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What about 404s with a 10-second meta refresh?
Yahoo! currently utilizes this method on their 404s. They respond with a 404, but the 404 content also shows:
<meta http-equiv="refresh" content="10;url=http://www.yahoo.com/?****">
We feel this technique is fine because it reduces confusion by giving users 10 seconds to make a new selection, only offering the homepage after 10 seconds without the user's input.
The new post addresses some other questions people may have about using a 404 response code:
So, we have to correct their paranoid algorithm?
Ya, it might be best to keep up with the technology of their crawlers. ;)
I think it is great that they are making these recommendations. I've never used the meta refresh element and I'm not sure why. Can we discuss the pros vs cons of that setup? Why would I want to have that as part of my 404 routine?
I've sometimes advised people not place a slow meta-refresh on their 404 page.
tedster, I'm not too certain an apology is needed. I'd continue to recommend that practice. There may be other challenges with meta refresh, not just from a Google perspective. That element has been used and abused too much and I do believe there are other things to be concerned about besides Google. ;)
How do you treat the response code 410 "Gone"?
Just like a 404.
Why? You're big enough now to do the right thing. They are two distinctly differently Status Codes. Why treat them the same? I think we are responsible enough to serve a 410 when "we know" a page is Gone and we don't want your bots requesting it 3 years later because of an external link reference that is rotting somewhere.
10.4.5 404 Not Found
The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI. No indication is given of whether the condition is temporary or permanent. The 410 (Gone) status code SHOULD be used if the server knows, through some internally configurable mechanism, that an old resource is permanently unavailable and has no forwarding address. This status code is commonly used when the server does not wish to reveal exactly why the request has been refused, or when no other response is applicable.
10.4.11 410 Gone
The requested resource is no longer available at the server and no forwarding address is known. This condition is expected to be considered permanent. Clients with link editing capabilities SHOULD delete references to the Request-URI after user approval. If the server does not know, or has no facility to determine, whether or not the condition is permanent, the status code 404 (Not Found) SHOULD be used instead. This response is cacheable unless indicated otherwise.