SEO and URL Redirection for Expired Domains

Morning all, rebuilding a site at the moment that lists a lot of job adverts, funding opportunities and other ads that basically have an expiry date. We want to build the site so that these all disappear after the deadline ends but what is the best practice for this when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?
The old site has been badly maintained and has a lot of old adverts but I'm aware culling all these will mean a lot of 404s when the new site goes live. Do I do it and redirect them all to the relevant page eg a dead job advert link redirects to the new 'All Job Vacancies' page so its still relevant?
Advice welcome!
3 πŸ‘πŸ½316 πŸ’¬πŸ—¨


Truslow πŸŽ“
This is a tricky one. The "right" answer is that if something goes away, then it should throw a 404 error. (410 too, but since this might come back one day, 404 is more accurate, I suppose).
That said… as of right now, there doesn't seem to be any downside to redirecting that gone listing to the listing of other similar jobs – and there is an upside. So, even though it's not really the right thing to do – redirection is probably a good thing to do. Right now. For the moment.
And that's the tricky part. Since it's sort of against the standards to do it that way, then at any given update, Google might decide that this practice is problematic. So, that could suddenly become a horrible tactic. Or, it might change to have minor downsides where the benefit still outweighs the negative. Or, it may stay the same forever.
Even situationally it may be a problem. Redirect an ad to somewhere that doesn't have any active ads that are highly similar and now that redirect loses context. That can be problematic. Basically you're saying, This isn't here, it's here… and then we go there and there's nothing there either.
So basically it's a choice. In technical areas like this, I try to work within the recommendations as best I can. There are usually plenty of other things I can do which achieve the benefit I might get – structured data saying when it will expire, and categorical data that points to the category anyway. Or maybe I'd leave the page in existence but alter it to alert visitors that the job is gone but that they can <link>Go to the Category</link> to find more. (And then, obviously, that "exists" but not something you're going to find anymore by browsing or searching the site itself).
<shrug> if it were me, I wouldn't redirect except to something that's exactly or very close to the same. I'd find another clever way to address the situation instead.
410 custom page for a few months then change to 404. Monitor tracking reports for referral sources and tackle the ones that could provide value (links).
Britton ✍️
Thanks guys. This client doesn't really actively do a lot of Search Engine Optimization (SEO) so I guess I am looking for the best automatic option. Maybe that's just a really good 404 page or would that be a waste of time?

Petter Β» Britton
Custom 404 – always.

A custom 404 document would be a simple solution if you delete the expired ads. It should explain clearly why the page the person is seeking is no longer available.
If there are other causes for 404s on the site, you should redirect the expired ads to a special "soft" 404 page that explains the ad was expired. Minimize visitor confusion as much as possible. And make it easy for them to navigate away from the message (or to search the site).

Britton ✍️ » Micha
Thanks I think this will be the best option. I will add a search and maybe a couple of feeds showing the most recent popular listings etc.


Ammon πŸŽ“
One thing to think hard about is that moment we've all had where we click on a listing for something that was a really, really great offer and they tell us it's gone but they have some others that might be like it. That moment when we feel scammed by a classic "bait and switch", and in that moment, absolutely LOATHE the people responsible.
So, whatever ultimate choice you make, think hard about how it will be received sometimes, and how much negativity that could generate. Always make sure you think ahead to what can go wrong, and make sure you 'fail-safe'.
There are hundreds of companies out there, such as recruiting agencies, letting agencies, and others, that use bait and switch tactics heavily, with made-up too good to refuse offers to bait you in that then, "Oh sorry, that just went. Have a look at our others or sign up and we'll send you the next one like it" switch on you. You need to steer very wide of that to not be mistaken for one of them.
Make sure that when an offer ends or closes, you find ways to show that it was genuine somehow, perhaps not just showing similar-ish things you still have available, but also similar-ish things that have come and gone all the time. Normalize it. If possible, have scripts that can detect 'average' prices or wages, or whatever the bottom line stats are for an ad type, and when something is clearly above average, you can then automatically include that kind of detail – that at 5% more than average wage for similar jobs this one obviously went fast. Maybe even tell them if the average is trending up or down over time, so they know if holding out for another above-average is likely to be worthwhile.
John Mueller always talks of this as 'adding awesome', but the point is to find ways to give value even on something that has expired. Knowledge. Information that may help someone not just find other ads, but know if the other offers are likely to be anywhere near as good, or if this was an exceptional offer. If exceptional, how exceptional? Give the visitor extra stuff that *informs* them.
Personally, I'd be leaning toward a custom 404 page for the ad listings that expire, and to use it to deliver that extra 'awesome'.

Petter Β» Ammon
So noindexing and adding a section saying it has expired o.s. alongside a date for when this page will no longer be available?
Ammon πŸŽ“ Β» Petter
A 404 http status code doesn't need any further NOINDEX indication than the 404 code.
Petter Β» Ammon
404 does not come with noindex understanding. Just says its not found, not if that's a temporary or permanent situation.
But was thinking keeping the page as 200 for some time and noindex it, perhaps also apply unavailable_after [date/time] directive before swapping to 404/410.
Ammon πŸŽ“ Β» Petter
You're missing the blindingly obvious.
The search engine cannot index it because they have just been told they haven't even seen it, and that the server itself couldn't find it.
A search engine will not, ever, index a 404, but they will sometimes index a 404 page that was served with a 200 status code.
Petter Β» Ammon
He has these pages indexed wondering how to handle it as they are no longer available, or did I read it wrong?
Ammon πŸŽ“ Β» Petter
Could be. I see this as a question about how to handle this from now on, for the long run. i.e. for ads that are live now and not expired and for ads yet to even be placed.
The precise wording was: "We want to build the site so that these all disappear after the deadline ends but what is the best practice for this when it comes to Search Engine Optimization (SEO)?"
In other words, this is not about a couple of pages right now, but about thousands of future ads. More importantly it's about how the back-end of the database driven site should be handling this in future at point of expiry.
At the time of expiry they should be switched to go to a custom 404 page, and deliver ideally a 410 http response, but a 404 will do almost as well. That's not because it is the only possible way to handle it, but simply because when you balance out all of the options and outcomes, it is likely to be the optimal one in the most possible scenarios. Above all, it scales easily and cleanly.
Technically, one _could_ continue to serve them marked as expired or even archived and expired, but that's not ideal for users at all, and really not worth the trouble, and especially not worth taking any space on crawl priority. You really want those bots crawling new content and dropping the old.
To get the absolute most value, I'd advise focusing on getting that extra info and insight into the 404 page template to give it that 'added awesomeness', as dispelling all suspicion of bait and switch can have a massive effect on how people perceive the brand, how likely they are to become loyal to the brand, to recommend it, etc.
Petter Β» Ammon
If that's defined, best way then is:
<meta name="robots" content="unavailable_after: 2022-09-21">
And once it expires, custom 410.


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