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.