404 Errors that are Killing Your SEO Efforts
In the world of SEO, 404 errors can be a significant obstacle to success. These errors occur when a user attempts to access a page that no longer exists or has been moved to a different location. If left unaddressed, 404 errors can hurt your website’s ranking on search engines and cause frustration for your visitors.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what is 404 errors, the impact of 404 errors SEO, and discuss the ways to fix the errors.
What is a 404 error?
A 404 error occurs when a user requests a page that does not exist on the website’s server. The number “404” refers to the HTTP status code that the server returns to the user’s browser, indicating that the requested page is not found. This can happen for various reasons, such as the page being deleted, moved, or renamed without proper redirects set up.
404 errors on the website can harm your website’s user experience and search engine ranking if not addressed promptly. To prevent them, website owners should regularly monitor their sites for broken links and ensure that redirects are in place for any pages that have been moved or deleted.
Reasons why 404 errors occur?
404 errors occur when a user tries to access a webpage that cannot be found on the server. The following are some reasons why 404 errors occur:
- Incorrect URL
- Broken links
- Server or hosting issues
- Restrictive access controls
- Website redesign or migration
- Malware or hacking attempts
- Content management system issues
Importance of having a website free of 404 errors
Having a website free of 404 errors is important for several reasons.
- 404 errors can harm your website’s user experience by causing frustration for visitors who are unable to access the content they were looking for. This can lead to a high bounce rate and decreased engagement and conversions.
- 404 errors can negatively impact your search engine ranking. When search engines crawl your website and encounter broken links or pages that don’t exist, they may interpret it as a sign of poor website maintenance and may lower your ranking accordingly.
- 404 errors can hurt your website’s credibility and reputation. If users frequently encounter broken links or missing pages, they may perceive your website as outdated or untrustworthy, harming your brand image.
Therefore, it is important to check 404 errors. You should regularly monitor your website for 404 errors and address them promptly by setting up redirects or removing broken links. This can improve your website’s user experience, search engine ranking, and overall credibility.
The Impact of 404 Errors on SEO
The impact of 404 errors SEO can be significant. When search engines crawl your website and encounter 404 errors, they may interpret it as a sign of poor website maintenance and may lower your website’s ranking accordingly.
Page rank decrease
One of the significant consequences of even a soft 404 error results in a loss in page rank. When search engines repeatedly try to access a page that no longer exists, it sends negative signals about the resource, which can result in the page being removed from the index. This is particularly problematic for important pages such as landing pages or product pages, as they won’t be ranked and can result in decreased sales.
Bad user experiences
404 errors SEO can also lead to a bad user experience. Users needing access to the content they are looking for may become frustrated and give up, potentially turning to your competitors. Furthermore, a high bounce rate caused by 404 errors can negatively impact your search engine ranking, as search engines may interpret it as a sign of poor website quality.
Using 404 pages for good
Using 404 status code pages for good is an effective way to help users find the error page or resource they are looking for instead of closing the window or navigating to other sites. This can turn a potentially negative user experience into a positive one.
To make the most of a 404 page, website owners can add links to the page that direct users to other valuable pages on the site. These links could include the homepage, the most popular or valuable product or category pages, some of the most popular blog pages, an HTML sitemap, or a way for users to report a broken link or contact the website owner. Additionally, adding a search bar to the 404 page can help users find what they are looking for more quickly and easily.
By adding these links and features to a 404 page, website owners can improve the user experience for their visitors while reducing the negative impact of soft 404 errors on search engine rankings. This approach shows that the website is well-maintained, user-friendly, and prioritizes the needs of its visitors, which can help improve search engine rankings and overall website performance.
How to Identify 404 Errors on Your Website
Following are the Tools and methods for identifying 404 errors:
- Website crawler tool: Use a website crawler tool such as Screaming Frog or Google Search Console, to crawl your website and identify pages with 404 errors.
- Check your server logs: Check your server logs to identify any requests that returned a 404 status code. This can help you identify the pages that are generating 404 errors.
- Monitor Google Search Console: Google Search Console provides a report on crawl errors, including a list of pages returning a 404 status code. You can use this report to identify the pages on your website generating 404 errors.
- Check your website analytics: Your website analytics can provide information on pages generating 404 errors. Look for pages with high bounce rates or low engagement, as these may generate 404 errors.
- Use a broken link checker tool: Use a broken links checker tool such as Broken Link Checker or Dead Link Checker to identify broken links on your website that generate 404 errors.
How to Fix 404 Errors?
Fixing 404 errors SEO on your website can be challenging since you may need more control over all links that lead to your site. One effective solution is to use redirects, which help to send users from the broken link to the correct resource. The Redirection plugin is a helpful tool for implementing this solution on WordPress.
To use the plugin, install and activate it, then navigate to Settings > 404 error monitoring. From there, you can review any detected issues and fill in the Redirect section with the broken URLs you want to redirect. Next, add the new URLs you want to redirect to in the Destination tab and save your changes.
You can also use these plugins:
- WP 404 Auto Redirect to Similar Post
- Safe Redirect Manager
- Yoast SEO Premium
- Simple 301 Redirects
In conclusion, 404 errors can significantly harm your website’s SEO efforts by causing lost traffic, decreased user experience, and missed opportunities for backlinks. However, with a proactive approach to identifying and fixing these errors, you can improve your website’s search engine rankings, attract more visitors, and enhance your online presence. By regularly monitoring your website for 404 errors SEO and implementing effective solutions, you can avoid these common errors and achieve your SEO goals.