Do 404 Errors Hurt SEO?

As a business owner, it’s not always easy to keep up to speed with the SEO performance of your website.

A common issue all websites experience at some point is 404 errors which happen when a page cannot be displayed properly. With 404 errors resulting in a disrupted user journey, they can actually be costly not just to your website, but potentially to your business as a whole. 

What Are 404 Errors?

Error code 404 (also known as 404 errors) is a type of HTTP status code. Any 4xx status code refers to client page errors. In the case of 404 errors, they occur when a user or search crawler tries to access a page that does not appear to exist on a domain. These errors, which sometimes display a ‘page not found,’ message indicate that the requested page does not exist or has been relocated without proper redirection.

404

What Do 404 Errors Look Like?

If a user discovers a 404 error they will be made aware there is some kind of issue with the page. Unless a custom 404 page has been designed or a redirect has been put in place, the user may see a generic message saying ‘requested URL not found on server’ or simply that the content is ‘not found’.

Therefore, in many ways, it is not always the 404 error itself which causes a poor user experience. Rather, the way the 404 error is presented. This is why website owners not only need to be aware of 404 errors but either take action to fix them, create a redirect or have a custom message displayed. 

What Causes 404 Errors?

404 errors are mostly associated with broken internal links, which can happen when content is moved, deleted or if the page URL is changed. Other causes of 404 errors include an incorrect URL (i.e. failing to copy and paste a link correctly) or likewise, when a link isn’t typed in correctly. In some cases, 404 errors can also be caused if a user doesn’t have access to view particular content on your website, meaning 404 errors can occasionally act as a security measure. 

Do 404 Errors Affect Google Rankings?

404 errors can impact Google rankings. Too many unresolved 404 errors signal poor user experience, potentially lowering a site’s ranking. Properly handling and fixing these errors helps maintain a website’s credibility and visibility in search results.

The simple reason why 404 errors are bad is that being given a message such as ‘the requested URL is not found on this server’ does not satisfy users. So whether your website visitors are trying to purchase a product from your ecommerce store, or find more information about your business, 404 errors bring an abrupt end to their journey on your website. 

Depending on where the 404 error exists, it has the potential to negatively impact your on-page, off-page and technical SEO. That’s why it’s in every website owner’s best interest to fix 404 errors without delay. 

How To Check Your Website For 404 Errors

One way to identify broken links is by using a tool such as Ahrefs or Semrush.

Another way is by using Google Search Console. Log in and check for 404 errors. These are the ones Google sees, making them crucial to fix. In GSC you can find soft 404 errors. 

If you notice a ‘web page not available’ error on your own site when creating or updating content, this is also a way to manually spot 404 errors. That said, it’s always better to have your SEO software notify you about broken links, since this will lead to a quicker resolution of the problem. 

Once you create a list with your broken links, you need to redirect them to relevant pages. For example, if you have an ecommerce website and one of your 404 pages is related to a product, you can redirect that page to the main category from which the product is placed.

You can redirect some pages to the homepage, however redirecting all 404 pages to the homepage isn’t ideal because it confuses users expecting specific content. It disrupts their experience, leading to potential frustration and a lack of relevant information.

Are 404 Errors Bad For SEO?

404 errors are a natural part of the web, signalling when a page doesn’t exist. While 404s do affect individual page indexing, they typically don’t impact a whole site’s rankings. Ensuring your pages exist is key for better ranking chances, thus redirecting deleted pages to relevant ones is the best practice.

Frequently Asked Questions About 404 Errors

We’ve answered some common questions about all things 404 errors below. However, if you’d like to receive tailored advice from our SEO specialists please get in touch.

Outside of technical page errors, our SEO Value Calculator is a handy tool that can help you work out the potential ROI of your SEO campaigns as a whole. 

Can 404 Errors Impact My Site’s User Experience?

Yes, 404 errors affect user experience by disrupting navigation. These types of links may annoy visitors who are looking for something specific, which might make them leave the website. Therefore, we’d highly recommend that if you want to create a strong organic SEO marketing campaign any 404 errors on your website are identified and fixed without delay. 

How Long Does It Take For Google To De-index A 404 Page?

Google typically deindexes a 404 page promptly, usually within a few days to a couple of weeks, removing it from search results. 

Is It Possible To Customise How Google Manages 404 Errors For My Website?

Yes, you can customise by providing accurate error codes and messages, guiding users with helpful content or navigation options, and using redirects judiciously.

Should I Use A Custom 404 Page Or Redirect All 404 Errors To My Homepage?

It’s better to use a custom 404 page tailored to guide users back or offer helpful links. Redirecting all 404 errors to the homepage can confuse visitors seeking specific content.

What Is A Soft 404?

A soft 404 happens when a web page that’s actually missing or incomplete displays a misleading success message (200 code) to the server but shows a ‘404 page not found’ to the user. 

Distribute Digital – Get Technical SEO Support For Your Website

Are 404 page errors holding your website back? It’s important to offer your website visitors the best possible user experience. This means having a technically sound and SEO-friendly website is essential.

At Distribute Digital we can support your SEO strategy in various ways through our on-page, off-page and technical SEO services.

In addition, we also provide curated SEO for Estate Agents fusing our unique specialisms of the property industry with our SEO expertise.

Whatever niche applies to your website, book a consultation to get started. Our SEO specialists are waiting to help your business succeed online.

For any questions about 404 page errors or SEO in general please email us at info@distributedigital.co.uk or give us a call on 0121 368 5662. 

Keisha - SEO Account Manager

Keisha is a driven SEO Account Manager with a person-centred approach and a degree in Business Psychology from the University of Worcester. Keisha has extensive client service experience and excellent organisational skills.

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