Have you ever visited a website to find the ubiquitous “Coming Soon” page? I’m not talking about the standard “under construction” or placeholder homepage, I mean in either browsing the site, or typing in a URL directly, you stumble upon an “Under Construction” or “Coming Soon” page on an otherwise completed site. “Junk everywhere” is exactly what the users and search engines are thinking.
I used to make this mistake, and finally realized that there are consequences – SEO consequences. Obviously the ’404 not found’ page standard was created for a reason. So, we can safely assume that having 404 pages isn’t always a bad thing. Take that a step further, we can further assume that NOT having 404 pages isn’t necessarily a good thing. This is especially true on a database driven site where inventories are constantly changing.
Imagine clicking a link to a car for sale only to find a “coming soon” page. From a user interface standpoint, if the car is sold, it should really say it’s sold. From a SEO standpoint, though, that same page should provide a proper 404 header so search engines know it’s gone. This ensures the page is not recorded and held against you by diluting your site’s true content. After all, you aren’t trying to get optimized for the key phrase “coming soon” are you?