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Encountering a 404 error can be frustrating for website visitors and detrimental to your SEO efforts. Read on as we define 404 errors, explain their impact on user experience and SEO, and answer some of the most common questions we get asked by our clients.
A 404 error, also known as "Page Not Found", occurs when a web visitor (and even a web crawler) attempts to access a specific website page that does not exist or has been moved.
When a site server is unable to find a requested page, it returns a 404 HTTP status code that notifies users and bots of this missing piece of content.
404 errors can definitely impact your SEO when not fixed. Here are some potential consequences:
404 errors frustrate visitors, potentially leading to increased bounce rates and decreased user engagement. This can have a detrimental impact on user experience and overall website performance.
Search engine bots crawl websites to index pages. If they encounter 404 errors, it can disrupt the crawling process and prevent search engines from properly indexing your site's content.
When external websites link to your pages that return 404 errors, it results in lost link equity. This can affect the authority of your website and potentially impact search rankings.
Regularly check your website's server logs or use tools like Google Search Console to identify 404 errors. This helps you understand the extent of the issue and prioritize fixes.
If a page has been permanently removed or moved to a new URL, implement a 301 redirect to redirect users and search engines to the relevant page. This helps preserve link equity and ensures a seamless user experience.
Review and update internal links that point to pages returning 404 errors. Ensure that your internal linking structure is accurate and updated to direct users and search engines to correct pages.
Reach out to external websites linking to pages that return 'Page Not Found' errors and request them to update or remove the broken links. Alternatively, you can set up redirects for those links to point to relevant pages.
Conduct regular website SEO audits to identify and resolve any new or recurring 404 errors. Keep your website's structure and content organized, and promptly address any issues that may lead to 404 errors.
Design a custom 404 error page that provides users with helpful information, navigation options, and a search bar to assist them in finding relevant content on your website. This can help retain visitors and reduce bounce rates.
Here are a few examples of creative and playful 404 pages:
Amazon.com's 404 page incorporates a simple statement, and also introduces Shadow, one of the dogs of Amazon. Note that Amazon has a link back to their home page, which gives users some direction on where to go.
Featuring a friendly robot and a simple message, Starbucks acknowledges the detour and invites users to explore their core web pages, including its home page.
Lego's 404 page incorporates their iconic toy bricks by displaying a Lego character, accompanied by a message acknowledging the missing page.
Pixar, the mastermind behind beloved animated films, extends its storytelling magic to their 404 error page. We love the simplicity of this one!
Q1: How do I identify 404 errors on my website?
A: You can use tools like Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster Tools, or third-party SEO auditing tools to identify 404 errors. These tools provide reports and alerts regarding broken links and pages returning 404 errors.
Q2: What are the common causes of 404 errors?
Common causes include outdated or broken links, pages that have been deleted or moved without proper redirects, URL typos, and server configuration issues.
Q3: Are 404 errors bad for SEO?
A: While 404 errors themselves are not directly harmful to SEO, they can negatively impact user experience and website performance. If left unaddressed, they can result in higher bounce rates, reduced engagement, and loss of potential backlink equity.
Q4: Do I need to fix all 404 errors?
It is advisable to fix significant 404 errors, especially those impacting user experience or pages with external backlinks. However, minor and non-essential pages returning 404 errors may not require immediate attention.
Q5: Can 404 errors be redirected?
Yes, you can redirect 404 error pages to relevant and functional pages using 301 redirects. This ensures a good user experience and preserves any link equity associated with the original page.
Broken links play a crucial role in user experience and SEO. Understanding their impact, regularly monitoring for and fixing 'Page Not Found' errors, and implementing appropriate measures are essential for maintaining a structured website experience, retaining visitors, and preserving search engine visibility.
Talk to our experts to see how our SEO agency can help run technical SEO audits to uncover broken links and other related issues. Request a free audit today!