Everything You Need to Know About 404 Errors for SEO
As a website owner, you may have come across the term "404 error." A 404 error is an HTTP status code that is displayed when a webpage cannot be found on a website. This error can be frustrating for website visitors, but it can also negatively impact your website's search engine optimization (SEO). In this article, we will provide you with everything you need to know about 404 errors for SEO.
What is a 404 error?
A 404 error is an HTTP status code that indicates that the requested webpage cannot be found on the server. When a visitor clicks on a link to a page that no longer exists, the server will return a 404 error code instead of the page they were looking for. The 404 error page is a standard page that is displayed by the server when it cannot find the requested page.
Why do 404 errors matter for SEO?
404 errors can have a negative impact on your website's search engine optimization. When a search engine crawler encounters a 404 error, it can signal to the search engine that the page no longer exists. If there are many 404 errors on your website, search engines may view your website as low quality and may penalize it in search rankings.
How to find 404 errors on your website?
There are several ways to find 404 errors on your website. One way is to use a website crawler such as Screaming Frog or Google Search Console. These tools can crawl your website and identify any pages that return a 404 error code. Another way to find 404 errors is to monitor your website's analytics for any pages with high bounce rates or broken links.
How to fix 404 errors?
The best way to fix a 404 error is to redirect the user to a new page. This can be done by using a 301 redirect, which tells the search engine that the page has permanently moved to a new location. By doing this, you can maintain the page's search engine rankings and prevent visitors from leaving your website.
How to create a custom 404 error page?
Creating a custom 404 error page can help improve user experience and prevent visitors from leaving your website. A custom 404 error page should include a message that the page cannot be found, a search bar to help visitors find what they are looking for, and links to popular pages on your website. Additionally, you can use humor or graphics to make the page more engaging.
How to prevent 404 errors?
Preventing 404 errors is important for maintaining good website health and search engine optimization. Here are some tips on how to prevent 404 errors:
1. Regularly check for broken links
Broken links are a common cause of 404 errors. Regularly checking for broken links and fixing them can prevent visitors from encountering a 404 error page. You can use tools such as Google Search Console or a website crawler to identify broken links on your website.
2. Update outdated pages
Pages that are outdated or no longer relevant can also result in 404 errors. Updating these pages or redirecting them to a more relevant page can help prevent visitors from encountering a 404 error.
3. Use redirects correctly
When redirecting a page, it's important to use the correct type of redirect. A 301 redirect should be used for permanent page redirects, while a 302 redirect should be used for temporary redirects. Using the incorrect type of redirect can result in 404 errors.
4. Use canonical tags
Canonical tags can be used to prevent duplicate content on your website, which can also result in 404 errors. By using a canonical tag, you can indicate to search engines which page is the original and prevent them from indexing duplicate pages.
5. Avoid changing URL structures
Changing the URL structure of your website can also result in 404 errors. If you need to change your URL structure, make sure to use 301 redirects to redirect old URLs to new URLs.
The impact of 404 errors on user experience
In addition to impacting search engine optimization, 404 errors can also have a negative impact on user experience. When a visitor encounters a 404 error, they may become frustrated and leave your website. This can result in a higher bounce rate and lower engagement on your website.
To prevent this, it's important to create a custom 404 error page that provides visitors with helpful information and guidance on what to do next. By providing a search bar and links to popular pages on your website, you can help visitors find what they are looking for and prevent them from leaving your website.
404 errors can have a negative impact on both search engine optimization and user experience. By regularly monitoring your website for 404 errors, fixing broken links, updating outdated pages, using redirects correctly, and using canonical tags, you can prevent 404 errors from occurring. Additionally, creating a custom 404 error page can help improve user experience and prevent visitors from leaving your website.