15 Jan 2024
  • Website Development

Removing Old Blog Pages from Google's SEO

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By Tyrone Showers
Co-Founder Taliferro

My Journey to Remove Old Blog Pages from Google's SEO Index

As a website owner and digital marketer, I've always been conscious of the importance of maintaining an up-to-date and clean website for both users and search engines. One of the challenges I recently encountered was how to effectively remove old blog pages from Google's SEO index. This journey led me through various attempts and eventually led to a valuable solution.

Attempt 1: The 404 Return

My initial approach was a common one - issuing a 404 error code to search engine crawlers when they attempted to access the old blog pages. The logic behind this was straightforward: if the crawlers couldn't find the page due to a 404 error, they would eventually remove it from their index.

However, this method proved to be less effective than I had hoped. While it did lead to some pages being de-indexed, others persisted in search results. It became clear that Google's web crawlers were persistent in their efforts to find and index these old pages, even after receiving a 404 response.

Attempt 2: Blocking the Directory

Seeing the limited success of the 404 approach, I decided to take a more drastic step - blocking the entire directory containing the old blog pages using the robots.txt file. This file is used to instruct web crawlers which parts of a website should not be crawled or indexed.

I edited my robots.txt file to disallow access to the directory where the old blog pages resided. The contents of my robots.txt file looked like this:

User-agent: *
Disallow: /old-blog/

I hoped that this approach would prevent search engines from even attempting to crawl these pages. However, this strategy also faced its challenges.

The Quirk with Search Console

After implementing the robots.txt rule and waiting for Google's web crawlers to acknowledge it, I noticed an issue when using Google Search Console. The tool reported that the pages were blocked, which was expected, but it didn't provide a clear path for the removal of these pages from the index.

It was clear that blocking the directory in robots.txt was not sufficient to achieve the desired result of complete de-indexing. My old blog pages remained stubbornly present in search results.

Turning to ChatGPT for Advice

Frustrated by the persistence of these old pages in search results, I decided to seek advice from ChatGPT. I posed a specific question: "If my blog moved to a new location, how do I tell Google to stop looking for it?" The response was enlightening.

ChatGPT recommended returning a 410 HTTP status code, which indicates that the requested resource is gone and will not be available in the future. This was a significant revelation because it addressed the core issue - informing search engines that the pages had moved or were permanently removed.

The Power of the 410 Status Code

Armed with this new knowledge, I implemented the 410 status code for the old blog pages. This involved configuring my web server to return a 410 status code for each URL associated with the old blog pages. For instance:

      HTTP/1.1 410 Gone


This clear signal to search engines communicated that the pages were not just temporarily unavailable (as with a 404) but were permanently removed or relocated. It was essentially saying, "These pages are gone, don't look for them anymore."

The Follow-Up

Now, with the 410 status code in place, I'm eagerly awaiting the results. Will Google's web crawlers finally acknowledge the permanent removal of these old blog pages? It's a question that many website owners face, especially when content is taken down permanently.

Conclusion: How to Make Google Forget

My journey to remove old blog pages from Google's SEO index has taught me valuable lessons. While common methods like issuing a 404 error or blocking directories in robots.txt have their place, they may not always achieve the desired results, especially when content is gone for good.

The key takeaway from this experience is the power of the 410 HTTP status code. When you want Google to forget a page or an entire directory permanently, returning a 410 status code sends a clear and unequivocal signal. It communicates that the resource is gone for good, and search engines should remove it from their index.

As I await the results of this latest approach, I'm reminded of the ever-evolving nature of SEO and the importance of staying informed about the latest best practices. The digital landscape is constantly changing, and it's essential to adapt and explore new solutions when faced with challenges like removing old content from search engine indexes.

In a world where online visibility is paramount, ensuring that outdated or irrelevant content is effectively removed is not just a matter of housekeeping; it's a crucial step in maintaining a relevant and user-friendly website. And the 410 HTTP status code has become a valuable tool in achieving this goal.

Tyrone Showers