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404 error

Definition

A 404 error indicates that a webpage is not found on a website, typically due to a broken link or deleted page. In terms of SEO, encountering a 404 error can negatively impact a website’s ranking on search engine results pages, as it provides a poor user experience and reduces the site’s credibility and authority. Fixing these errors promptly is crucial for maintaining a healthy SEO performance.

Explanation

A 404 error occurs when a user tries to access a webpage that doesn’t exist on a website. It’s like trying to find a book in a library that isn’t on the shelves – you get an error message saying the page can’t be found. This can happen for various reasons, such as a mistyped URL, a deleted page, or a broken link. When search engines like Google crawl websites and find 404 errors, it can negatively impact the site’s SEO ranking. This is because search engines want to provide users with relevant and high-quality content, and broken links or missing pages don’t contribute to a positive user experience. Website owners can improve their SEO by regularly checking for and fixing 404 errors to ensure a smooth and efficient browsing experience for their visitors.

Examples

Example 1:

A user clicks on a link to a product page on an e-commerce website, but instead of seeing the product information, they are met with a 404 error page. This can happen if the product page has been removed or the URL has been changed without setting up a proper redirect. In this case, the 404 error serves as a signal to the user that the page they are looking for is not available, helping them understand why they couldn’t access the desired content.

Example 2:

An SEO specialist is conducting a site audit for a client and discovers multiple instances of 404 errors on the website. By identifying these errors, the specialist can work with the website owner to address the issues and improve the user experience. This may involve setting up redirects for outdated URLs, fixing broken links, or deleting unnecessary pages to prevent future 404 errors from occurring. By resolving these errors, the website can maintain its search engine rankings and ensure that users can easily navigate the site without encountering dead ends.

Best practices

One of the best practices related to fixing 404 errors on your website is to regularly monitor for broken links and pages. Use tools like Google Search Console to identify any 404 errors and address them promptly. Another tip is to provide a custom 404 error page that directs users back to your homepage or other relevant pages on your site. This can help improve the user experience and keep visitors engaged on your site even if they encounter a broken link.

Additionally, when fixing 404 errors, it’s important to set up 301 redirects for any pages that have been permanently removed or changed URLs. This will ensure that users are redirected to the correct page and help maintain your site’s SEO ranking. Finally, make sure to update any internal links that may be pointing to the old URLs to prevent any future 404 errors from occurring. By staying proactive and monitoring for broken links, you can improve the overall user experience and help your website rank higher in search engine results.

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