Many enterprise websites, in the marketplace and classifieds space in particular, have to deal with listings that expire. The items either sell out or become permanently unavailable, with no option of coming back (as opposed to e-commerce sites, where products can be restocked).
And that’s totally OK, according to Google!
It’s not always feasible to manage these listings individually, so you need a scalable strategy that will work for both your users and search engines.
When evaluating what to do with your expired listing pages, ask yourself the following questions:
The answers to these questions will help you plan and automate your strategy. Additionally, it’s important to note that the strategies outlined here are intended for listings that become permanently unavailable / out-of-stock. If your content is temporarily out-of-stock or seasonal, you can leave the pages live, but remove internal links to these pages until they become available.
Continue reading all possible scenarios and SEO solutions for handling expired content, or jump to a specific one:
Let’s say, for example, you’re working on a marketplace website that sells items that are fairly common in nature. After evaluating your expired listings, you determine that those pages no longer offer value for the user, do not receive visits or crawls from bots, and have low number of inlinks and PageRank.
In this scenario, it may be a good idea to remove the URLs from the site, making sure they return a 404 or 410 status code (choose the latter if you want the listing to be removed from the search engines’ index faster).
As a bonus, to create the optimal user experience that keeps visitors on your site, consider creating custom 404 pages that list similar items or a search box to help visitors find what they’re looking for.
If your expired listings don’t offer value for the user, but still have enough visits volume and/or PageRank (potentially from being previously promoted), you’ll likely want to choose an option that disallows visitors from reaching that page, but still preserves any search engine equity it’s earned.
The solution here would be to check if you have another page on your site with similar content. If yes, 301 redirect the expired page to it.
If you use the 301 redirect option, make sure you keep the following in mind:
Let’s say, for example, you’re working on an online auction site that lists rare items. You encounter some expired listings that still appear to add value to your site visitors. For example, maybe those expired listing pages allow visitors to compare prices or find details about the item sold.
In this scenario, it may be best to keep the pages live on the site.
If you choose this option, we recommend taking the following actions to ensure you don’t harm your SEO performance:
We worked with one large automotive marketplace website that took a pretty unique strategy for handling their expired listings.
After evaluating their expired content, they found that:
The solution they came up with was to place a NOINDEX tag on all PDPs, even when they are in-stock. Because of this, they don’t ever have to worry about the expired listings.
So, which strategy is right for your website? The answer, which you’ve probably heard your fair share of times in the SEO world, is: IT DEPENDS!
As your site changes and grows, you may want to try different approaches, or you can even combine your strategies. For example, leave the expired listings live for a period of time with NOINDEX, then completely remove them with a 404.
The main point is, work on creating a solid and scalable strategy for your expired listings — it’s a big step in the right direction when it comes to your crawl budget optimization!