Handling Expired Ads
When Advert expires by default WPAdverts displays a 404 page. This makes sense, the classified is no longer available so a 404 “Not Found” page is shown, but it does not make sense in terms of SEO.
In this article, i will try to explain how to handle the expired Ads to get maximum possible SEO boost for your expired Ads, but at the same time be compliant with the GDPR regulations.
Expired Ads and GDPR
GDPR are regulations introduced in May 2018 by European Union to help protect user privacy and data. What does this have to do with expired classifieds you ask?
There are a couple of points which apply to expired classifieds especially if the Ad details pages include some personal information which would allow identifying a person (like for example a phone number or email address).
The regulations state that the data should be removed from your server when it is no longer being used. In case of a classified site, this might imply that the data will be removed when Ad expires. If you are planning to show the expired Ads details pages (the 200 status) make sure to include in your site terms and conditions information that the Ad will be displayed on site with contact options disabled.
In addition to this, if a user asks you to delete the expired Ad you are obligated to do it, no questions asked.
Note, it might seem the GDPR applies to EU based sites only, but they actually apply to any site which has EU based visitors (of course if you leave outside Europe then the EU has no way to impose a fine on you).
Handling Expired Adverts Pages
When Advert expires and is taken down one of 3 things can happen:
- The Advert details page can show 404 error and inform the user this page does not exist.
- The Advert details page can redirect (with a 301 redirect) to some other page, for example, a page with [adverts_list] shortcode.
- The Advert details page can be shown (with a 2000 status) but with the contact details disabled.
Each of these options has pros and cons, you can read more about them below to decide which options is best for your classifieds site.
404 or 410 – ‘Not Found’ Error Page
The users will find expired ads in search engines (like Google) and click on the search engine result to view the Ad. Users will not find these Ads when browsing [adverts_list] as there most likely will not be any links available since the Ad is unavailable.
When a user is viewing the Expired Ad he will see a 404 page Not Found error, with a default 404 page from your theme. The user will most likely leave your site and check different search results. This is not ideal as if a user is already on site you should want to keep him there. Maybe some other Ads will interest him?
When a search engine bot will reach a page with 404 error he will leave the page and will try to index it again later. This is not ideal as well, because the Google Bot will waste your site indexing-time trying to index 404 pages which will most likely never be available again instead of focusing on newly available content. The more expired Ads you have the more indexing-time will be lost on 404 pages.
The exception is 410 status which will let the search engine bots know that the page is “gone” and will not be available. When the bot will see this status he should stop trying to index the page.
Additionally, note that if your Expired Ad has some pages linking to it and after expiration, the Ad will start showing 404 Error the so-called “SEO Juice” will be lost.
On the other hand, the 404 page is fully compliant with GDPR regulations. Once the data is no longer needed it becomes unavailable.
301 – Redirect to a different page
When a user or bot is trying to view an Expired Ad page a 301 “Permanently Moved” status can be issued, which will redirect the user and a bot to some different page. What this page should be varies from site to site, but in terms of classifieds site, i think this should be a page with a list of Ads. Either: the main page, a category to which the Ad was assigned or maybe even some search results with related Ads.
This allows users to find some related Ads they might be interested and stops search engine bots from indexing the 404 page. What is more important is that if the page which went expired had some external pages linking to it then the SEO juice will be transferred to the page to which you are redirecting users.
The 301 Redirect is also fully compatible with GDPR regulations.
200 – Make the page accessible
The last option is to leave the Expired Ad page as is, but with disabled contact options and information that this Ad expired and is no longer available.
In this case, the user can view the page as when it was when published and the search engine bots can index it without any problems. The whole SEO juice the page have stays with it. In other words, the only visible change is that there are no contact options for the Ad and the Ad cannot be found when searching from the [adverts_list].
So, what do i do? (or tl;dr)
In my opinion, since most of the Ads will be published for around 30 days, it is rather unlikely they will be getting a huge amount of links or traffic from search engines, so i would recommend using 301 redirect to a third party page, for example to the main page with [adverts_list] shortcode.
Configuring Expired Ads Handling on your site
Since version 1.2.3 you can configure the Expired Adverts Handling from wp-admin / Classifieds / Options / Core panel.
There are three settings available.
Expired Ad HTTP Status – Here you can select one of the options described above.
Redirect URL – This field will be visible if you will select 301 status in the option above. You can enter here an absolute URL to a page to which you will like to redirect the traffic coming to expired Ads.
Always Visible For – In this field you can select a role or capability which will always see the Ads. By default it is Administrator. A user with this role will be able to view the Ad details even if the Ad should redirect to some other page. This handy option allows previewing and managing the Ad.