In practically every project I work on, I find that almost all of them link to pages with response errors. That is, the page to which a link points is not correct .
There are also cases in which, despite the fact that the links no longer exist, Google has not de-indexed them and continues to make requests to old URLs, which causes our page to be devalued at the SEO level.
Are you facing any of these problems? Do you need me to give you a cable to know where to pull?
In this post you will learn what the status or response codes are, what they are used for, as well as delve into the process of correcting 404 not found errors.
Why is the 404 an error?
The 404 error is a status code that is sent from the web server to the browser, that is, to the user who tried to enter that page. Basically, what this error indicates is that it is a broken , faulty or no longer existing link and therefore it is not possible to navigate through it.
Consequences of the 404 error for our website
If our website has one or more links with the 404 error, it can be negatively affected both in the positioning that Google gives it and in the reputation, image and credibility it offers to users. These are the main negative consequences of this error:
- If Google’s crawlers detect many errors of this type (HTPP 404) they interpret that the page is not being sufficiently reviewed and cared for and that, therefore, its maintenance is poor.
- It also negatively influences the PageRank of the page.
- It implies a negative experience for the visitors of the web.
- In the face of people who try to visit our page, it means a loss of credibility and trust , something especially negative in, for example, online stores, since it means losing possible sales.
What are status codes?
Status codes or response codes are numbers that a server returns when we try to connect to a website .
That is, if I want to connect to the Curtis Times website, when accessing the URL, a request will first be made to the server where the website is hosted, and depending on the status, the server will return one response or another.
The most common response codes are:
- 200: the page to be accessed is successfully returned.
- 301: permanent redirect. It is used to indicate that you have changed a URL content.
- 302: temporary redirect. It is used when pages are temporarily removed from a website.
- 403: access prohibited.
- 404: page not found.
- 410: The page no longer exists. With this response code, search engines de-index the page.
- 500: Those in this range are bugs directly from the server, so we should talk to our hosting provider normally.
What is 404 not found error and how does it affect SEO?
As I just mentioned, when we try to access a page on a website and it returns a 404 not found response code, it means that the page has not been found.
What this does is that in case of having internal links pointing to pages that are not found, we will lose time tracking the Google bot.
But, not only that, we will also generate less trust in the face of users.
That is, we will harm our EAT and our Crawlbudget .
If we have many of these errors, the SEO of our website can be greatly affected. And that, nothing cool.
Translating the acronym stands for Experience, Authority and Trust .
If we have links that point to pages that cannot be found, either because the URLs have been modified, or because they were deleted, we are getting worse for Google, since we do not generate a good user experience and we will damage authority and trust from our website.
If we have many internal links or if there are many pages that Google crawls and they return a 404 response code, we will be wasting crawling time that Google could focus on pages that we really want to rank for.
That is why it is very important to avoid Google crawling more pages than necessary at all costs.
At the link juice level, it also represents a problem if we have internal links to these pages, since we will lose link strength on error pages.
How 404 not found errors are detected
There are many ways to detect 404 not found errors or to check if a page returns this type of response.
From browser extensions to payment tools. But today I’m going to show you the methods that I use the most personally.
If within a web with the Chrome browser, we click anywhere on the web, with the right button and we are going to inspect , we will access the code viewer of this.
Then we go to the Network tab and reload the page.
From here we will see all the requests made by the web when it is loaded in cascade, but the one that interests us is the first request… there we will be able to see the response code of the page.
This methodology is mainly useful when we want to do individual page checks. For example, a page shows a 404, but the response status is 200 (and vice versa).
In Search Console from the Coverage section or in the new Tracking functionality, we can detect those pages that give a 404 response.
Using this tool helps us to identify all those URLs to which Google makes requests, whether they are linked or not, so depending on the position we choose one solution or another.
Screaming Frog SEO Spider
Screaming Frog is a paid tool that is used to crawl websites and detect errors mainly at the SEO level .
Among these errors are the 400 errors, where we will see that almost all are 404, although it is possible that you will find some 403 as well.
It is very useful to correct all internal links on our website that point to these types of links .
How to fix error 404
Depending on the type of error, we will have to choose one solution or another, but first of all, we must be very aware that it is not advisable to return a 200 response if the page is a 404, or the opposite.
Both options would continue to devalue our SEO for what was mentioned in previous points.
With internal links
If we have internal links pointing to these URLs, the first thing we must do is identify if the content has been moved. If so we will redirect you from the old URL to the new one and change the link.
If the content has been deleted, we must analyze what impact was produced on the SERPs and if it would be convenient to recover it.
If, on the other hand, the content does not exist and you do not want to recover it, we will remove the link and check if it has external links. In case of having back links pointing to said URL, we will redirect to a related page, higher category or home.
And, if you don’t have external links, we’ll return a 410 response to Google.
Requests to pages without internal links
In these cases we will do all the previous steps except the first.
We will start by confirming the impact of removing the content if it existed and studying if it is interesting to include it again.
In case of not being interested, we have to check if it has links from external websites to redirect the URL if so. But in the opposite case, we should return a 410 response to permanently de-index the page.
How to create redirects and 410 responses
In order to create the necessary redirects or return 410 response codes, you can use WordPress plugins or edit the htaccess file.
Plugins for WordPress
If you need to perform redirects I recommend using the redirection plugin, it has a functionality that allows you to upload multiple redirects.
If you need to de-index pages normally I used 410 for WordPress, although it has not currently been tested for the latest versions of WordPress, but you can find other plugins in the repository that will help you.
If you need to create a redirect in the htaccess file it is quite easy, we just have to create the following instruction in the file:
redirect 301 / old-url / / new-url /
If, on the other hand, we want to mark a URL to de-index, we must use the following instruction:
Redirect gone / url-to-de-index /
In general, I insert these instructions at the end of the file segmented by a hash mark:
### REDIRECTIONS ###
redirect 301 / url-old1 / / url-new1 /
redirect 301 / url-old2 / / url-new2 /
redirect 301 / url-old3 / / url-new3 /
The pads allow us to enter comments on a line to help us better understand the content of the file.
The option to create a custom 404 error page
Although it does not completely solve the problem, creating a custom page to replace the Google standard one (that is, a custom 404 page) has some advantages, such as that users will always find the correct HTPP code, such as “401 Gone ”, which indicates that the content has been permanently removed. On the other hand, through customization, a friendlier aesthetic is achieved that improves the user experience.
WordPress and other similar platforms automatically generate pages with the HTTP 404 error, although the design is still fairly standard. So if you want to have a 404 error page with a higher level of customization, and even with humorous and original touches, we recommend using special extensions.
One more thing
If you dedicate yourself to the world of digital marketing and SEO, but you do not control the most technical part, or you need to delegate it to expert hands to focus on the core of your business, we can help you!
At AgenciaSEO.eu we have a team of experts in the different disciplines of online marketing and web positioning, including technical SEO.