What are 404 Errors: Impact on SEO Ranking and How to Fix?

What are 404 Errors: Impact on SEO Ranking and How to Fix?

404 errors are popularly known as “Page Not Found” errors. These errors occur when a search engine tries to access a URL that doesn’t exist on the server. Page 404 errors not only frustrate your visitors, but they can also have a significant impact on your website's search engine optimization (SEO). Read more to know the impact of 404 not found on SEO ranking and how to fix it.

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Does a 404 Error Hurt SEO Ranking?

Yes, 404 errors can have a direct impact on your website’s SEO. When Google views 404 pages on your website, it terms your page as low-quality content.

This can negatively affect your overall site quality score. This can lead to a decrease in your website’s search rankings.

Additionally, 404 errors can create a poor user experience, which can also have an indirect impact on your SEO. When a user clicks on a broken link and encounters a 404 error, they are likely to leave your website and navigate elsewhere, increasing your website’s bounce rate

In order to know more about the 404 error and its SEO impact, let’s understand what are error 404.

What are 404 Errors?

A 404 error, also known as a “Page Not Found” error, is a common HTTP status code that occurs when a user or search engine tries to access a webpage that doesn’t exist on the website’s server. 

This error indicates that the requested resource is unavailable, often due to a broken link, a deleted page, or a misspelt URL.

Addressing 404 errors is crucial for maintaining a positive user experience and optimising a website’s search engine optimisation (SEO) performance. 

The 404 error can be commonly classified into the following two categories

  • Hard 404
  • Soft 404

Hard 404 vs Soft 404

A hard 404 error is a genuine 404 error where the browser receives an actual 404 HTTP status code from the server. This indicates that the requested resource or webpage is truly not found on the website’s server. This can happen when a website displays a custom “404” or “Page Not Found” message.

A soft 404 error is a more complex version of the traditional 404 error. It occurs when a webpage returns a 200 OK status code (indicating the page was found), but the content on the page suggests that the requested resource is actually missing or not available or have thin content. 

The key distinction is that hard 404 errors clearly communicate to both users and search engines that the page does not exist, while soft 404 errors can be misleading. So beacuse of too much of confusion Google officially discouraged the use of soft 404 because they can be a confusing experience for users and search engines.

How to Find 404 Error on Your Website?

Google Search Console is the recommend tool for identifying not found 404 error pageson your website. It is one of the most reliable and comprehensive platforms for detecting these issues. 

After logging into your Google Search Console account, go to the “Indexing” tab and click on “Pages.”

This will provide you with a detailed report of any web pages on your site that Google has identified as “Not Found” (404 errors). You can then export this data into a spreadsheet for further analysis and prioritisation.

Find 404 Error on Your Website using Google Search Console
Find 404 not found error using Google Search Console

Additionally, regularly monitoring your website’s analytics and setting up alerts for 404 errors can help you stay on top of these issues proactively.

By addressing 404 errors promptly, you can improve your website’s user experience, boost SEO performance, and maintain a strong online presence. 

Why Should You Fix Page “404 Not Found”?

It is the duty of website owners and digital marketers to stay vigilant in maintaining the integrity and performance of online presence.

While Page “404 Not Found” errors may seem like a minor inconvenience, they can have far-reaching consequences for a website’s search engine optimisation (SEO) and user experience.

It is a top priority for any website owner or digital marketer to fix 404 errors that are not found.

404 Page Not Found Impacts SEO Ranking

A 404 Page Not Found error is not just frustrating for users, but it also has the potential to negatively impact a website’s SEO performance.

Search engines, such as Google, place a significant emphasis on providing users with a seamless and reliable browsing experience.

404 Page is also can be the reason of not ranking the website in SGE, as search engines started GEN-AI, they started collecting relevant informations from the website and showing results for Search Generative Experience.

404 Page Not Found Impacts SEO Ranking in Search Generative Experience (SGE)

Fixing the pages helps to maintain the integrity of the website’s internal linking structure. When a user clicks on a broken link, it creates a negative user experience, and search engines may interpret this as a sign that the website is not well-maintained or reliable. 

By addressing these errors, you can ensure that all internal links are functioning correctly, which can improve the overall authority and relevance in the eyes of search engines and increased visibility of the website.

Benefits of an Error-Free Website

Fixing 404 errors can significantly benefit a website in the following ways

1. Improved Credibility and Trust: Users and search engines perceive a website with fewer 404 pages as more reliable and trustworthy. This can help build brand credibility and strengthen the website’s reputation.

2. Enhanced User Experience: When users are able to navigate a website without encountering frustrating errors, they are more likely to engage with the content and stay on the website for longer. This can lead to increased time on site, rise in brand reputation, reduced bounce rates, and improved conversion rates.

3. Increased Search Engine Visibility: As mentioned earlier, addressing 404 errors can positively impact a website’s SEO performance, leading to improved search engine rankings and increased visibility for the website.

4. Reduced Maintenance Overhead: Proactively managing and fixing 404 errors can help to reduce the time and resources required for ongoing website maintenance. By addressing these issues early on, you can prevent them from becoming more complex and time-consuming to resolve in the future.

How to Fix Error 404 Page Not Found?

To address the impact of 404 errors on your SEO, it’s essential to proactively identify and fix them. One of the most effective tools for this is again the Google Search Console.

Three ways to fix error 404 page not found are:

  1. Clear cache
  2. Set up 301 redirect page
  3. Update the site’s permalinks

1. Clear the Cache

One of the simplest methods to address a 404 error is to clear the cache on your device or browser. When you visit a website, your browser stores certain files, such as images, scripts, and stylesheets, in the cache to improve the website’s loading speed during subsequent visits. 

However, this cached data can sometimes become outdated or corrupted, leading to the 404 error. To resolve this issue, You can try the following steps:

1. Refresh the Page: You can start by refreshing the page or window to see if the issue is resolved.

2. Clear the Cache and Cookies: If the issue persists, you should clear your browser’s cache and cookies. The specific steps may vary depending on the browser, but this process typically involves navigating to the browser’s settings or preferences and selecting the option to clear the cache and cookies.

3. Use a Different Browser: If the 404 error still occurs, you can try accessing the website using a different web browser, as the issue may be specific to the user’s browser configuration. 

2. Set Up a 301 Redirect Page

Another effective way to address the “Error 404 Pages” issue is to set up a 301 redirect page. A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect that informs search engines and users that the requested page has been moved to a new location. 

This can be particularly useful when a website has undergone a redesign or restructuring and certain pages have been moved or deleted.

To implement a 301 redirect website, you can follow these steps:

1. Identify the Broken Links: Begin by identifying the broken or outdated links on your website that are causing the 404 errors.

2. Create Redirect Rules: Develop a set of redirect rules that map the broken or outdated URLs to their new, correct locations. This can be done through your website’s content management system (CMS) or by directly editing the website’s .htaccess file (for Apache-based servers) or web.config file (for IIS-based servers).

3. Test the Redirects: Thoroughly test the redirect rules to ensure they are working as intended and that users are being seamlessly redirected to the correct pages.

The third approach to addressing the “Error 404 Page Not Found” issue is to update the site’s permalinks, which are the permanent URLs used to access individual pages or posts on a website. 

Incorrect or outdated permalinks can commonly cause 404 errors, particularly on websites built using content management systems like WordPress.

To update the site’s permalinks, follow these steps:

1. Review the Permalink Structure: Examine the current permalink structure of your website and identify any potential issues or inconsistencies.

2. Modify the Permalink Settings: If necessary, update the permalink settings to a more appropriate structure that aligns with your website’s content and organisation. This can typically be done through the website’s CMS or administrative panel.

3. Implement 301 Redirects: After updating the permalink structure, ensure that you set up 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones to maintain the integrity of your website’s linking structure and avoid further 404 errors.

When fixing 404 errors, it’s also important to implement proper practices for tracking and preventing future occurrences of broken links. This may involve setting up redirects, updating internal links, and regularly monitoring your website for new 404 errors.

How to fix 404 on WordPress?

You can fix 404 on WordPress by using the redirection plugin. You may redirect altered URLs to their new location with the aid of this plugin. Once downloaded and installed, follow these instructions to use it: 

  • Go to settings and then the 404 tabs after installation
  • Tap to review any issues detected
  • Enter the URLs you wish to redirect from in the Redirect area.
  • In the destination tab, enter the new URLs you wish to redirect people to. 
  • Save changes

You can also use these plugins:

  • WP 404 Auto Redirect to Similar Post
  • Rankmath
  • Safe Redirect Manager
  • Yoast SEO

How to Use 404 Errors for Good? 

By redirecting the 404 error page, we can turn the negative user experience into a positive one. This window can redirect your user to some of the following webpage links.

  • Most Popular or Category Page
  • Popular Blog Page
  • Homepage
  • Contact information
404 error page best example, use it for good 
404 Page example

Keep in mind that in order to assist people in finding what they’re searching for, you may also include a search bar on your 404 pages.

Engage with your users by creating a custom 404 page that showcases your brand’s personality and style can help set your website apart from the competition. Rather than presenting users with a generic, impersonal error message, a well-designed custom 404 page can reflect the overall tone and aesthetic of your brand, creating a more engaging and memorable experience for the user.

Beyond just aesthetics, a custom 404 error page can also serve as a valuable tool for retaining users. It can provide them with alternative options to explore, such as the above-mentioned points. This not only helps to keep users engaged, but it also presents them with relevant content that they may be interested in, potentially leading to increase conversions and sales.

Another effective strategy for leveraging a unique 404 page is to include clear contact information. By providing users with a way to reach out to your team, you’re not only demonstrating your commitment to customer service, but you’re also creating an opportunity to turn a negative experience into a positive one. 

Users who are able to easily report a broken link or request assistance are more likely to have a favourable impression of your brand, even in the face of a 404 error.

It is necessary to construct a custom 404 page to be able to use 404 failures efficiently. Giving users a positive and rewarding experience may help you turn a stressful situation into an opportunity to boost customer satisfaction and brand loyalty.

How do you Stay Updated on SEO Ranking and Digital Marketing?

If you are aspiring to master SEO in digital marketing, then let me introduce you to the AI-powered Digital Marketing Course from Digital Scholar. You will learn in detail about the implications of updated SEO & other marketing strategies that will help your website rank at the top of search results.

You can also master your content and copywriting writing with Digital Scholar, which can help you improve your blog writing skills for better SEO positions. After pursuing this course, you will have 24+ globally recognised certifications that will help you grow your career as an SEO expert.

Solving the 404 Errors for Better SEO

To solve the 404 error and improve your website’s SEO, it is crucial to proactively identify and fix these broken links. By utilising tools like Google Search Console, implementing 301 redirects, updating internal links, and continuously monitoring for new 404 errors, you can effectively address the impact of 404 errors on your SEO rankings. 

Remember, a well-optimised website with minimal errors can lead to a significant increase in organic traffic and improved user experience, ultimately driving better search engine visibility and higher conversion rates. Take the necessary steps to solve the 404 error and watch your SEO performance soar.

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Written By
Digital Scholar

Digital Scholar is a premier agency-styled digital marketing institute in India. Which offers an online digital marketing course and a free digital marketing course worldwide to elevate their digital skills and become industry experts. Digital Scholar is headed by Sorav Jain and co-founder Rishi Jain, who are pioneers in the field of digital marketing. Digital Scholar’s blogs touch upon numerous aspects of digital marketing and help you get intensive ideas of different domains of digital marketing.

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