Sphinx 404 To Search
Will it be bad SEO(or anything else) practice to enable Magento Sphinx extension's "404 to Search" option for an e-commerce website?
This option basically redirects from 404 to search results page.
I say yes, bad for SEO. Because it SOUNDS like the search result will be served with a 200-OK. THis is misleading to the bot, it can't tell for sure the old page has HAS gone. Some bots can detect this as a soft-404, but it's hit and miss.
Its also common to disallow saerch results from indexing (eg via robots) so this redirect what was a page to a now blocked location, which also confuses bots.
If you can arrange for the search results page to be 404, then maybe ok. Because its OK to SHOW search results in this case, as long us not confusing to users (ie should show 'this product no longer available, see below for alternatives') - but would still go via a http redirect so not ideal. The 404 page itself could show the search results directly - not sure if the plugin can do that.
(in short, trying to hid 404s from users is usually ok, as in rather than giving them a ugly 'error' message, the end up leaving them to figure out how to continue, you prompt them how to continue. The important bit is in the process don't neglect to give the ACTUAL 404 status to bots (redirecting to search page, sounds like bots wont get the 404 they NEED).
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