A 404 error is probably the most common SEO mistake found on the web, and is found on virtually every website, even the ones that are well-maintained. It is a header response sent back from the server when someone requests a page from your server that doesn’t exist.
You don’t want any 404’s on your site because:
- it’s a horrible user experience and
- search engines do not attribute any link authority to 404 pages.
So, if you have an old URL that has 1,000 links to it, but it’s a 404, search engines disregard those 1,000 links and pass none of the potential authority your way. If, however, you 301 redirect the URL to a current, live page, all of the 1,000 links will pass their juice to the end page. Also, even if you don’t have a lot of links pointing to your 404 pages, it communicates to search engines that you are not putting priority for your website and maybe they shouldn’t either.
Most often 404’s are seen when someone tries to access a webpage that either 1. has never existed, or 2. doesn’t exist anymore (has been deleted, or moved to a different URL, which both often happen during a website redesign).
The simple fix for 404 responses are to:
- Have a customized template that keeps the users engaged
- 301 redirect all known 404’s to the most current and relevant page
To learn more about 404 Errors (how to properly and improperly implement, as well as how to find it on your site), signup for SEO Pro here