404 errors are often connoted as negative for user experience and SEO. Yet, they are an integral part of the lifecycle of a website. In this article, let’s see in which situations 404 errors can arise in order to define how these not found pages impact SEO.
What is a 404 error?
In computer language, when we talk about 404, it means “not found”. In other words, when you click on a link or type a URL in the bar of your browser, the latter will ask the server if it can display this web page, to which the server responds that this page cannot be found or n does not exist (or no longer). This response from the server to indicate that the page could not be found is done by returning the code 404.
Are 404 errors bad for SEO?
Error pages are a common nuisance on the internet and their impact on SEO depends on the situation and why they are occurring.
Below we’ve outlined some of the situations, from the most critical to the least critical, in which 404 errors occur.
Broken internal links
These cases occur either because a page no longer exists or because the page was incorrectly linked. Broken links not only provide a bad user experience, they compromise the integrity of a website and prevent Google from crawling and crawling its pages.
How to find broken internal links?
Regularly crawl your site using a crawler like Screaming Frog . You can export a list of 404 pages from the “Response Codes” tab or use the “All Inlinks” export to identify 404 pages and their source.
A soft 404 occurs when a page that does not exist returns a status code 200. It’s like ordering a dish from a restaurant menu and being brought an empty plate instead of telling you that there was no longer this dish. Soft 404s are problematic because search engines keep crawling and indexing pages that do not exist when it would be better to allocate those resources to crawling pages that do exist.
How to identify soft 404 pages?
You can find a list of URLs that Google suspects to be Soft 404 pages in Search Console under Cover> Error. You can also crawl in Screaming Frog, filter the pages that return a 200 status code, and then sort them in ascending order of word count.
404s without a custom error page
Error pages generate a bad experience for the user , but you can alleviate a user’s frustration and recover potentially lost traffic by creating a custom 404 page. An effective personalized 404 page will encourage users to explore your site further and help them find what they are looking for. At a minimum, an error page should contain links to other resources on your site, an image of your brand, a clearly stated error message, and an apology for the error.
Dealing with 404 errors is a balancing act. For one thing, too many 404 errors can be a sign of a quality problem with your site. On the other hand, it is impractical and difficult to try to deal with every occurrence of 404 page.
⚠️If the 404 page has obtained quality backlinks or receives a high volume of traffic, the page should be redirected to the page that is most relevant or best serves the user’s intention . If the page is not receiving any traffic or links, it is entirely possible to leave it in 404. However, whether you decide to use a 301 redirect or leave the page in 404, make sure these URLs are removed. of the XML Sitemap .
How do you find your outdated links?
First, take a look at your website Analytics to see which 404 pages are receiving traffic from referring sites. In Google Analytics, you can do this by applying a filter for page titles that contain “page not found” (or any other text used in your error page title tag ).
Use a backlink analysis tool like Ahrefs or Majestic to find which 404 pages are receiving backlinks. Identifying and redirecting those broken links can help your site regain the value of the lost link. This process will allow you to resurrect lost backlinks .
Finally, you can export a list of 404 pages that Google has encountered by going to Cover> Error in your Search Console.
Wrong or incorrectly typed URLs
Often times, the internet user is impatient and their fat fingers typing too fast on their keyboard are the most inevitable cause of 404 error pages. Often, error pages occur because the URL was typed incorrectly. There’s not much you can do about it and it’s best to ignore them and leave them 404.
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