404 Errors – What Do They Mean For SEO?

A 404 Not Found error can be a terrible disruption to user experience, particularly when it is not customized to reflect the brand of the website you are trying to navigate. Because visitors are forced to backtrack and reassess which page to visit next. Often, users simply leave.

What_Is_A_404_Error_Page _Not_Found_Notification

For website managers, these errors can cause panic when they appear in Webmaster Tools.

WHAT CAUSES THESE ERRORS? WILL IT HURT MY SITE’S RANKING ABILITY?

These are common questions that race through someone’s mind when they discover a portfolio of 404 errors.

Fortunately, these missing 404 pages are not as difficult to fix as they may seem, but it is important to understand what causes them and what they mean.

WHAT DO 404 ERRORS MEAN FOR SEO?

When a page URL no longer exists or is renamed, any links directing to the original URL will return a 404 Not Found error.

There are common instances that may result in a significant number of 404 errors. These include:

  • Website redesigns
  • Product pages that have been altered, removed or discontinued a which results in changing or deleting
  • Spelling errors within links a whether internal or external
  • Shifting a website or page from HTTP to https (or vice-versa)

HOW DO 404 ERRORS IMPACT SEO?

Google is forgiving when it comes to 404 errors. It will not deindex a website due to these errors, and probably will not even directly decrease rankings.

404 errors are inevitable, and Google understands that. However, it’s important to remember that Google’s main priority in organic search is to deliver quality results.

As we point out in our SEO Guide for Beginners, Google bots crawl a website through its internal links. If it continually finds links to non-existant pages on a site, Google will eventually piece together that the website’s owner is not concerned with maintaining a healthy user experience.

If Google can’t crawl your website, it simply won’t. And your website will likely suffer from a lack in traffic and have a big technical SEO impact.

WHAT DO 404 ERRORS MEAN FOR USER EXPERIENCE

As a website manager, you should be more concerned with the reaction humans have to 404 errors, because it is often a much harsher response than Google’s.

The cause of a 404 error does not matter to visitors.

When a user experience is disrupted, particularly by an uncustomized 404 error, it reflects poorly on the website and brand.

As mentioned earlier, many visitors will leave the website to find another source of information, products, or services instead of 404s.

REVIEW OF 404 ERRORS

404 Errors will happen, even if they are not your fault. They can potentially be bad for SEO and even worse for user experience, but we, fortunately, have many tools out there to identify and remove 404 errors from your website. This will make it easier for Google to crawl your website, and it will help visitors navigate more smoothly.

WHAT CAN I ACTUALLY DO ABOUT 404s?

As important as it is to understand why 404 errors happen, sometimes website owners are in need of actions that will allow them to get working to fix the problem. If this applies to you, you can go to the second part of this series, 404 Errors – How to Find and Fix or click the button below to download a comprehensive guide on 404s.