“Expired content” refers to website pages and site content that is out-of-date, or no longer useful for visitors. This could be pages for products that your eCommerce site no longer stocks, or registration pages for events that have already taken place.
Our SEO Office Hours notes below compile Google’s own advice and recommendations relating to how you should handle expired content for better SEO.
Reuse the same URLs each year for seasonal pages
A question was asked about what to do with seasonal pages, like a Black Friday page, once the event was over. John responded that it’s up to you whether you decide to keep these pages live out-of-season or remove them. As the searches and impressions would naturally go down when the page’s content is out-of-season, you could potentially noindex or 404 the URL temporarily and bring the pages back when it is next needed. But he recommends reusing the same URL for that seasonal content every year. So instead of having a page URL like “Black Friday 2022” and then “Black Friday 2023,” you should just have a generic “Black Friday” URL for the page. This means that when the page is reused, all of the signals which have been associated with the URL over the previous years can benefit the new content.
It’s Fine to Re-publish Content From Discontinued Sites on Another Relevant Site
If you have permission to re-publish content from a site that has been taken down, then it is fine to do so.
Consider Moving Outdated Content to Archive Pages For Recurring Content
For recurring content, consider having one main page for the most recent version and then moving this content to an archive page when it is no longer current. For example, a landing page about the most recent iPhone could exist with archive pages about previous iPhone versions.
Move Outdated Content From Re-Usable URLs Onto Archive URLs
If you have content that you update for a yearly event, for example, include the newest content on one, re-usable URL where accumulative signals gained will allow it to rank higher, and move outdated content onto archive URLs.
Treat Out of Stock Products Differently Depending on Permanence of Unavailability
If a product is permanently unavailable, redirect to a replacement product or reuse the old URL for the new product. If the product is temporarily unavailable consider keeping that page and adding structured markup to indicate it isn’t currently available. If a product is permanently unavailable but you want to keep some documentation then consider moving it to an archived section.
Expired Content Can be Redirected, 404’d or Noindexed
There is no one correct way to deal with expired content on a site. If there is a relevant page that replaces the expired one then you can implement a 301 redirect. If there is no replacement page, then you can leave the page as 200 saying that it is no longer valid and use either a 404 or noindex after a period of time.
Redirect Obsolete Pages to Replacement Pages
You can use a 301 redirect on e-commerce sites when one product page replaces an obsolete one.
Use Sitemaps With Last Modified for Expired Content
Use a last modified date with a regularly updated Sitemap to help get expired pages picked up more quickly.
Reactivated Pages With Changed Content May Not Recover Rankings
It’s possible that Google might pick up the old signals when a page is reactivated, but if the content has significantly changed then Google will treat it as a new page.
The unavailable_after Meta Tag Tells Google when to Drop URLs from the Index
If you know when a page will expire, you can use the unavailable_after meta tag to tell Google when they should remove a URL from the index without them having to be recrawled.