What is a 404 error page?
A 404 error page is a page that does not exist on a server. The page may have been moved or removed leaving behind links that lead to a server generated page called a 404 error page. Typing an incorrect link in your browser will also lead to a “404 page not found”. Have you ever seen one of these pages while surfing on the Internet?
404 error page
Not only these pages are not pretty, but they are not useful to users. They may think that not only the page, but the website is gone and visit a concurrent website instead. As a webmaster it is important to correct this to improve the user experience and also your SEO.
How to Fix a 404 Error Page
Having a 404 Error Page in your website is inevitable. There are some of these errors you can control and some that you can’t control.
So the first step is to make a custom page that will inform and be useful for users to find what they are looking for on your website. Blogs can generate these pages without any effort on your part.
These pages are generated by the blog theme and fulfill their purpose in informing the visitor why they see the page and a way to search what they are looking for. The look is the same as the blog in itself and integrates nicely.
Some Webmasters get very creative and take this opportunity to work on a specific design or offer different links for users to navigate to.
See more example on this excellent blog post: 404 Error Pages, One More Time
The second step to do is to check on your website if you still have links that point to these 404 error page. If you have these “broken links” on your site, they can hurt your SEO efforts and they need to be corrected to go to the correct page or removed completely.
Webmaster Tools can help you to identify those 404 error page and broken links.
On the example above you can see that there are 3,156 “Not found” errors. When clicking on one of the URL a pop-up opens and shows the incorrect link with the URL of pages linking to it. These broken links will have to be removed.
The third step will be to recover the traffic of a 404 error page.
If the traffic come from another website with a wrong link and lead to a 404 error page on your site, you can do two things. Ask the webmaster of the other site to correct the link, which can be challenging and take time, or you may just create a page for this wrong link, or use a Permanent 301 redirect pointing to the correct page.
Prevention is the best strategy. Do not rename pages after they have been published and do not delete them. Redirect them to a similar page or a category page instead and try not to redirect to the home page. This way you won’t lose traffic and risk to get broken links on your site or other Webmasters’ sites who link to you.
Having a 404 error page is not as bad as it sounds when you know how to deal with it.