Are 404 Errors Bad for Your SEO Efforts?

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Have you ever browsed online and clicked on a webpage but got an error message that says ‘404 Not Found’? It is a frustrating error that pops up indicating that the site that you are requesting is not available. If you are a business owner, this could mean a big setback because visitors will likely abandon your site for something else. 

What is a 404 Error? 

When you use a search engine like Google to look up something online like searching for a personal injury lawyer in Hamilton and you click on that link, you are basically making a request for you to be given access to view. This prompts the server of that site to respond to you with the live view of that page. Consider it as two-way communication between people where one says something and the other is expected to respond. However, there are instances when the intended response is not achieved because the person is unreachable. The same is true for web pages. They can either be reachable, don’t exist, or broken. When either of these happens, you will get a 404 error message. 

The following are some of the displayed messages of a 404 error: 

  • 404 HTTP 404
  • 404 Not Found Error
  • 404 Page Not Found
  • Error 404 Not Found
  • HTTP 404 Not Found
  • The requested URL was not found on this server
  • 404 File or Directory Not Found

Reasons Why You are Getting a 404 Error Code

error 404

Image Credit: Kaushal Bhatol | Pixabay

There are several reasons why 404 messages are popping up. Are you guilty of any of the following?

  • You have a deleted page from the website
  • You moved a page to another URL and it was not indexed properly
  • You entered an incorrect URL address
  • Your server is malfunctioning
  • Your entered domain name doesn’t exist anymore
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Broken links are likely left that way for a long period of time or have been deleted or moved. It is due to the links of the page that were not informed that the site doesn’t exist anymore or that it has been moved to a new URL. it is common for the sites not to check these external links regularly so readers are redirected to dead links. 

Why 404 Errors Are Bad for You

Casual search engine users will abandon websites that direct them to 404 pages. They can simply browse another site that contains the information they are looking for. But if you are the business owner, a 404 page can spell your doom.

Looking at things from their perspective, users will look up information through search engines. They will scan the returned search pages and stay with the site that answers their needs at the moment. If they stumble upon a page that simply tells them that what they are looking for does not exist, then they will just abandon that site. 

A lot of experts say that error 404 can ruin your ranking and you should get them fixed as soon as possible. However, in truth, getting this error is not unique to your site. There are thousands of other sites out there that have it because it is a normal part of the web. In some instances, these can even be useful. 

In theory, 404 pages can have an impact on rankings, but not on the whole site. If you have a couple of 404 pages then the search engine can forgive and let it go by not indexing them. It becomes a different story when you have more 404 pages than you intend. With fewer active pages to index, your site will not get a very high ranking from search engines.

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The search engine algorithm pays special attention to user behaviour on websites. The behaviour they exhibit is one of the biggest ranking factors. An HTTP 404 code is a frustrating site for visitors to find. In return, search engines will find users constantly abandoning sites just a few seconds into browsing 

Aside from the negative user experience, 404 errors can also result in high bounce rates due to the broken links. Search engines put a very high premium on bounce rates, making it the fourth most significant ranking factor in SERPs. 

How to Undo 404 Errors

After detecting the pages with 404 not found errors, the next step you will take is to fix things. The good news for you is it will not take a whole website to revamp to get your pages up and running. You can work with an SEO agency for SAAS businesses or the likes to help you fix these pages. Here’s what they can help you with:  

  • Redirecting Pages

The simplest and easiest way to fix 404 error codes is to redirect the page to a live one. Your agency can perform this task using a 301 redirect — a response code that signals browsers that the particular content has been transferred to a different URL. 

  • Correcting the Link

There are times when your website developers can make mistakes that result in 404 errors. For this reason, it’s crucial to choose only the best Toronto website development agency to avoid such actions. A very simple mistake like a mistyped URL can yield a 404 error. Don’t worry, this problem should be easy to correct since you can just go back and fix the URL. 

  • Restore Deleted Pages
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There are times when the best thing you can do is to delete pages on your site because of a variety of reasons. Sadly, visitors do not just stop looking for the information they were there for because you deleted that page. They will simply click the back button and go through the SERP again. Pro tip: unless there is a business reason for keeping that page deleted, then restore it. If you don’t want to restore the pages though then make sure that they are directed to an updated version or to similar content.

You will never totally avoid getting a 404 error on your site. You can avoid the issues and impact it will have on your SEO campaigns, however, by taking simple actions like redirecting and restoring pages or correcting your URL. Your primary goal is to keep your user engagement high. 

Make sure to check your 404 routinely and more often if you have a bigger site. By putting time aside to update your website and perform the necessary technical testing you can keep up with the competition and get a hold of your audience’s interest.

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