Semalt Digital Expert Explains What 404 Errors Mean For SEO

What causes 404 not found errors? Are they going to hurt my ranking? These questions keep lingering in brand managers' minds when "404 not found" errors come up.

When your page returns 404 errors, the disruptions are threatening to UX (user experience). Every time a visitor gets error 404, he/she is forced to reassess and backtrack, which means leaving your page. For brand managers or digital marketers, the errors cause panic when they get spotted in webmaster tools. To avoid these problems, Michael Brown, the Customer Success Manager of Semalt Digital Services, comprehensively review what 404 errors mean to your SEO and how to eliminate their undesirable influence.

How to find 404 errors?

Utilize Google Webmaster Tools

This is one of the best methods of detecting the errors directly from Google. You only need to log into your webmaster tools, go to Crawl and click Crawl Errors. All the missing URLs will appear on the Not Found Section. You can even check on the graph of the errors over time for better analysis.

Broken link finders

Today, there are many browser extensions and even free websites such as Validator.w3org and Check My Links. These will easily identify broken links in your website.

Using Screaming Frog SEO Spider

Similar to Webmaster Tools, SEO Spider helps you see all the 404 not found errors. Download the application. Install SEO Spider and enter your website, then click Crawl. 404 errors will appear in the Status Code tab. You can also export the report as a .csv file.

What 404 errors mean to SEO and why you need to act promptly?

Google appreciates that 404 not found errors are at times inevitable. Therefore, your website will not be de-indexed or penalized. However, because Google's main focus is delivering quality, your SEO is likely to suffer a lot. As Google bots crawl internal links of your page, you will be marked as a party not interested in delivering better user experience. Over time, Google will stop crawling your pages and traffic will drop drastically.

Marketers should be worried more about the reaction of clients rather than Google bots. To your visitors, the cause of the error does not matter at all, what they are interested in is getting the content they want. Most visitors usually leave to a different website, follow a competitor or exit. This means loss of traffic because the client cannot take the next step toward conversion. As a result, it is always prudent of you identify the errors as soon as possible and fix them in a prompt way.

How to fix 404 not found errors?

When 404 errors occur, it is necessary to facilitate clients' ability to get back to the flow.

Use 301 permanent redirects

If a specific page has been removed or moved, 301 redirects help to link the page to the new one. 301 redirects are good because they do not lose page authority from the previous page.

Utilizing Robots.txt

The robots.txt file is used to tell Google bots that specific pages have been removed and you do not intend them to be crawled. This is a great way to address error 404 when a lot of pages have been removed.

Correcting misspellings on your pages

If you use Webmaster Tools, you can easily identify the pages with broken links. Check these pages closely to establish whether the link is incorrectly spelled and fix them immediately.

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