Yahoo! purchased the popular free web hosting service GeoCities in 1999 for $3.57 Billion dollars in stock. And on October 26, 2009, Yahoo! shut down GeoCities for good. Any website on GeoCities that was not transferred to a new web host by Monday is gone forever. Granted, most sites built on GeoCities were festering eyesores and for the most part nobody will lose sleep over its demise, but Yahoo! really screwed the pooch on handling the closing when it comes to SEO.
Let me explain.
As of October 28, 2009, there are 7.45 Million GeoCities URLs still indexed in Google. Go ahead, click that link and try to visit one of the sites listed. For example, Dr. Doo Wopp's site "all about me and my love of the doo wopp sound" at http://www.geocities.com/doowopp21/ is no longer available and redirects to a Yahoo! 404 page. Multiply that one site times 7.45 Million and we're dealing with a huge number of sites that will simply vanish.
I just did a search on SEMRush to find out the popular keywords for which GeoCities URLs rank in the Top 20 in Google for, and it came back an astounding 686,270 different keywords that generate an estimated 11,947,000 visitors from Google each month. It's hard to fathom a website that got nearly 12 million visitors a month from Google alone will disappear.
For example, one of the keywords reported by SEMRush is the keyword "sayings." According to the Google AdWords Keyword tool, this keyword gets over 1.2 Million searches a month.
Currently, the GeoCities website at www.geocities.com/heartland/lane/2470/lslists.htm ranks 4th in Google for a keyword that gets 1.2 million searches a month. Once Google re-indexes that site and is served a 404 error page, that site will be removed from the index.
At the very least, you would think Yahoo! would put forward some effort to preserve their search engine rankings and most of that traffic, right? Apparently that isn't the case. Since Yahoo! is simply forwarding the GeoCities URLs to 404 or 410 permanent error pages instead of redirecting the sites with SEO friendly 301 redirects, the search engines will eventually drop all of the missing URLs from their indexes and Yahoo! will lose out on all of the invaluable search engine rankings and traffic that has amassed over the years. It baffles me that a company as big as Yahoo!, not to mention a major search engine, would make these decisions without keeping SEO in mind.
UPDATE - LocalSEOGuide.com made a similar post called Yahoo Flushes GeoCities, PageRank & Million$ Down The Drain. Check it out!