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I wonder what's best practice for products that are sold?

My strategy is to add a lightswitch "sold" and don't display sold products on the website and in the sitemap.xml, in the hopes that google will eliminate it some day.

Maybe there's a way to tell google that it should eliminate this product from its index? But I don't know if that is even possible.

To be clear: I want the product to slowly disappear from googles index but still displaying it for people who find it through google (until it's vanished) or access it by direct url.

How do you handle this?

Edit: cleared the 404 header part since it was misleading. Made last sentence a bit clearer.

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    What exactly do you want to achieve? Your last sentence doesn't make sense – either the product page is in Google's index or it isn't. If it isn't in the index, it can't be found through Google at all. Do you want the product gone from search results but still accessible by direct URL? Or something else?
    – MoritzLost
    Aug 26 at 12:34
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    You've answered everything I wanted to know and more! Thanks!
    – outline4
    Aug 26 at 16:17
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This answer is preliminary – see my comment asking for clarification.

It really depends on what you want. Do you want the product page …

  1. … not to be available in Google's index any more?
  2. … not to be discoverable on the website (e.g. through a product search page)?
  3. … not to be accessible by direct URL?

If the answer is yes to all three, simply delete the product page or disable it. It won't show up in any search results on the website anymore and the direct URL will lead to a 404, so it will quickly vanish from Google's index.

If the answer is more complicated, you can take different measures depending on the intended result:

  • The page should be removed from Google's index: Simply add a metatag to your sold product pages (<meta name="robots" content="noindex, nofollow">) and remove it from the sitemap. It will vanish from Google's search results in time.
  • The page should not be discovable on the website (but still accessible via Google or direct link): Modify your product search pages / feeds to not display sold items anymore (you can determine the status based on stock, a lightswitch field, or whatever makes sense for your business process).
  • The page should rank lower in Google search results: Keep it in the sitemap, but give it a very low priority (like 0.1). This will signal to Google that you don't consider this page important, so it will show up less often. Edit: As pointed out by RitterKnight in the comments, Google ignores the priority completely. Pretty annoying, but it might still be worth including the priority for other search engines that don't ignore it. Guess it's all or nothing with Google.

Mix and match the above as required. The simplest approach would be to disable the page entirely. Again, it depends a bit on what you actually want ot achieve.

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    Hi Moritz, thanks for helping. It's point 1 and 2, and it should be accessible by direct URL. I wanted to create a 404 heading and wasn't sure how to do this. But your solution is much more what I was really looking for: noindex, nofollow. I really formulated my question like a moron... Today wasn't my day! Thanks for bringing order to my chaos! I really appreciate!
    – outline4
    Aug 26 at 16:16
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    FYI Google generally ignores the priority tag in the sitemap. If you want the product to disappear faster, also consider using http status code 410 (gone) instead of 404. There's also some schools of thought of keeping the old page around and not erring out and/or redirect users to replacement products. Aug 26 at 20:00
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    Glad I could help! :) @RitterKnight Thanks for pointing that out, good to know! I really dislike how Google always think they know everything better than everybody else ...
    – MoritzLost
    Aug 27 at 7:27

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