Should You 301 Redirect Catch All Pages To Home Page?

Aug 16, 2010 • 8:50 am | comments (6) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under SEO - Search Engine Optimization

A common question that comes up when you do a major site revamp or when you take over an old site is what do you do with the old URLs? I often see people request or implement 301 permanent redirects from old URLs to the home page URL.

What I mean by that is, they have a page about blue widgets on the old site. But the new site, there is no page on blue widgets. Instead of serving up a custom 404 page not found error, the webmaster or SEO prefers to 301 redirect that page to the home page. But the home page itself is not about blue widgets, so is that the right thing to do?

Logically, no! It doesn't make logical sense to 301 that page to the home page. Some SEOs feel that 404ing the page is wasting the page. It may be, but if you 301 all your non-existent pages to your home page, it might come to bite you later on.

A WebmasterWorldthread has the administrator, Tedster, claiming it can hurt you to do mass 301s.

I know of several websites that got into ranking trouble by 301 redirecting many pages to home (or a top level page of some kind) instead of returning a 404 or 410.

It doesn't pay to squeeze on the PR too tightly. I'd say look for important backlinks that point to problematic pages and create appropriate content at the same URL - even if it's just an explanation about the change to the website.

I would agree - whenever we do this, we always only 301 pages to specific URLs, not to the home page. If there is no logical 301 redirect for an old page, we 404 the page.

Do you agree?

Forum discussion at WebmasterWorld.

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William Vicary

08/16/2010 01:05 pm

I'm a fan of redirecting to the homepage at last resort instead of 404 pages that no longer exist. However I would always return a 404 if the URL was entered incorrectly, that is what you should expect. We redirect with a message saved in a session which is then loaded up on the homepage that shows something along the lines of "The page you requested no longer exists, sorry for any inconvenience". Not with a query string - holding onto the PR that little more :)

Neil Walker

08/16/2010 01:39 pm

For me it's about why your redirecting, and is there a suitable page other than the home page, I've always seen a bit of a debate about redirecting old pages to the next level up or leaving old pages live and showing a link to new products or updated articles etc.


08/16/2010 03:32 pm

I agree that it's a better practice sticking to the logic, but not everything is logical in this world :) Whenever I moved our own sites, I tried to 301 non-existing pages to the ones that are on the same subject or contextually most relevant. I also redirected non-existing pages with high PR to the home page. (Is that logical? :)) In both cases I would only end up with a hand full of redirects, so it wouldn't really count as a mass redirect, but rather very selective.


08/16/2010 06:44 pm

I'd prefer to re-direct all pages to an equivalent on the new architecture, however failing that (or if a new equivalent page doesn't exist) I'd prefer to 301 to the homepage rather than return a 404. To a user, the homepage would be more useful than the 404 page - and that's who I design my sites for. I can't see Google penalizing for something that is user-focused.


05/10/2012 05:52 am

what would be the problem if one redirect all 404 pages to sitemap pages. Once can found page that he want from the site ?

Rich Amor Indonesia

02/17/2014 05:02 pm

I have problem with this currently. There are some existing page, but I need to remove them because of I have new versions of those articles. I dont want the backlinks of older articles point to newest. I wanna the latest articles clear from unneeded backlinks. So. Is it safe to redirect the old articles to homepage ?

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