We recently received a question from an in-house agency client who had thousands of web pages: “If we delete articles or convert them to draft mode does the URL still exist from Google’s perspective? Meaning, once the article is no longer active can Google still find it?” Can you really remove pages from Google without penalty?

Here is the answer… Yes, it does still exist. You can use a 410 header to tell Google it has been removed and you can request Google stop indexing the URL if that doesn’t  work. But be aware of “collateral damage” that can occur, though. For example, if the page to be deleted has links to it, it should be 301 redirected to another similar page. If it is only temporarily deleted it should be 302 redirected to a similar page until it returns.

Go to Google’s support page to disavow content you’ve removed if it still shows up: https://support.google.com/websearch/answer/6349986?hl=en 

For a complete discussion on removing pages from Google, Search Engine Land’s article and Yoast’s blog post offer good ideas: https://searchengineland.com/removing-pages-from-google-53086

After you read these articles you’ll see the importance of having a well managed site with a taxonomy and internal linking strategy.