Why do 404 error pages hurt your SEO? What are the solutions?
By helloDarwin
December 20, 2017

Why do 404 Error Pages Hurt your SEO? What Are the Solutions?

A 404 error is a web message indicating that the page you are looking for cannot be found. For example, 404 not found. Let's try to understand search engines. They classify your pages according to the words contained in your website and the popularity rating of each page. This classification has an impact on SEO positioning.
For example, if the search engine doesn't find the page the user is looking for, it will decipher either that there is no content in the site, no redirection to similar content or a high rate of error pages. In this case, the site manager must manually repair the errors so as not to affect organic positioning. Let's take a closer look at how 404 pages impact your SEO ranking and how to correct them.

Causes of HTTP 404 errors

  • A backlink is a hyperlink (URL) to a website or web page. When it's broken or of poor quality, it doesn't send the right information to the user, so the latter is sent to a page that can't be found.
  • A URL that existed in a site and, following a system migration, was incorrectly redirected.
  • A URL has been created, but represents a fake link or spam.
  • An orphan page, i.e. one that doesn't link to anything. So it can't be found.
  • A page that has been created but deleted, and whose link has not been changed. Therefore, it cannot be found.

The SEO impact of the 404 error

One of the impacts of the 404 page is a poor user experience, which can be detrimental if you want to increase your brand awareness or are looking for customers. It's important that customers have a great experience and are able to find information quickly and easily. However, if problems arise during transactions, this can lead to financial losses for the company and higher bounce rates.
What's more, the page won't have the same popularity as pages without 404 errors. It won't have any real positioning, as your pages will be less taken into consideration by search engines. In fact, the data found transmits the wrong information to the robot. As a result, they won't be indexed correctly in the search engine.
In short, the impact will be felt as much on the customer experience as on its perception and, ultimately, on the company's site. It is possible to limit the damage by correcting pages as and when problems arise.
404 errors, often perceived as a simple technical inconvenience, actually have a profound impact on SEO and user experience. These errors, generated when a user attempts to access a URL that doesn't exist on the server, can be caused by a variety of factors such as broken links, redirection problems, or modifications to the website structure.
The Importance of Links in User Experience and SEO
Links are the backbone of the Internet, facilitating navigation and interconnection between web pages. However, when a link leads to a 404 page, it creates a break in this interconnection, negatively impacting the user experience. Users confronted with a 404 error may feel frustrated, which increases the risk of them leaving the site, thus raising the bounce rate. A high bounce rate is often interpreted by search engines as a sign that the site is not adequately meeting users' needs, which can affect the site's SEO ranking.
Servers and 404 error management
From the server's point of view, every 404 error is logged. These records can provide valuable information about broken links or content problems on the site. However, a high number of 404 errors can indicate to search engines that the site is poorly maintained, which in turn can have a negative impact on SEO rankings.
Redirects and SEO
Redirects are a crucial tool in 404 error management. 301 (permanent) and 302 (temporary) redirects guide users to relevant content when they encounter a broken link. These redirects help maintain UX fluidity and preserve the SEO value of links. It is therefore essential to implement adequate redirects for URLs that have changed or are no longer valid.
The importance of a Structured URL
A well-structured URL plays a key role in SEO. URLs must be clear, consistent and easy to understand for both users and search engines. Disorganized or frequently changing URLs can lead to 404 errors, damaging both the user experience and the site's SEO.
Global Web Strategy and 404 Errors
As part of an overall web strategy, it's imperative to regularly monitor 404 errors and act swiftly to correct them. This involves not only repairing broken links, but also analyzing the root causes of these errors. A proactive approach to 404 error management helps maintain a quality user experience and preserve the site's SEO health.
In short, 404 errors, although often overlooked, have a significant impact on SEO and UX. Effective management of these errors, through constant monitoring, judicious use of redirects, and a well thought-out URL structure, is essential to maintaining a healthy, high-performing website in terms of SEO. By adopting these practices, companies can not only improve their search engine rankings but also offer a more satisfying UX, contributing to a better online reputation and a potential increase in their customer base.

Solutions for correcting 404 error pages

Here are some solutions that can help you correct errors to avoid damaging your SEO and losing relevant information due to a typo or poor redirection. A small error can affect your ranking if not corrected properly.
Launch a crawler
A crawler is a scanner that scans your site and provides a lot of information about it, including finding 404 error pages. This way, you know where the problem lies.
Google Search Console
You can go to Google Search Console in the "Exploration" section, then "Operating Errors". Google will send you reports on your site, including any 404 error pages to be corrected. Once the pages have been corrected, you can report this to Google with your sitemaps.

301 and 302 codes

What is the 301 code? It's a code that permanently redirects to another page. It ensures that you don't lose popularity in SEO. It also keeps a history of the page, so visitors stay on the site instead of leaving because of a page not found. It's not advisable to automatically place 301 codes, as you may miss problems underlying 404 errors.
What is a 410 code? It's a page that looks like a 404 page. This code informs the user that the page cannot be found forever, i.e. a page has been removed. The user's experience will be just as unpleasant as if he'd ended up on a 404 page, and he'll leave the site. However, the positioning of the page will not be affected. It is suggested not to use code 410, as the user experience remains unchanged. The use of 301 and 302 codes has a major and lasting impact on both your corrections and the user experience.
Correcting errors allows you to see if there are any other errors attached to this page. It may seem cumbersome to make corrections manually. However, remember that corrections can increase traffic to your site. You can also consult an SEO specialist to help you optimize your site.
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Unleash your creativity to create original 404 error pages

You can design a beautiful 404 page to create a better experience for website visitors. Indeed, if your error pages are pretty, humorous and intelligently designed, you can reduce the bounce rate that is often associated with these types of pages. Here are a few nice examples to inspire you:
  • New York Times
  • Astuteo
  • Behance
  • Bluepath
  • Bret Victor
  • Dropbox
  • Emirates
  • Pixar
  • Urbania
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helloDarwin -


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