were "working on it." Despite that, the 301 is the correct thing to do. See RFC2616 [w3.org], HTTP/1.1 protocol specification, server response codes.
HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found
Date: Thu, 02 Sep 2004 19:35:03 GMT
Content-Type: text/html; charset=utf-8
If 301 is the best method for solving this....can someone help me with the necessary 301 error code.
Thanks for the help!
This will give you a 301 redirect.
Supplemental pages tend to stay because the bot doesn't find that they are gone, that is, there are no links to the old page so Google doesn't know it is 404.
You can still do the 301 ideas, but your easiest move is to first just link to the 404 locations.