What is a 404 error?
When a user you are trying to access a page on our website that does not exist, the browser returns an error page with the code “404”. The origin of this number is that whenever Google makes a request to a server requesting information about a page, that server responds with a three-digit status code that indicates the status of the page. For example, a 200 indicates that all is well and a 301 that the page has been constantly redirected. As you may have already guessed, 404 indicates that the page we requested is not on the server.
404 error is very common and can be caused by different the reasons:
Nail Url from the site was deleted, either by mistake or intentionally (we updated the website and this page was no longer relevant, for example).
The URL has been renamed and the old one no longer exists. In these cases, it is quite common for both internal and external links to continue to point to the previous URL and if we do not fix it, they will result in a 404 error.
URL is not correct. Sometimes, users mis-remember a URL or try to “create” by combining elements from other URLs. The result is that they will try to access a URL that never existed and logically give them an error.
The URL is misspelled. A variation of the previous reason: the visitor tries to access a URL that exists, but made a mistake while typing it and therefore the server does not recognize it.
A domain change was made and redirects were not handled correctly. If the pages that were in the old domain were not moved to the new one, the user will encounter a 404 error instead of the searched content.
How do 404 errors affect us?
The 404 errors They are very common, and if they only appear very occasionally, they shouldn’t worry us too much. But you should be careful that too many do not appear even on the important pages of our site, as they can lead to Negative consequences:
404 errors affect user experiencebecause you cannot find the content you are looking for. This means loss of credibility and trust and, if we fail to properly redirect the visitor, it can cause us to lose conversions.
When it comes to search engines, if the Google spiders detect many errors of this type, they can interpret it as a sign that we are not doing good maintenance of the page and, therefore, will penalize your positioning.
Because Google has a “budget” of time spent crawling a page, if it encounters a large number of 404 errors, you may not be able to visit important pages on the site. Therefore, indexing in search engines will be worse.
If the page with a 404 error has external links pointing to it, it will be more difficult to correct the error and we will waste the time and resources that we spent in getting those links.
How to fix error 404
1) Find the broken links on your website
The first problem we have in fixing 404 error pages is finding them. On large and complex websites, we can create dozens of 404 error pages without realizing it. It is therefore necessary to carry out a periodic audit to detect broken links with one of these tools:
Google Search Console: This free tool from Google is a basic resource for website owners. Here you can find all 404 error codes identified by Google spiders. When they are fixed, you can mark them as fixed so that they can be crawled and indexed again.
W3C focal point: a very easy tool to do, because we only have to enter the url we want in the corresponding field and the tool will analyze all the individual links that make up the website and warn us of errors.
Dead link checker: another tool similar to the previous one, which helps us check pages for 404 errors on any website.
2) Repair problematic links
If you followed the previous step, you already have a list of all the pages on your website that have 404 errors. Now you should go to how to resolve them on a case-by-case basis.
Pages deleted by mistake
Sometimes we inadvertently “load” a page while updating the website. In this case, we just have to leave the URL as before and so the search engine spiders and users can visit it normally again.
Sometimes we can find internal or external links that point to a URL on our website that just doesn’t exist and that we don’t want to create. In this case, to eliminate the error, we will fix the problematic link or even eliminate it if we are not interested.
Incorrect but interesting links
Say a web page with a lot of authority has published a link to your site that results in a 404 error. Since this link brings a lot of authority and potential traffic, you can create a page with this URL and with the content users expect. Thus, you will have succeeded in turning a 404 error into a source of traffic and potential conversions.
Finally, it is possible that we find that the link giving the 404 error has been “replaced” by another, either permanently or temporarily. We will see how to handle both cases.
the permanent redirects (code: 301) are used to redirect one URL to another permanently, for example, if we have changed domains. It is important that the content of the two pages is similar so as not to surprise the user, for example, that he does not go to the home page if what he expects is to find a description of the product.
By making a permanent redirect, we will pass all the authority and links from the old page to the new page, so from an SEO point of view this is an optimal solution not to lose the work done.
the temporary redirects (code: 302) are used as a temporary solution when we have URLs that are not working at the moment but want to reactivate in the short to medium term. While we are fixing the original URL, we are directing the user to another page that meets their expectations. If you use this solution, remember to redirect visitors to the original page when it is repaired.
Remember that if you are using Google Search Console (a highly recommended tool), you can mark the links you fixed as fixed so that they can be reindexed.
3) Create a custom 404 page
The above solutions will help us fix a large percentage of 404 errors on a website. But sometimes it is inevitable that they will appear, if only because the user has misspelled a URL. Therefore, the next step for improve user experience is to examine the 404 error page itself.
A good 404 error page should meet these characteristics:
Respect the aesthetic and the Your the rest of your website, so that the user experience is consistent. If your brand has a light tone and colorful aesthetic, finding a black and white page with a robotic message will be a shock to the user and negatively affect their experience.
To reassure to the user. A 404 error instead of the content you were looking for can be very frustrating. To prevent the user from abandoning us or negatively affecting the perception of the brand, we must be kind, explain the error and indicate the steps to be taken, for example, including other links on our site Web where you could find what you are looking for. for.
Use the humor. As long as it fits in with your brand tone, humor is a great resource for turning a negative experience into a moment of connection with the user.
Includes a mechanism that allows users let you know of the error. That way, you can use the 404 error page itself to “track down” bugs that you missed during audits.
Make sure your 404 error page is not indexed by GoogleSince you don’t want it to show up in search results or for crawlers to waste time visiting it.
Here you can see several 404 page creative examples from other brands.