Fixing Errors When Removing Content From Your Website

June 4, 2013 — Simon Kelly

There are many situations where you may need to remove content from your website. This is common with catalogue or e-commerce sites where you are no longer selling a particular type of product or product type. This is fine and in the real world it happens all the time, but to delete this content completely from a website creates a void where this content used to be and will show errors to your visitors instead. This isn’t good for you visitors and isn’t good for your search results.

The Situation

You want to remove content from your site. You are removing a particular brand from your catalogue and want to remove that brand, related categories and associated content from your website. The best thing to do is have a solid team that can help you out incase you get stuck in a rut.

The Problem

Removing content creates 404 errors. The URL(s) will still be within search results so search engines will sense an increase in 404 errors to your site. Any website that is linking to these URLs will now show a 404 error instead and you’ll completely lose the ‘link juice’ that help boost your search engine rankings.

The Solution

Re-direct all your URLs using a 301 re-direct. First, make a list of all the URLs that will be removed as a result of removing the content. Second, find a suitable URL for each of these URLs to be re-directed to. The ideal method is to re-direct to the parent page. E.g. If the URLs are all products then it would be fine to re-direct to your shop page; If you are removing an entire page that’s only parent is the homepage, then re-direct to the homepage.

301 Re-directs

Methods for re-directing URLs is dependant on your web hosting server and on the type of content management system you are using (if any). I won’t go in to detail here as this has been covered in length by many other resources on the web. The two great  resources that I recommend are:

The process is quite simple but it can still create errors if not performed correctly. If you are unsure of what to do, hire a web developer to ensure this is performed properly.

Check for 404 errors

If you’ve been removing content without re-directing the old URLs to a new location then you will most likely have 404 errors that need fixing. Start by finding out where they are then re-direct each URL one by one. You can automate this process by using one of the follow (or a combination):

In Summary

By redirecting your URLs you ensure that your users and the search engines visiting won’t be struck by ugly error message when trying to view your old content. This will also preserve your SEO power and keep your website error free which is a win for everyone!


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Simon Kelly

Simon started his first web agency in 2009 which he merged with the SGD team in 2023. With a strong background in digital strategy and a history of working with fast-growing Australian companies, including CyberCX, Envato and Agency Mavericks, he's passionate about using ethical digital marketing that delivers business value. Simon's experience includes coaching digital agencies, running digital marketing workshops, driving growth and excellence within the SGD team.

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