404 SEO Practices: Page Not Found Issue Solved
If you have been surfing the web for a while, then you definitely came across the 404 Page Not Found Error.
Now as a user, it can be quite disturbing to click on a page and see this error, but users can simply move on to a similar page from another website.
This right there, negatively affects the website’s SEO and webmasters must solve this issue quickly.
To all website administrators, SEO enthusiasts, and our dear clients, this post will explain to you what 404 Errors are and why fixing them is important for best SEO practices as well as how to solve this 404 SEO error .
What is a 404 Not Found Error?
A 404 Not Found Error is the most common HTTP error that people see while using browsing on the internet.
It is sometimes called HTTP 404, Header Response Code, HTTP Status Code or Crawl Error.
It means that the page you are trying to access does not exist. Therefore, the server displays this Page Not Found (see image) because it could not find the requested URL.
What Is A Soft 404?
A soft 404 error means that a page doesn’t return a 404 response code, but the spiders or crawlers from Search engines like Googlebots or Bingbots believe that the page does have an error and should be returned to the status code 404, even though the webmaster had sent a status 200 for the particular page (meaning the page exists or is fixed)
Common Reasons 404 Errors Appear
Some common reasons 404 error codes may occur include:
- The website no longer has the content.
- Content has been moved to another URL
- The site’s server is nor running properly
- No connection between the website and the server.
- The DNS cannot convert the requested domain name into an IP address.
- The domain name no longer exists.
- The user typed the URL incorrectly.
404 SEO: Does it Harm your Ranking?
There is a bit of a debate on whether 404 Errors harm your site’s SEO or not.
Here is why SEO Specialists argue that they are harmful:
- 404 not found represents an error on your website.
- Too many 404 Page not found errors on your website will increase the error rate and spiders will notice that the error rate on your site is high.
- A user that comes across a page not found error is not likely to return to that website, because your website failed to deliver and the user is irritated.
- Linking to non-existent pages does not help your website’s SEO.
However, whether these 404 SEO errors are harmful or not, they are bound to occur, but they are easily fixed and our SEO Company will show you how simple it is.
Why is the Page Not Found Error Considered Normal by Some SEO Experts?
Other SEO Experts argue that 404 errors are a normal part of the web dynamic. With the presence of so many pages, they are bound to occur.
Their presence can even be beneficial for your site’s SEO. We will show you some good 404 SEO practices below.
Besides, sometimes users type in a URL that does not exist. This is not the webmaster’s fault and it is not an error within the website.
Plus, this error informs user’s that the page does not exist anymore and Search engines will eventually remove it from their index.
Using the 404 Page Not Found Errors To Your Advantage
Since users have a terrible experience when they see that the page they requested is not found, you should fix them and actually take advantage of these pages and take this negative user experience and turn it into a positive one.
You can redirect these pages to:
- Your most popular (but relevant) blog post.
- A valuable product or category.
- A Contact page or form so users can report that error to you and you can show them that you care.
- An HTML Sitemap.
You know what else you can do?
You can add a ”Search” option to these page, it is a great 404 SEO strategy. This way, users might search your website for relevant pages or other topics they want to explore.
Major SEO 404 Mistake You Should Avoid
Yes you can use the 404 Page Not Found Errors to your advantage, but DO NOT CONSTANTLY LINK TO HOMEPGAE.
- You will confuse users because they ended up on your homepage when that is not what they requested.
- Users won’t have access to the information they were promised and won’t know why.
- Your homepage could be completely irrelevant of the page they initially requested.
- Too many 404 page redirects to your homepage might cause search engines to think that your Homepage is a soft 404 error.
How to Find & Fix SEO 404 Errors
There are several ways for webmasters to identify non-existent pages and fix them.
Identify Using a SEO Software
There are many SEO software that can help you identify all kinds of errors on your website, including 404 errors. You can use Google Search Console, cognitiveSEO Site Explorer, Screaming Frog SEO Spider and many more. It is also important that you identify not only your internal links, but also external links and even backlinks.
After identifying the 404 page, it is time to fix it. This is mostly done by redirecting (301 Permanent Redirection) it to another page. Whether this page is another page or it is simply the same page but with the new URL. There are many plugins and SEO Tools you can use for this purpose. We can mention RankMath on WordPress, it is very easy to use and has a free version.
Manually Change the Links
Now that you have redirected the 404 page URL into a new one. It is time to manually check other pages if they have linked to this broken page and change the URL From that page. Screaming Frog Spider SEO is the best tool for this.
404 SEO: A Conclusion
To cut it short, in our opinion, 404 not found errors can be harmful for your site’s SEO, if you let them accumulate or if you do not solve them or use them to your advantage or even if you solve them in a wrong way.
Just remember that search engine bots always find a pattern so if you are using spammy techniques thinking you are taking advantage of 404 pages, spiders will detect that. This is why you should not always link to you homepage.
Remember that the broken links do not only exist within your website, but they can also be outbound links or backlinks. This is why monitoring 404 Page Not Found Errors is a continuous process.