Google Search Console 404 Errors: An SEO Warning

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A 404 error occurs on a website when someone tries to visit a specific URL to load or open a page or post that no longer exists. This means the server is unable to find the requested resource, typically because it has been deleted, the URL has been changed, or the URL was typed incorrectly.

Do 404 Errors Impact SEO?

Yes, a 404 error is bad for SEO. It creates a poor user experience because visitors expect to see the page or post and its content.

If you receive a backlink or referral from another website to a page that no longer exists, your website will not benefit from that backlink for SEO.

Additionally, web crawlers (search engine bots) waste time crawling non-existent pages, which can lead to indexation issues and negatively impact your rankings.

Overall, this can result in a loss of traffic. If there are more 404 errors than existing pages or posts, you could lose 70 to 80% of your website traffic.

Reasons behind 404 errors on Website?

The main reason behind a 404 error is that the page or post for a specific URL no longer exists. There can be various reasons for this:

  1. You have updated the post and changed the URL. The old URL is still indexed by Google, shared on social media, referred to by other websites, or linked within other posts or pages (internal linking). When users click on these old links or when search engine bots try to crawl the old URL, they won’t find the page, resulting in a 404 error in the browser for users and crawlers alike.
  2. You have deleted the post or page on your website without setting up a redirect. However, links to the deleted page or post still exist on your website and on external sources such as social media pages and referral links.
  3. Changed from HTTP to HTTPS without setting up a redirection.
  4. Changed from www to non-www in the URL without setting up a redirection.
  5. Changed the domain name without setting up a redirection to the new domain.
  6. Missing words in the URL when linking to the page.

Here you can read more about it: HTTP 404

What is the solution? How do you remove the 404 errors?

To remove this error, you have to setup 301 redirect. Which mean redirection from old url to new url. You have to setup redirects for deleted pages and update broken links. Which means forwarding website visitors from one URL (Unicode resource locator) another.

For example, you have a mobile phone with two phone numbers. Your old number (Number A- 98…..890) and your new number (Number B – 94…..454). You want all calls made to your old number to be redirected to your new number. So, you set up call forwarding on your old number (Number A) to automatically redirect incoming calls to your new number (Number B).

Similarly, on a website, when a URL (old number) is no longer in use or has been changed, you can set up a redirect so that when someone tries to access the old URL, they are automatically forwarded to the new URL. This ensures that users still reach the intended destination, just like call forwarding ensures that calls reach your current mobile number.

Things to remember:

While setting up redirects can help prevent the negative impact of URL changes or deleted pages/posts on SEO, traffic, and conversions, but it does not guarantee that these metrics will remain unaffected.

Initially, you may still be seeing fluctuations in rankings and traffic, in the short term, as search engines reindex the new URLs. And, if the content on the new pages different from or less in quality then then deleted page or post then the user behaviours and conversion rate still differ.

That is why it is important to test the user behaviours on new url or page and make changes to maintain the traffic and conversion.

Ways to check 404 errors

Aside from manually checking the website or viewing 404 errors directly on the site, there are various SEO tools and website analytics tools that you can use to track the frequency of these errors and understand how many “Page Not Found” errors your website visitors are encountering. Following is the list of tools that you can use to find and resolve the issue:

  • Google Search Console tool helps you monitor, maintain, and troubleshoot your website’s presence in Google Search results. It provides reports on 404 errors under the “Coverage” section.
  • WordPress Plugins: For websites built on WordPress, there are several plugins available to help identify and manage 404 errors.
  • .htaccess File: You can use this configuration file to set up 301 redirects, which permanently redirect old URLs to new ones, effectively resolving 404 errors by guiding users to the correct page. You can find this file in the root directory in cPanel or under the public_html folder. However, this file is often hidden by default, so you will need to enable the “show hidden files” setting to view it.

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