SEO Impact of Google’s unavailable_after META Tag

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One of the major issues plaguing search engines right now is the growing list of web documents available online. While no exact numbers are available, there are billions of search results to sort through. But, they can’t all be relevant both on material content and time — can they?

Of course they’re not, and Google is hoping to solve this problem through the adoption of the unavailable_after META tag.

What is unavailable_after?

The unavailable_after META tag is a simple META tag that can be used alongside others in the HEAD of an HTML document. The unavailable_after tag informs the crawling robots and spiders of an expiration date for the content. In other words, if you tell the bots that a page is “unavailable_after” tomorrow’s date — they should no longer index it or provide it in the search results following tomorrow.

How can unavailable_after be used?

unavailable_after can be used in a number of ways, with the most obvious being for testing and time limited materials. Let’s say for example that you run a web site that deals with seasonal items that are updated frequently. What good would there be to having pages from 4 years ago indexed on your site then, if you have more up to date, more seasonally appropriate, and more advanced products for sale today?

The unavailable_after tag allows webmasters to control the amount of data indexed, as well as set some precedents on how to handle the data that engines are pulling and providing in the SERPs.

How Will unavailable_after impact SEO Results?

The unavailable_after should have a tremendous effect on SEO and general site rankings. The ironic part is that when Google adopts the unavailable_after with open arms, there will be little fan fare. On the surface, there really is no big deal.

But consider the following…

If you’re optimizing a web site and have content that never really expires, wouldn’t it be great to compete against less pages and less sites in the Google index? Of course it would! And that is precisely what the unavailable_after tag will allow. As more and more webmasters begin using the unavailable_after tags in their pages, fewer and fewer pages will be out there to compete against. As a result, you’ll be ranking higher and higher and gaining more authority in no time!

Sujan Patel is Director of Search at Single Grain, which specializes in Search Engine Optimization and Social Media Marketing

Sujan Patel
Sujan Patel has over 12 years of digital marketing experience and has helped hundreds of clients increase web traffic, boost user acquisition, and grow their... Read Full Bio
Sujan Patel
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  • I wonder how many SEO will actually use it. I wouldn’t expect the high traffic keywords to become any less competitive because of this tag.

  • Mani

    This tag is mainly useful for promotions and other date sensitive content. I really doubt it will improve the search ranking. This is cool feature, for businesses to promote the products based on time and no complaint from search users (if the promotion expires but still, if the business keeps the page).

  • Paul Drago

    Will a promotional pages link equity simply be lost due to this tag? (though I realize most peoples promotions don’t bring in 50-300 links)
    It will be useful for campaigns that have high traffic, but frankly– our take down procedures just redirected promotional pages back to useful content on a similar theme and I think this may still be a more SEO-productive procedure.
    I’ll have to do some testing over the next few months.

  • I wouldn’t expect the competitive keyword pages to be affected at all by this. If you rank for cars or tooth brush then you’re not going to want to expire your page and neither will probably the first 10 pages.

    I see it for promotional and dat based stuff like webinars, events and special offers stuff.

  • I wonder if there will be a dark side to this?

    For example if someone is able to hack into your site and add this tag to your pages.

  • Drew,

    If your site gets hacked I think theres bigger things to worry about than someone adding this tag to a page.


    In my experience I haven’t seen to many promotion pages get tons of inbound links.

    This tags main purpose is to increase the relevancy and accuracy of the search engine’s results and what better way to do so then to allow webmaster to remove their promotions after they are expired.

  • May I suggest that any page that you are likely to be competing against is not going to be expiring. You’re most likely competing with pages like the one you’re trying to promote, and if yours doesn’t expire, why would a competitors?

    I don’t see this being widely used at all.

  • Great summary and insight of the new META tag Sujan. I think that only time will really tell what use will come of it.

    I’ve actually written an article about how Unavailable_After is the new sliced bread, check it out here if you’re interested, I’d love to hear your feedback:

  • Thanks for sharing. I’m trackbacks this articles

  • Indeed it is a nice tag to use for promotional web pages. Cheerz