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How To Deal with 404 Errors

If you regularly use Search Console to check the technical health of your website, you’re probably familiar with the Crawl Errors report. This is where Google lets you in on all the 404’s they’ve found. If you’re all “CRAWL ERROR REPORT?!” check this out. If you’re all “404 ERRORS?!” read this. If you’re already picking up what I’m putting down, keep reading!

Vincent Vega cannot find the page he was looking for. For shame!

via GIPHY

Why Fix 404 Errors

Link Juice – You may have valuable links going to a page that is a 404 on your website – as this infographic indicates, 404s do not pass link juice, so you are missing out on the authority that comes from those links

Usability – While using a 404 page will go a long way to make 404s on your website user friendly, too many 404s can frustrate a user & reduce your credibility with a potential client

Bots – bots have to visit a lot of websites and have a limited amount of time to crawl your website. If the bot keeps running into 404 errors they cannot pass through, they may miss out on indexing important content on your website

Internal vs. External 404s

External 404: The bot has crawled to the missing page from a link on another domain. This can happen for several reasons:

  • you deleted the page without a 301 redirect
  • there is a typo in the link on the other site
  • you have moved domain and the folder structure or slug has changed on your new site

Internal 404: This is the most common, the bot has arrived at the missing page because of a link on the same domain, either from another page, navigation, sitemap, or hidden in the code.

Regular vs. Soft 404s

Regular 404: This is when your website serves a 404 page (either custom or server standard) AND the header response code of that page is a proper 404.

Soft 404: This is when your website serves a 404 page – usually custom – but the header response code is 200 Success. The bot can tell the discrepancy between the content on the page – indicating a 404 error – and the header response code

Do 404s Hurt Your Site???

YES AND NO!

The internet is constantly changing and getting rid of old content is part of that process. When old content dies, it is the best practice to either have the page return a proper 404 code, or 301 redirect to appropriate content.

  • A 404 is appropriate when the content is gone forever and there is no link equity associated with the page. The URL will eventually be de-indexed
  • A 301 redirect is appropriate when there is link equity associated with the page or the user experience would be negatively affected by a 404 – for example, the page has moved somewhere else in the website structure

404’s will hurt your site in two main ways

  1. There are too many 404s and the bot doesn’t get a chance to index the whole site, leaving important content out of the index. 🙁
  2. There are baller links going to a piece of content that is now a 404, so link juice is lost 🙁

How to Fix 404s

Lets start out with this disclaimer direct from the Google:

If you see 404s reported in Webmaster Tools for URLs that don’t exist on your site, you can safely ignore them.

these may have been created for a variety of reasons but mostly:

  • Configuration/Misconfiguration of CMS – WordPress, our CMS of choice here, is notorious for automatically generating URLs – for images, plug ins etc. – Google knows this. Give these links a quick look to see if it’s due to a broken image etc. but if it doesn’t appear to be a discoverable issue, it is safe to ignore.
  • Scraper – Google understands that site owners don’t have control over scrapers – see something like this: http://www.example.com/images/kittens.jpg” width=”100″ height=”300″ alt=”kittens”/></a…? Safe to ignore.
  • The Bot is Excited  – Sometimes the bot will try really hard to crawl Javascript or other embedded content, or is doing a quick check from their side to see how your server handles unknown URLs. This generates nonsense URLs as 404s that can be ignored.

YOU HAVE 404s ON REAL PAGES? Here are some possible reasons.

Misspellings – This can result in both internal and external 404s. You can

  • Ask the site linking to you to correct the spelling in their link
  • Correct the spelling in your internal linkings
  • PRO TIP – if your page went live with a spelling error, which you now have to fix, 301 the misspelt URL to the corrected one, as people may have saved the old URL or other sites may be linking to it

Moved content/301s: Did you update the internal folder structure of your site?

  • Depending on how internal links work on your CMS you may be linking to the old URL internally off other pages
  • PRO TIP – check the <~*~>cOdE</~*~>
  • Other sites may be linking to your content by the old URL – 301!

You got rid of the page: SUCCESS – let it ride until Google de-indexes it.

 

Got anymore 404 PRO TIPS? Leave us a ~comment~!