404 Errors Explained
We have all come across a 404 error on the internet, when we have searched for a page that can’t be found. But did you know that as a website owner, you could be missing out on essential traffic if you leave your pages with 404 errors? Here’s how you can fix them.
A 404 error is HTTP standard response code, indicating that the user was able to communicate with a given server, but the server could not find what was requested. This is usually because the page no longer exists on a website.
Why removing pages can cause you problems
From time to time we need to remove pages from our website. This may be to have a content cull, to clean up the structure or simply to remove content that is no longer relevant, but if you have always, your pages will still be ranking for a particular keyword. If a keyword is searched on and the page is well optimised, that page will still appear in the search engine listings, but if a user clicks on it, they will be presented with a 404 error, indicating that the page no longer implemented SEO practices exists. This is considered a poor user experience.
Avoid losing traffic to a 404 error
As a website owner, you can stop the client from being returned with a 404 error if they happen to find an old page from a keyword search. You can improve the user experience by immediately redirecting them to a page on your site with similar content. The technical name for this is a redirect and you can choose to implement a 301 redirect(permanent) or a 302 redirect (temporary) depending on your reasons for removing the content. By adding this, the client will be taken straight to an alternative page, upon them clicking the old page listing in the SERPs. Hopefully the user will stay on your site and will continue browsing or engage with your content in some way.
Implementing 301 redirects
There are two ways to do this, depending on how you maintain your website. For static sites, you will need you developer to do this via your htaccessfile. For sites with a backend CMS, the system may have a built-in function to set up and manage 301 redirects. If it doesn’t then sometimes you can get a plugin – this is certainly the case in WordPress.
Being aware of 404 errors
Don’t wait for a user to stumble across a 404 error and inform you. Set up Google Search Console (formerly Webmaster Tools). This has a function that highlights any server errors, including 404 errors. They appear as a checklist, which you can mark off as and when you fix them with 301 redirects.
It’s good practice to build in SEO maintenance each month and fix 404 errors as you go, to improve the user experience. This has a positive effect on your website’s SEO performance.
Are you worried about your website’s 404 errors? Why not give usa call us on 01303 720 288. We are a highly experienced digital marketing agency based in Folkestone, Kent.