Does this sound familiar: You’re navigating a certain website, trying to find information on something and you click on a link to get more details on it. Instead of being redirected to a new page, you land on an error page, telling you that the content you need does not exist. Frustrating, no?
In such instanced, you’ve ran on to a broken link. The broken links take visitors to a “404 error not found” page instead of the page they wanted. This can happen for several reasons; maybe the page doesn’t exist anymore, the site was migrated to a new domain, or the URL might have changed.
It’s highly important to check and replace broken links for the better of your website. 404 errors can seriously harm your brand and the SEO process since the search engine crawlers will have a hard time crawling on it.
This is why it’s essential to find and fix 404 errors.
This guide will cover all you need to know about 404s, what negative impact they bring on your brand, how to locate them, and how to get rid of them.
What Is a 404 Error?
This 404 error is basically a code telling you that the page you’re looking for does not exist. Every page you load on the browser has a response status code in the HTTP header that you can’t see. There are several kinds of responses and they are categorized as:
- 100-199 – Informational responses
- 200-299 – Success responses
- 300-399 – Redirects
- 400-499 – Client errors
- 500-599 – Server errors
The 404 error, also called the HTTP 404, is a client error that we all mostly come across.
Hard 404 and Soft 404 Errors
There are two types of 404 errors you should know about.
There’s a high chance that you’ve already seen a 404 request fix while browsing at some point. But the soft 404 error can only be seen when you get notified by Google Search Console. This error prompt comes when a non-existent page of your site shows a “not found” message to the viewers while returning a 200 OK status to the search engine.
Since the search engines are told that there is a page at that particular URL, their crawlers will consequently get to work, trying to crawl and rank the URL, but all in vain.
Of all the search engines, Google happens to be the smartest in identifying these false pages. So, when it finds a page giving a 200 OK status, having all the characteristics of a page that should return a 404 code, it automatically puts the 404 error on it and notifies the owner through the Google Search Console.
Apart from the 404 not found, there are several other common HTTP errors as well. These are as follows:
- 400 – Bad request
- 401 – Authorization Required
- 403 – Forbidden
- 408 – Request Time out
- 410 – Gone
- 500 – Internal Server Error
- 502 – Bad Gateway
- 503 – Service Temporarily Unavailable
- 504 – Gateway Time Out
The Causes of 404 Errors
Now that we’ve established what 404 errors are, let’s now jump towards the causes of this. There can be a plethora of reasons for why your site is returning the 404 error.
For instance, it can happen if you’ve removed a page from the site without redirecting the URL, or if you’ve recently transferred your domain and you forgot to redirect all the previous URLs to the new site.
Other times, 404 errors occur when the URL of a page is changed. If you change any part of the URL, whether the category name or the page’s slug, the 404 error will pop up.
Another cause of a broken link is mistyping the URL in an internal link.
How Are 404 Errors Bad For Websites
If your website is showing a lot of 404 errors, you’re in for some trouble!
See it from the user’s perspective. If you continuously run into 404 errors while navigating on a website, you’ll term it as a horrible user experience, and you’ll bounce away very quickly.
In these competitive times, even one 404 error can be sufficient for sending the user away. As a business owner, losing this one customer can be very harmful for you. What’s even worse is the fact that 404 errors can also negatively affect your rankings.
In essence, 404 errors aren’t a direct ranking fact. Google won’t penalize you for having 404 errors. But, as mentioned in the start of this article, they harm your SEO. This is because the more broken links your site has, Google crawlers and other search engines will have a hard time on your site. Link juice and link equity will also fail to pass around your site properly. All these issues can cause a significant drop in the rankings.
Furthermore, since users won’t be having a good experience after landing on several 404 error pages, you’re going to see a higher bounce rate. Google may not directly penalize you on having 404 errors, but it will definitely catch you if your site is showing a rising bounce rate.
Finding These Errors
We’ve talked in detail about what 404 errors are, and how they impact your website. Let’s now shed light on how to find them.
You can find various site crawler tools that will help you find broken links leading to 404 errors. These site crawlers won’t provide you a comprehensive list of 404 errors, but they can show you all the broken links.
However, you can find every 404 error on your site on Google Search Console. The search console will show you a list of every 404 error the bot finds on your site, whether it’s the hard 404 error or the soft 404.
4 Ways To Fix These Errors
Let’s now get to the real part – how to fix these errors.
There are 4 easy to ways to do this:
- Redirect the 404 Error: The easiest and most effective way is to redirect the user to another relevant page. However, you need to ensure that you’re only redirecting them to a relevant page that provides value to the user.
- Restoring The Page: If the page you deleted has a lot of demand, and there’s no other alternate page that can cater to the users, you need to restore the previous page.
- Fix The Link: Your website probably has broken links. If so, you can just edit the link so that it points to the correct URL. That said, you must know that you can’t fix links on website that you don’t control.
- Create the 404 Page: Creating a custom 404 error page will ensure no visit goes wasted. But, if you have a lot of 404 errors and they are on major pages, you need to fix them immediately. Prioritize the important pages like contact pages, service pages, or the product pages.
Fixing 404 Errors On a WordPress Site
WordPress sites are often the easiest to manage. You can use the same points mentioned above to fix 404 errors if you have a WordPress site.
At times you’ll notice errors throughout the website. 404 errors happens site-wide when there’s an issue with permalinks. If this occurs, head to “settings”, then permalinks to update the settings. Proceed by clicking “Save Changes” at the bottom of the page.
If a particular page is showing 404 error, you should ideally set up the 301 redirect for these pages. WordPress often does this on its own, but sometimes you’ll have to do it.
You can also ease this process by getting the Yoast Premium tool or installing the Redirection Plugin. With this redirection plugin, you can conveniently redirect any URL on your WordPress site. Enter the URL you need to redirect in the source URL field and put the page you need to redirect in the Target URL field.
Once done, click “Add Redirect”. However, if you feel all of this is difficult, and you’re not willing to take the risk of doing it on your own, it might be best to get it done from an expert web developer. You can connect with SEOhub to have the most experienced developers work on your site.
Apart from this, there are several other amazing tools for WordPress websites. These are:
- W3C Link Checker
- Broken Link Checker
- WP Broken Link Status Checker
- Permalink Finder Plugin
It’s great to have a digital presence for your business in these times. However, having a website requires frequent maintenance and work. 404 errors are inevitable. But you don’t have to worry about it, just make sure you do the needful to fix these errors so that they don’t damage your site’s user experience and rankings.
Leverage all the methods mentioned above and the tools to run checks and find these errors. If you find this task complicated, don’t hesitate in contacting us at any time of the day or week. Here at SEOHUB, we’re always up and available to assist you!