What is a 404 error and how to fix it ?

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A 404 error is one of the http Status codes which is returned by the server whenever a bot visits a page which no more exists either because it was deleted, or moved without redirecting it to the new place.

Does 404 errors affect your Ranking?

No, 404 errors generally don’t impact your sites ranking and even Google recommends that you can safely ignore them. But generally fixing a 404 error adds to your visitor’s user experience. It doesn’t give a nice impression if someone lands on your page which gives a 404 error. So it’s advisable to take care of your 404 errors especially when some external links are linking to that page.

Tell me how to find and fix 404 error

Ok. Let’s start by finding your 404 errors.

Login to your Google webmasters and click the tab on the left with says Crawl and then click crawl errors. You will find a list of URLs with their response code, generally you will see the response code 404.

Click on any of the listed URL and you will get a pop up window. Click on the linked from tab. It’s very important to see from where all your URL is linked. If it’s an internal link coming from your website then you can fix or delete them. If they are coming from an external site then you need to take care of your errors and rectify them.

Now allow me tell you how to fix it.

If the URLs coming from another websites than you need to solve the problem for better user experience. For e.g. if you have changed your old URL (www.example.com/top-10-article) to new one (www.example.com/top-ten-article). Then you can simply 301 redirect your old URL to new one and capture the link juice.

Or if the page is simply removed just because the information is not valid anymore and there is no other page for redirection, you can enhance the user experience by making a custom 404 page.

A word of caution while fixing a 404 error.

Just make sure while redirecting any URL, you are sending user to a relevant page they are looking for rather than just any page for e.g. homepage. If you redirect all 404 pages to irrelevant page such as the homepage, it can be problematic for both user as well as search engines. Such pages are known as soft 404.

How does a 404 error page occur?

  • When you remove the page from your site because that content is either not valid or is not relevant to your market niche.
  • When you change the URL of a website either due to a typo or due to semantics and you don’t 301 redirect them.
  • Other causes of 404 pages may be in the code of your index.php or search.php files. If there’s an error in the code in either file, it may return results with invalid addresses (or it may not return results at all).

Well, you will never likely be able to control every link to your site, or resolve every 404 error messages listed in Webmaster Tools. Instead, check the top-ranking issues, fix those if possible, and then move on.

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