While every SEO is familiar with the HTTP status codes 301 and 302 by setting redirects, the server response 410 is far less known. The diva-e SEO experts tell you when the code 410 can be useful in SEO and which mistakes you should avoid at all costs.
The 410 status code is issued when a resource is permanently not found by a browser or web crawler because it has been removed from the server. In contrast, the 404 code signals that a page or file is currently not findable and thus indicates a temporary condition. As Matt Cutts explains in a Webmasters video, after a 404 response, the Googlebot revisits the page after 24 hours and updates the index if necessary. Pages with 410 output, on the other hand, are immediately classified as permanently removed. Nevertheless, the Googlebot returns to these pages as well. So accidentally setting the code does not mean that the resource will disappear from the index forever.
In search engine optimization, the status code 410 can be used if a search result is to disappear from the index promptly. This method is more sustainable than the way via the Google Search Console. There, only the display in the results is removed, but the page is not necessarily taken out of the index. The prerequisite for the optimal use of 410 is that there are no backlinks - their linkjuice would then go nowhere - and there is actually no substitute for a redirect. In general, however, server responses of status class 400 should be used sparingly so that the Googlebot is not more occupied with reading out error codes than with crawling the relevant resources of a web page.
In our opinion, the "410 Gone" status code can be useful to delete pages that are definitely no longer recurring and to get them out of the index quickly. Nevertheless, it should only be used cautiously. For this purpose, we have defined various use cases for which we recommend or even advise against the 410 status code.
Such a scenario can occur if, for example, internal customer pages are inadvertently made publicly available and end up in the Google index. These pages must be removed as quickly as possible. In one specific case, we removed the indexed pages from Google Search via the Google Search Console.
In parallel, we have permanently deleted them via "410 gone".
Sometimes there are pages on promotions that are limited in time. After the promotion has expired, these should disappear from the index promptly to avoid overlaps and conflicts with new promotions. In this case, the status code 410 may also be helpful so that the old pages disappear quickly - provided that it was a one-time promotion and the page for it is also no longer needed. In this case, visitors can no longer access the promotional content, and the search engines consider the page to have been permanently removed.
Alternatively, for pages that are no longer to appear in the Google index on a certain date, the "unavailable_after" tag can be set with the corresponding date. In practice, we could see that the pages reliably disappeared from the Google index on the desired date.
Under no circumstances should you configure the 410 status code in SEO as the default delivery of the server. The signal that "410 gone" sends to Google is very serious and clear for Google. We have seen several times that pages with the status code disappeared from the index a short time later, while deleted pages with the 404 status code remained in the index even longer.
For URLs that have changed from an original status code 200 to 404, Google checks several times whether the change is temporary or permanent. Only then does the corresponding page disappear from the index. Therefore, a mistakenly deleted page can be reactivated a few days later without (significantly) losing rankings. If there was a malfunction or a page was only deleted by mistake and is reactivated, it can already be too late for the rankings with a 410 status code.
Setting the server response 410 is done in the .htaccess or httpd.conf file of the Apache server for individual resources or entire directories. The webmaster can use the Apache default error page or create his own php file with custom text in a subfolder. Example: "The requested file is no longer available." The code looks like this:
Reference to the error page to be displayed:
ErrorDocument 410 /unterordner/410.php
Redirect Gone /geloeschte-ressource.html
Or affected directory:
Redirect Gone /verzeichnis
Whether the status header code is output as desired can be checked with the Online Header Checker from seobook.com.