A HighRankings Forum thread asks what should this webmaster do after he deleted an unwanted page. Should the webmaster 404 the page or 301 the page.
To me the answer is simple. Let's look at the definitions of a 404 vs a 301.
- 404 Not Found: The server has not found anything matching the Request-URI. No indication is given of whether the condition is temporary or permanent. The 410 (Gone) status code SHOULD be used if the server knows, through some internally configurable mechanism, that an old resource is permanently unavailable and has no forwarding address. This status code is commonly used when the server does not wish to reveal exactly why the request has been refused, or when no other response is applicable.
- 301 Moved Permanently: The requested resource has been assigned a new permanent URI and any future references to this resource SHOULD use one of the returned URIs. Clients with link editing capabilities ought to automatically re-link references to the Request-URI to one or more of the new references returned by the server, where possible. This response is cacheable unless indicated otherwise.
In my opinion, if the page you are removing has a suitable alternative page on your web site, then 301 it. Do not always 301 the page to your home page. If there is no suitable, and by suitable I mean, a page that is very similar to the page you are removing, then 404 the page.
301 if there is a related and similar page to the page you are removing. 404 if there is not.
Forum discussion at HighRankings Forum.