How to Handle Old Directory Listings, Links and off Topic Traffic

Today’s post is another answer to a question–this time from Nathan Schubert, who wants to know what you should do with old links from directories and websites that still drive traffic if you’ve changed the content on your website.
OK. First off, you never want to have links to your site removed, even if it’s from a really bad website.  Truth be told, there are some things you need to watch out for, but (generally speaking) it’s really pretty hard for someone to screw you up by linking to you (I said hard–but not impossible). Assuming that’s not the case and you are getting a bunch of off-topic traffic, there are better ways to deal with it.
  • You can use htaccess to redirect based on referring domain.
  • You can set up a 301 redirect for old pages that don’t exist.
If it’s getting a significant amount of traffic, set up a landing page to tell visitors that the content they are looking for no  longer exists and that you’ve changed the focus of the site. Be polite, matter of fact, and straight to the point. Don’t be indignant or present a message that suggests people are a “bother” to you. I’d also set up 5 or 6  links to your most popular content or key pages. Encourage visitors to look around if they want. If you do redirect via 301, those links can also act as entry points for search engine spiders. Don’t let those links go to a 404 page; doing so just flushes the link equity down the toilet.
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