They are everywhere, and it would be hard to find a single person that has never encountered a 404 error.
404 errors are the most common error codes people will encounter while searching through pages on any website. Most people may not even realize what they are. This can lead to them brushing the error off and looking for answers elsewhere.
What Are 404 Errors
404 errors are an HTTP internet response code that occurs when attempting to access a URL that doesn’t have anything assigned to it. To put it simply, 404 errors occur when accessing a page or content with an invalid address.
When you come across a 404 error on a website, you will likely see the words “page not found” or “Error 404.”
What Can Trigger A 404 Error
Typing in a page URL wrong is a very common way people trigger 404 errors. There are also other reasons why you may be seeing a 404 error. The page or content you are attempting to access might have been deleted, or its URL address might have been changed.
Another possible reason you may see a 404 error is that the server a website is hosted on may be down. They may also be having problems with their DNS; Domain Name System. If this is the case, time may fix the error.
It is also possible to receive a 404 error when clicking on a “dead link.” Dead links are links that go to a resource unassigned to a URL, resulting in a 404 response code.
Internal and external links can lead to 404 errors, and website owners should be aware of any dead links on their websites because search engines like Google are known to penalize websites with dead links.
How Do 404 Errors Affect Your Website’s SEO
Search engines like Google reward websites that provide a good user experience with higher positions in search results. This means that every link on your website should work, and ideally, your entire website should link to no 404 errors.
Incoming 404 errors to your website from other websites can be challenging to detect and even more difficult to fix. However, Google is more lenient with 404 errors linking to your website from other websites. This is because there is very little you can do to prevent a 404 error from an outbound link on another website.
Google and other search engines may be more lenient with incoming 404 links, but they are also harsher on outgoing and broken internal links. The links you can control are more important to Google’s ranking algorithm when giving a score to websites to decide their order in search results. They also prevent crawl bots from navigating the correct pages of your website.
Broken internal links and outgoing links can be frustrating for users trying to find specific pages or information on your website, and it is clear why Google penalizes them so heavily.
You should make it part of your monthly SEO routine to scan your entire website’s outgoing links for 404 errors and make an effort to reduce the number of them to zero.
Related: Pages every website should have
How Redirects And Page Authority Are Affected By 404 Errors
Sometimes you need to change a page’s URL or merge the content of several pages resulting in one or more pages getting deleted. Once the change has been made, creating a redirect from the old URL to the new one is often overlooked and forgotten.
By setting up a 301 redirect, all traffic from the previous URL will go to the new URL. This also allows any “backlink juice,” referred to as link authority, to transfer to the new URL.
When you forget to add a redirect from deleted old pages, the penalty from Google may be minimal to none, but if the old link has built some authority, a redirect will allow you to keep any backlink authority it may have built.
Related: How to properly use URL Redirects
How To Fix 404 Errors And Improve SEO
Outgoing and internal 404 errors are much easier to fix because they are on your website. The first step to fixing 404 errors is finding them, and thankfully there are many tools you can use to detect 404 errors on your website.
This deadlink checker tool is a great free tool you can use to scan either an entire website or just a single page for dead links. Within seconds this tool can scan your entire website for 404 errors and give you a list, including the source and target of each 404 error.
If you have built your website using WordPress, fixing 404 errors is very easy.
You can install and activate any redirection plugin to redirect users from your old URLs to your new ones. Additionally, you can use a plugin to automatically redirect 404 errors without redirects to your website’s homepage. In combination, you can rest assured that your website visitors will never encounter a 404 error on your website.
Using Other Website’s 404 Errors As Backlink Opportunities
SEO experts and website developers understand that having 404 errors is bad for a website’s organic search rankings. Over time some 404 errors are bound to happen. This can be due to websites updating their content, domains expiring, pages getting deleted, or code breaks.
Finding broken links on other websites presents a massive opportunity for your business to gain domain authority.
You can use email scrapping tools like hunter.io to find the contact information of someone involved with the website. Reach out to them about their broken link and send them a pre-written and pre-linked text excerpt. They can copy and paste the excerpt on their site and you can benefit from a new backlink. While they benefit from no longer sending users to a 404 error.
This is an excellent SEO link-building tactic to take advantage of 404 errors on other websites in your industry. This can help you establish yourself as an industry expert.
To learn more about how 404 errors affect your website’s SEO, check out the rest of our website. If you want to get started with advanced SEO tactics, get in touch with our team of SEO experts or website designers today!!