Last week Google revealed a new meta tag called “unavailable_after“. It provides webmasters with a means of telling Google in advance that a page of content will become irrelevant after some future date. When Google acknowledges unavailable_after, it schedules a removal of the page from the search results. The page is still indexed, according to Google, but it won’t be shown in any search results.
I haven’t deployed the unavailable_after robots meta tag yet, so I can’t test if a &filter=0 will reveal it or not in the SERPs, but I look forward to seeing if that will be the case.
I think everyone should take mental notes of how easily Google can cause a page to not appear in the SERPs, even though it is published and indexed. A simple flag and it’s gone. Lest you wondered how hard penalizing pages was over at the ‘plex.
Anyway there has been much debate about unavailable_after, and I am not referring to the seo attention whores arguing about who blogged the story first or who didn’t give whom credit for the reference. I’m talking about legitimate practical, competitive webmasters thinking out loud about what this meta tag might be good for, if anything.
Well, some time ago I wrote that to be competitive, you have to think like a Dirty Bastard. Well, I just heard from a Dirty Bastard SEO and he has a use for the unavailable_after meta tag. He uses it to screw his (former) clients.
He sets unavailable_after to read in a date via a dynamic script, from a central flag stored on the server. Each month he updates that central date flag to track his client’s account status. As soon as his client has ceased to maintain on his month-to-month SEO extortion program, the unavailable_after meta tag ceases to maintain, and becomes and expiration trigger for the web pages in the Google SERPs. Stop the SEO maintenance? You lose your traffic. Plain and simple.
Evil, yes? According to this Dirty bastard, if the client doesn’t know any better, they deserve to be removed from the SERPs. He says it was his service that put them into the SERPs, so it’s ok that a lack of his service will remove them from the SERP. They are free to get back in; no one’s stopping them. He feels he doesn’t do any harm, he just stops delivering the services he was being paid to deliver, because they stopped paying.
Wow. Attention SEO consultants – beware the unavailable_after meta tag. It’s the new “disallow /”, the new very-first-thing-to-check when doing an SEO site audit.