What is a 404 Error?
A 404 error message -“file not found” – is an HTTP status code indicating that a server couldn’t find a particular requested page. This error can occur for a variety of reasons:
– a user types in an incorrect version of a URL
– an external link to the page contains a typo or misspelling
– the original post has been deleted
– URL structure on your site has been changed
– the web page has been moved and not redirected
to name just a few. Too many 404 errors can cause a negative user experience along with wasting search engine bandwidth on crawling non-existent pages.
One option for addressing the error is to create a custom 404 error page for users. There are countless examples of creative 404 error pages, Live Nation’s is shown below, that inform the user that the url they supplied can not be found. The custom 404 page can contain a message informing the user the url can’t be found, a search box for the user to find the correct page, a link to the site’s home page, etc. It should be as informative as possible and allow the user the best options for finding the desired url.
Once a custom 404 error page is completed, it’s time to address the pages returning the 404 error for search engine purposes.
404 errors are a normal part of a website – pages get deleted, moved, new content is created, etc. If a page needs to be deleted from a site, it should return a 404 error after it is removed. This lets the search engines know that the specific url can’t be found. If the content is being completely be removed/deleted from the site, it is fine to let it 404. If the content is being moved to a different url or relevant content can be found at a different url, a 301 redirect should be implemented to the new url.
The layouts are easy to read and fairly similar. Use the information found here to identify which urls are returning 404 errors. You can then analyze which of these are ok to return a 404 error and which ones should be 301 redirected to an alternative url.
Following these suggestions will help both the users’ experience and the search engines efficiently find the correct information on your sites.