Page Retirement Policies

Page retirement policies have been a hot topic in our team recently, so we thought we’d delve into some of the most frequently asked questions we get on the subject and share our answers with you here…

First things first, what do page retirement policies mean?

Page retirement policies refers to the process of retiring a piece of content on your site. This can occur when content naturally becomes less relevant over a certain period, so it’s necessary to put a content retirement process in place to ensure SEO and UX do not end up suffering from malpractice.

In what scenarios would you look to retire a page?

Across large e-commerce platforms, it’s normal for product pages to become redundant over time. This is particularly common in industries like fashion, whereby a product is either out of stock or no longer in production due to changing trends.

Why can’t we just completely remove these pages?

When a page is redundant and no longer serves any financial purpose, it makes logical sense to remove it from the site, particularly in retail, as you could end up incurring costs over hosting for example. However, just because a page can no longer directly be a revenue stream it doesn’t mean it no longer serves a purpose.

While a page may no longer be able to convert, it might have external links pointing to it, feeding into the overall sites pagerank. By simply removing the page, you risk completely losing all link value, which in return could have a detrimental blanket effect on other pages ranking potential on the site.

For example, let’s look at this product page on ASOS. It looks as though historically it had amassed a large number of links covered online by some of the biggest publications in the industry:

For context, this product page was for an ASOS dress which Michelle Obama wore in the run-up to the presidential elections back in 2012. As a result it was covered and linked back by some of the biggest online fashion publications, such as Glamour and Vanity Fair, which is how this page alone attracted 104 links historically. The page has been removed now however and returns a 404.

In terms of SEO value, the site no longer gets the added benefit of those 104 links our tool detected. With many agencies working towards a target of one link per campaign day, losing 104 links pointing to the site can prove to be a great loss for SEO. This is essentially one of the main reasons an effective page retirement policy is always needed. It is worth mentioning however that in ASOS’ specific case, while they have lost link value, they are a brand capable of naturally re-growing this level of backlinks. Just take a look at the graph below, we can see that their domain has continued to grow these over the years, but it is still worth implementing potential page retirement policies in order to maximise your SEO efforts.

So, what are some of the potential options we can undertake?

301 redirect to a similar product

Advantages

301 redirecting retired pages to a similar product can help you retain SEO value as well as previously acquired rankings for a product page which has been retired.

Disadvantages

Particularly in the fashion industry, it’s likely that the new product page will also become redundant at some point or another and will subsequently be redirected, creating loops of redirected out of stock product pages. It is essential to keep track of all redirects put in place and always ensure you cut redirect loops by pointing legacy URLs to the newly found destination.

301 redirect to the parent category

Advantages

Implementing 301 redirects to the product’s parent category page is another potential solution which can be adopted to retain SEO value. This ensures that some of the backlink value is retained within the site. Unlike product pages, category pages are unlikely to become redundant, meaning it is less likely that you will need to redirect them, eliminating the need for having to constantly redirect out of stock products. This option also enables users to identify and select their own alternative product within the newly redirect category range.

Disadvantages

While it can be argued that redirecting to the category page can have a positive effect on users as they are able to select their own alternative product from the range, it can equally be confusing when users land within a category page, while trying to access a product page. This can be tackled by adding banners for users which have been redirected from a retired page to inform them the product is no longer available and invite them to select an alternative product.

404 pages with no backlinks

Advantages

404 pages are part of the natural life cycle of any website. When pages become redundant and do not have any SEO value or backlinks, it’s fine to remove them and allow them to 404. For this to be carried out successfully, ensure that all internal links pointing to the 404 page are also removed as part of the page retirement process. This is to ensure search engines do not use up crawl budget unnecessarily for pages that no longer exist, but also, so that users don’t end up accessing a 404 page through internal links.

Disadvantages

While you can use 3rd party tools to detect whether product pages you are looking to 404 have any backlinks, these tools do not have the same capacity and visibility as Google do. So, a 3rd party tool may not detect all links pointing to a page and you make create broken backlinks in the process. Once a page has been retired and 404’d with all internal links removed, we would recommend keeping an eye on Search Console reports for 404 pages. If these pages are still being found and crawled by Google, you should redirect these in accordance to the potential solutions mentioned above.

302 redirect while the product is being restocked

Advantages

For products which are out of stock but could potentially be re-stocked in the future, we would recommend implementing a 302 redirect to either the parent category or the closest similar product. This is to ensure the product URL retains its position in the SERPs while it’s being restocked.

Disadvantages

302 redirects do not pass any link equity; however, this is only a temporary solution while the product is being restocked. As with other redirects we would recommend adding a banner informing users that the product is temporarily out of stock and invite them to select an alternative in the interim.

In a nutshell, page retirement policies are essential and need to be put in place for your site to continue performing effectively when pages need to be retired. If you’re wondering what the best approach is for your own site, get in touch, we’ll be more than happy to help.

Written by:

Davide Tien Senior SEO Analyst

Category:

What we think

Date:

16/09/2021

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