This is weird, but I’ve suddenly had a a bunch of people messaging me over the last few days asking about deleting things from their site and then redirecting the resulting 404s.
Don’t do that!
There’s Only One Situation When You Should Redirect 404 Errors
You only redirect 404 errors if you’ve *moved* something from one URL to a different URL. Like, if you had a page with the URL /about-my-blog and you change it to /about — since you just moved it from one place to another you do a redirect.
But when you delete something on your site — it no longer exists on your site — then it’s supposed to become a 404.
That’s what a 404 is for.
Most Of The Time You’ll Want To Leave 404s Alone
A 404 tells Google “this isn’t supposed to be here so please stop indexing this particular URL that no longer exists on my site.”
If you see those deleted URLs listed as 404s in Google Search Console that’s fine — resubmit your sitemap and then you just have to wait for the deleted URLs to be flushed out as Google recognizes those URLs aren’t there anymore.
Customize Your 404 Page Properly Instead
You can customize your 404 page to show something useful, like links to other parts of your site — but it still needs to be an actual 404 page so Google knows it’s not an active URL.
Here’s a video about customizing your 404 page with a plugin — this is the proper way to handle 404s by making sure your site still sends a valid 404 server status code while making it show more useful info to any person that may see it.