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Do 404s pass pagerank?

     
9:34 am on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hi all,

When a page 404s, does it lose all link metrics? Currently, we’re archiving our 'news', and the Web Team want to put in a 301 after it becomes a 404. Will this pass links or does it need to be implemented before the page 404s?

Cheers,

Rhys
12:09 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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I'm not sure what you mean by "archiving", but if you are movng the original content to somewhere else (e.g. an an archive folder) then use 301s. However, a 301 isn't right for a news item that ranks for a specific story if the redirect is to some other content entirely: the 301 is for a change of address, not for a change of content.

A 404 cannot "pass" rank, as it there is nowhere for the rank to go. Don't tell Google - or your users - that a page has gone if it has only moved, and you still want it found.
1:12 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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In addition to the above, if you set up a redirect instead of serving a 404 for a URL that no longer exists (and did not have its contents moved to a different URL), that would be considered a "soft 404". Basically, if the content is gone, serve a 404 or 410 and make a helpful error page (informing the user) instead of stealthily redirecting to some other page that the user doesn't expect to see.
2:10 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hey both,

Thanks for getting back to me. So, basically, we create news stories at url.co.uk/news-story, then, after a month, that news story moves to url.co.uk/archive/news-story.

It's the same story and that initial URL becomes a 404. So, I want a 301 set up so we can direct all the PageRank/links to the new URL. However, I want to make sure we implement the 301 before the page 404s because, as I understand it, as soon as the page 404s, it loses all the PR/links it has generated. Therefore, even though the 301 would work on a user-level, it wouldn't pass any ranking signals. Is that correct?
2:24 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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after a month, that news story moves to url.co.uk/archive/news-story.

Why? What does the move achieve?
2:30 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Nothing. Absolutely nothing. But it's always been that way, so while we develop a new site, I'm looking for a temporary fix...
2:37 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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That does sound like a pointless move, and you'll have to maintain the redirects for eternity if you want to hold on to any "link juice". After all, most external links to the article are likely created in the first month, i.e. before it's moved to the archive. Having said that, a 301 redirect to the archived article is still better than simply 404ing (it's a word) the old URL and letting the bots discover the new URL independently.

We don't really talk about PageRank anymore, and it's hard to say exactly what happens in terms of the value of links when a previously valid URL starts returning a 404, but I think it's safe to assume that your old/current method is probably hurting the rankings of the article pages.
2:49 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Hey Rob,

But, if the 301 is implemented after the page 404s, does this pass the links that the article has generated? Or do these die as soon as the page returns a 404 code?

Cheers,
3:18 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@rhys12345 there is no before or after, it is either or. Either the url returns a 404 response, that is the page is gone or the url returns a 301 response and it redirects the user another page.

As Willburforce stated in the first response the 404'ed will not pass page rank, as it is not a page but simply an error response from the server. So if you want to pass the page rank you need to 301 redirect.
3:33 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@rhys12345 I don't know, but this is just a guess, could you be referring to a page that is generated, or even a fixed html 404 page.
3:59 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@NickMNS so if the page returns a 404, then we add a 301 so it delivers users to a new URL, does this pass any links it had before it became a 404?

So, if page A had 100 links and then becomes a 404. Then a week later, we apply a 301 from Page A to Page B. Does that pass those link metrics along, or do they all die as soon as the page 404s?

@engine, the page is a news story about our latest news, and then, for some reason, after a month, the CMS moves it into the archive. It's maddening.
5:01 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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it's always been that way


That isn't a good reason to keep doing it. It would be better to have a structure that doesn't involve creating hundreds or thousands of 301s. Why not start with e.g. example.com/2017/November/pagename.html, where pagename could be descriptive of the story or the date? That, in effect, would archive each page at creation, but at the same time highlight current as current.
5:10 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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So, if page A had 100 links and then becomes a 404. Then a week later, we apply a 301 from Page A to Page B. Does that pass those link metrics along, or do they all die as soon as the page 404s?

Well, we know that Google is pretty flexible when it comes to the 404 Not Found status code. That is, they understand that a page can go missing temporarily, and will come back to crawl it again for some time. It's quite possible that if page A goes missing, and after a while the original URL returns a 301 to page B, it will hold on to its value, providing that the content is the same. However, the opposite is also possible, I don't think there's a straight answer. Clearly, if it's not an option now to prevent the move altogether, it's best to implement the 301 as soon as A is moved to B.
6:23 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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@rhys12345, Robzilla's answer to the question is exactly what I would have wrote.
6:40 pm on Nov 23, 2017 (gmt 0)

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so if the page returns a 404, then we add a 301 so it delivers users to a new URL
Re-read Nick's earlier post. You can't “add” a 301 once something has already returned a 404. One request, one response.

That's assuming you're not talking about the long term: “Oh, oops, these requests are now returning a 404 because I forgot to redirect, so I need to go back and code the 301”. If you change the response code, search engines may be momentarily confused, but they’ll get over it.

we create news stories at url.co.uk/news-story, then, after a month, that news story moves to url.co.uk/archive/news-story

If this happens systematically, there should never have been a 404 in the first place. Make sure the two things happen concurrently: when a story moves to /archive/, the redirect should be instituted at that very instant. This may require a change in how your coding is currently done.
12:15 am on Nov 24, 2017 (gmt 0)

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Creating a new url for archive is not wise, urls whenever possible should not change. The status of the page can change and the category its linked from (ie live news to archive) but the url should remain consistent. That way you don't need 404's or 301's.