What is 404 error and how it can affect SEO

What is 404 error and how it can affect SEO


When browsing the internet, it has surely happened to you that you try to access a web page and come across a message that indicates that the content is not available, it may be a problem with the user or the site. We explain what the 404 error is and how it can affect the SEO of your website so that you can prevent it from occurring or solve it quickly. You can join the SEO Forum to get the latest knowledge about 404 or you can consult SEO Services Dubai

Most common types of HTTP 4XX errors

HTTP 4xx errors mainly refer to incorrect requests or errors from clients. Among the most common are the following:

400 Bad request:

The incorrect request error can occur when the URL does not have a valid or correct format, the browser cookies have errors or when the server does not allow the upload of files that exceed a certain weight.

401 Authorization required:

It’s one of the most common mistakes on the list. This error occurs when the user needs authorization to access a web address or any of its resources. That is, in order to gain access you need a user request, or validate a series of credentials using a password.

403 Forbidden:

As the name implies, it is when the request to access a URL has been denied. It is common for this error to be caused by the presence of malware that is affecting the browser or the credentials to access the page. You can get a detailed guide from the best Digital Marketing Expert. 

404 Not Found:

This is the most common HTTP error . This indicates that the web address requested by the user was not found, but it did produce a connection to the server.

It can occur in various situations such as a misspelled URL, wanting to access a page that no longer exists, among others.

406 Not acceptable:

Occurs when the server cannot fulfill the request that has a code. This is a rare mistake.

Headings or codes include those for accepted characters, natural languages, data sets, HTML files, and others.

This type of error is difficult to detect, as there are a large number of status codes. It is very rare for it to occur.

What is 404 error

The 404 error, also called HTTP 404 Not Found, is an HTTP status code that is sent from your website to the browser. It occurs when the host communicates with the server, but the resource that has been requested is not found.

This means that the URL that the user wants to enter does not exist. This HTTP error can occur in different cases. The most common causes of the 404 error are:

Website content deleted

When you make modifications to your website, many times you must change URLs, delete pages, change permanent links and it is common for the source web address to be lost. This results in a 404 Not Found error when a user tries to access the URL.

It can also occur if you modify or delete content that is within the web address.

Incorrect web address entry

When users enter the URL of a page directly in the browser bar, it is common for them to do so incorrectly.

When the web address has an error in its writing, the browser cannot find it since it does not match the original URL. Consequently, it displays a message stating that a 404 error occurred.

That is why we recommend that you inquire about the URL by a search engine. These, even though you have entered the address incorrectly, will show you some alternatives on the results page and the correct URL will surely appear. Contact the SEO Expert for web address error problems.

External page removed

If on your website you have external links, which direct users to a third-party page and this was eliminated, the 404 error will appear.

Server problems

If your website’s web server is faulty or down, it will surely display a 404 error message when trying to access some of the pages on your site.

The message may also appear if there are problems with the internet connection.

How the 404 error can affect SEO

If your website has 404 errors on a recurring basis, different elements of your positioning may be negatively affected.

Search engines like Google and Bing take this error as something negative, especially if a website has many of them. The consequences that this error can have in SEO are:

They detect poor maintenance

Google’s trackers are in charge of scanning and tracking the status of websites. If they detect multiple 404 errors they can deduce that the site is not being properly maintained.

This causes the web to begin to lose positions within the ranking in the search engine results pages.

Negative user experience

One of the most relevant aspects within SEO positioning is the user experience. When a website has many broken links or problems that generate 404 errors, it damages its credibility and also causes people to have a negative browsing experience.

When a user is browsing a website and encounters one or multiple 404 errors, they may not continue their search and may be removed.

It can also happen that a page on your website that is very well positioned ceases to exist for some reason, but its address continues to appear in the search results. Users will click on it and run into the 404 error. They will immediately exit the site and select another option from the results page. This will increase your bounce rate.

Page de-indexing

Google has the ability to detect these types of errors. Search robots perform the crawl repeatedly to make sure that their identification is not an error or that the pages that present it are displayed again as usual.

In case the content does not reappear, the page is de-indexed. This can be a point for or against your positioning, depending on the case.

Facts you should know about 404 errors

Before taking action on 404 errors, there is a series of data that you should know.

  • How many users saw the error and how they reacted. It is important that you know the number of users who have seen the error on your website. In this way you can know the magnitude of the problem and how quickly you should solve it. You should also check if after finding it they left your website or visited another page of it.
  • Where to find it: You must determine the exact location of the 404 error within your site. For this you can use error detection tools. In general, they analyze your website and indicate the URLs that present problems.

Tools to detect 404 error

There are many free and paid tools for detecting HTTP 404 errors . Next, we will name some of them and how they work:

Google Search Console

Google Search Console is one of the most popular free tools to identify problems on your website and in crawling. It helps you in the detection of errors of type 404.

To start using it, you just have to go to search.google.com and sign up. For this you must add the domain or the prefix of the URL and verify the ownership of the domain. This last step can be done using HTML tags, downloading a file and uploading it to the site or by registering a DNS.

Then you must click on verify so that Google begins the data recording of your website. After a while you will be able to review them.

The application will show you a coverage or tracking report where it lists the pages of your website that have 404 errors.

Once you manage to repair the errors, check the report again. It should appear that it was settled.

Screaming frog

It is highly recommended for small or growing websites in its free form. While the paid version of screaming frog has many more functions and is capable of analyzing a greater number of web addresses.

Both versions are very easy to use, you just have to put your URL in the search engine that is located at the top. Then click on “Start” and wait for it to crawl the entire web. Press the “Response Codes” tab and that’s it. A list of pages with errors will appear.

Dead Link Checker

It is an option with a very simple, effective and also very fast operation. It is capable of detecting external and internal pages with the 404 error. You just have to enter the URL in the search engine and click on start inspection. You can analyze one page or several of your website.

The results are shown in the form of a list where the name of the error is mentioned and the URL that presents it to one side.

You can also install plugins in WordPress that will help you, such as Broken Link Checker.

How to resolve 404 errors

Solving 404 errors is not that complicated. Also, you have different options to do it. We will explain the most effective ones.

Page redirection

If you want to avoid a 404 Not Found error, make sure to perform a permanent redirection of the page in case you modify the URL, but keep the content that is inside it.

This type of redirect guides users and Google bots from the old URL to the updated one.

Do not forget that if you do a redirect you must also modify the destination page of the links that lead or come from the deleted web address.

Remove the URL

It is important to review the old content of your website . If you are no longer going to use a URL or its content, you must stop Google from tracking it. Otherwise the reputation of your website could be affected.

To do this, just go to Google Search Console and select the option “URL removal”.

Customizing the error page

Another alternative that can help you reduce the negative effects of 404 error on your website is to customize the page.

When a 404 error is generated, many content management systems, such as WordPress and Joomla, show users a page with a default layout. But these are customizable.

Tips for Responding Page Layout

When designing your own 404 error page, remember that you must ensure that the user:

  1. Don’t leave your website when you find the error.
  2. Keep browsing.
  3. In case you leave the site, don’t get a bad impression of it.

Give the page a nice aesthetic. Add images or a video related to your brand or products. You can even add simple games like Pac-Man or Tetris to ease user frustration.

It is also important that you provide useful alternatives to the user. That is, you can make buttons appear on the page with options such as “Go to the main page”, see other options and other actions that may interest the visitor. Placing these links should be one of the tasks to position your website that you cannot forget to do.

Another alternative that generates a good response from users is that within the 404 error page, you place a search engine. In this way, you prevent visitors from leaving the site and having the option to continue browsing.

By implementing this you can turn a page that generates negative results into a source of benefits for your website. Since users, not having found what they were looking for while taking a good impression of the site. This increases the chances that they will return.

Knowing what the 404 error is and how it can affect SEO is very important, if you have a website and want to make a good impression on users and keep your position on search engine results pages. If you are looking for experts to solve what your website presents, contact us and ask for a quote .

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