When you need to remove a page from your website, you might consider redirecting that page to your home page, rather than making it a proper “404 not found”. Google says not to do that.
For more, check out the full post on the Search Engine Roundtable blog.
Subscribe! You can subscribe to this podcast on Apple Podcasts, Anchor, Google Podcasts, Spotify, Breaker, Pocket Casts, RadioPublic, Stitcher, Overcast, and a variety of other places. Be sure to rate the podcast wherever you choose to listen!
When you remove a page from your website, you have a few options on how to handle it. The most common two are to redirect the page elsewhere (using a “301 redirect”) or simply remove the page and let a 404 error come up instead. In most cases, Google suggests you just let the 404 come up.
If you have two similar pages that you’re combining, it might make sense to redirect one to the other, and there are certainly other situations where that could be good. However, some people redirect all removed pages over to their home page, which isn’t a wise move.
When asked a question regarding this on Twitter, Google’s John Mueller said: “Yeah, it’s not a great practice (confuses users), and we mostly treat them as 404s anyway (they’re soft-404s), so there’s no upside. It’s not critically broken/bad, but additional complexity for no good reason – make a better 404 page instead.”
As John said at the end, take some time to customize your 404 page to make it easy for people to search, contact you, or whatever the most useful action might be.
Add 301 redirects to pages is important to do in many situations, but it’s ok to let 404s show up from time to time as well. In either case, if you remove a page you should spend some time to make sure none of your internal links are still pointing to that now-removed page.