Some websites report a “not found” or 404 error when users visit the page. This is because the server could not find what was requested. This is possible when a user attempts to follow a broken or dead link. When a user or search engine gets on to such a page with an irrelevant link, web servers show an HTTP status code of 404 to tell the user that the page doesn’t exist on the server. This is one of the most common errors found on the web, which creates a negative user experience and also have a negative impact on search engines.
What causes 404 errors?
Before knowing how we can improve on these errors, let us first understand the reasons for these error pages. 404 errors can be shown if you have changed your link structure or permalink or if you have removed content from your website. This is also possible if your website has been linked with a spelling mistake or an incorrect link.
How to find 404 errors?
In order to deal with these errors, we must first be able to locate and identify them. There are many ways you can do this.
- You can use the Google Webmaster tools, which is now known as Google Search Console. This is a free service offered by Google to help you monitor and maintain your site’s presence in Google’s search results. You must log in to Google Search console’s tool dashboard and then ‘crawl errors’ and search for the option ‘Not found’. This will show you a list of the 404 error pages found on your blog. Clicking on these links will help you see the ‘linked from’ option that shows where these pages have been linked from.
- You can use Bing Webmaster tools, which a free service is offered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine to allow webmasters to add their websites to the Bing index crawler. You need to go to ‘Reports & Data’ and check for the ‘crawl information’ tab.
- Just like Google and Bing, there is another Yandex Webmaster tool, where you will have to go to: Indexing > excluded pages > HTTP status > Not Found.
How to deal with 404 errors?
Now that you know what causes these 404 errors and you are able to identify these errors on your blog, we can now proceed further on how to deal with them for search engine optimization benefits. Here are a few ways you can deal with them.
- Ask the webmaster to update your link if you find any misspelling or error in the link provided.
- Use 301 to redirect the link to the most relevant blog.
- Use the webmaster removal tool to manually de-index such pages from the web index.
- Use robots.txt to block bots from accessing these pages if you have removed any content from your pages.
- Use a custom 404 page to add elements or blogs that are relevant to the user’s search query. This will improve user experience rather than showing them the useless 404 error page.
If you have too many 404 pages on your blog, it is definitely going to have a negative impact which will bring poor user experience. Make sure to find the cause of such pages on your blog and take proper measures to deal with them