” 404. That’s an error. ” The requested URL was not found in this server” this is the message that appears on your visitors’ screen when the requested page does not exist or no longer exists. This is an error that frequently occurs on websites. 404 errors may have little impact on your website, but it is recommended that you fix them. Indeed, you must know how frustrating it is for the Internet user to come across such a message. In addition, indirectly, they can be harmful to the natural referencing of your site.
What Is A 404 Error?
It should be noted that there are several error codes to name only 401, 403, 500, etc. They all lead to the same result: the page concerned is not displayed. On the other hand, the problem’s origin may differ depending on the Code. The HTTP 404 error is displayed when the server cannot find the requested web page. The message ” 404 not found ” or a similar wording thus means that the page sought cannot be found because it does not exist or no longer exists on the server.
Possible Causes Of A 404 Error
- The appearance of a 404 error message can have several explanations:
- The URL address entered by the user is incorrect
- The requested page has been deleted or does not exist
- Page URL has changed
- A plugin that no longer works correctly following a modification
- The page is under maintenance or is temporarily unavailable
- The page has been moved without any redirect etc
The Impact Of 404 Errors On Your Website
404 errors negatively impacts the user experience of your visitors. Imagine yourself browsing a site. You think you have found the solution to your problem or the answer to your questions there. You decide to click on the link, but the page does not display. You get a 404 error message. How would you feel? What opinion would you have of the site in question? Clearly, for the Internet user, the error pages discredit a website. It is interpreted as a lack of seriousness.
It is thus the image of the company that suffers. It then becomes difficult to gain the trust of prospects. Yet it is an essential factor in the purchase decision. You risk losing sales. In addition, error pages waste your visitors’ time. If they encounter them too often, they will leave your site to go to the competitors. Even if, according to Google, 404 errors are not penalized, they can have harmful consequences on the natural referencing of your site.
Indeed, the main objective of Google is to satisfy its users. In other words, the search engine attaches great importance to the user experience of Internet users. It measures their satisfaction through various indicators, including bounce rate and visit time. The fact is that too many 404 errors cause your visitors to leave your site. Google may misinterpret this. He will conclude. The same is true if a user clicks on a result that directs them to a page that no longer works.
This will undoubtedly impact the ranking of your pages in search results and, ultimately, the SEO of the site. In addition, it should not be forgotten that the links which lead to the pages concerned are not necessarily internal. They may be on other sites. These backlinks count a lot for the natural referencing of your site. They improve its popularity and represent an attractive source of traffic. Having external links pointing to a 404 page is a waste. You lose the benefit they bring to your natural referencing. Hence the importance of correcting 404 errors.
Correcting 404 Errors
To be able to repair the 404 error pages, it is necessary to detect them beforehand. That is to say. We must identify the links that point to them. This is first to identify the internal links that no longer work. For this, you can use Xenu software. It is a powerful and free tool for finding pages not found on your site.
The Google search console also offers the possibility of identifying 404 errors. As for broken inbound links, it is possible to spot them using Ahrefs. This tool has a feature to detect external sites that link to a page on your site that does not exist or no longer exists. You have several options for fixing your 404 error pages.
Fix Broken Links
This is the best solution if you want to keep the page concerned. Concretely, it is a question of correcting the error which interferes with the URL which points towards it. To do this, identify the erroneous link and then rectify it. Please note that only the site administrator can make this change. If the defective link is of external origin, you will have to ask the owner of the site in question to kindly correct it.
Provide A Redirect
This solution is recommended if:
- the page still exists, but its URL has changed,
- the page no longer exists, but you want to redirect visitors to another with similar content.
Above all, do not make the mistake of systematically redirecting all 404 error pages. Redirects should be thoughtful and follow a certain logic. Otherwise, you risk complicating the usability of your site and damaging its natural referencing.
Should Error Code 404 Be Changed To 410?
Most SEOs often recommend this solution. It applies to 404 error pages that cannot be repaired or redirected. Indeed, the 404 Code indicates that the server cannot find a page but does not mean it no longer exists. It may be temporarily unavailable, or under maintenance, then it will be accessible again. On the other hand, error Code 410 means that a page has been permanently deleted. That is to say, it no longer exists.
Common sense dictates that 404 error pages that cannot be repaired or redirected should be changed to 410. However, this action is not mandatory. It does not affect the natural referencing of your site. It is quite possible not to apply it. Experts think that it is better to concentrate the efforts on something else. This white paper helps to distinguish better the most impactful actions for the SEO of your e-commerce.
Beware Of Links That Point To Redirects Or 410 Pages
Whatever the solution used, always correct the links that point to the redirects, and the pages passed in 410. Indeed, the correction of the old URL was often omitted when setting up a 301 redirect. As a result, visitors and search engines are taken to the defective link before reaching the new URL.
Which wastes their time and prolongs the loading speed of the site. As you will have understood, if you do not make any effort to repair the links that point to redirects or 410 pages, your visitors risk going through a long succession of redirects before landing on the correct URL.
Customize 404 Pages
Your users feel confused and disoriented when they land on a 404 error page. To reassure them and alleviate their frustration, it is advisable to customize the display of the 404 error Code. The idea is to present a more welcoming message in the company’s image, to try to transform the confusion linked to the 404 error into a positive experience, and at the same time, invite your visitors to continue their navigation on the site. Customizing 404 error pages builds credibility for your site. It conveys the image of a company that cares about details and its users.