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Googlebot crawling non-existing pages in a category



4:47 pm on Jan 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I just notice that Googlebot has been crawling pages in a category that do not exist. Here is an example link:


This category only goes to page 11 so page 276 just shows the header of the site and some summary info about the category but no items.

I do not want visitors or Google surfing pages that do not exist so obviously I need to check my max page number before displaying the page.

I guess I could display a 404 since the info doesn't exist but that isn't very nice for a visitor that happens to stumble onto this page somehow (not sure how Google did since I don't link to actual pages in categories). One other thing, the number of items on a page is configurable if a user is logged in. So they could show 5 items per page or 20 which would affect the total number of pages. What is an acceptable way to handle this?

1- Just show the last page of the category even for a non existing page

2- 404 error

3- Do a 301 redirect to the real last page of the category?

4- ?

What would be the correct way to handle this in Google's eyes while not showing the user some browser error page? I would think number 3 except the page never really did exist though but it could in the future if more items get added to the category.

Thanks for any replies

[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 10:44 pm (utc) on Jan 3, 2013]
[edit reason] delinked sample url [/edit]


12:44 am on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member themadscientist is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

A custom 404 error page is 'most correct' for this type of situation. If you link to key pages from it your visitors won't have an issue with finding pages if they land on it and a 404 error is the proper way to handle a page that's not found as far as search engines go.


3:48 am on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

not sure how Google did

It's intentional. They feed in nonsense parameters-- or, when really grumpy, whole nonsense URLs-- just to see what will come up.

Sometimes it's nice to make directory-specific error pages, so you can say things like "I am desolated with grief. The model of widget you're looking for doesn't seem to exist." Here you can even do it in the same script that processes the "page=" element. Just make sure any request for a wrong number returns a 404, independent of where the user physically ends up.


6:08 am on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member

Protect yourself and return a 404 on any page that does not exist. Look at it from a shady competitors point of view, there seems to be one in every niche. If the competitor spots empty pages being returned for urls then he/she will undoubtedly link to them in order to get googlebot crawling them. If Google gets a 200 code on an empty page, well, that counts against you and if you gather enough of these who knows how it impacts your rankings but it's not good.


1:47 pm on Jan 4, 2013 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks for the input. I guess the 404 is the right choice. Users would never get to those pages from my site anyways so the chances of them ending up on them is slim.

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