If you are an active internet user and browse a lot of web pages, chances are you have already encountered the “404 Error”, also known as “404 Page Not Found”. This is a very common error on the Internet, and basically indicates that the page you are looking for cannot be found. Although this is an annoying situation for the user, who ends up not being able to access the desired page, this 404 error can also be detrimental to your SEO and in this article we will explain precisely why.
What is a 404 Error?
Error 404 is one of the most common errors found on the Internet. Indicates that a certain page or resource you are looking for is no longer available and therefore cannot be found. Usually the page in question has been deleted or moved. Therefore, the error occurs when it asks your browser to find a web site that no longer exists. This error can also happen if the user has mistyped the name of the web page they are looking for.
However, although they are still relatively common, these errors no longer appear as frequently as they did in the past, more precisely in the first years after the Internet boom.
Now, most websites automatically redirect users away from pages that display the 404 error. So nowadays, the user does not even encounter this error, as he is quickly taken to another replacement and functioning web page. You may not find the exact page you were looking for, but at least you won’t be “stuck” in the 404 error.
What is the impact of 404 Error on your SEO?
If you have a website that frequently displays Error 404, it is best to act quickly in order to avoid inconveniences that may affect your SEO. As we know, Google itself determines the order in which websites appear in search results for given terms. This choice is not random, but is influenced by several factors such as the speed of the website, quality of the content, responsiveness, among others.
The occurrence of errors, such as 404, is certainly not positive for anyone who wants to see their website at the top of the search results for a given term. The more errors a website has, the more it will be penalized, because Google will give priority to other, better functioning pages.
What to do to reverse 404 Error?
Yes, it is possible to reverse the 404 error and prevent all your SEO efforts from going down the drain. You can bet on 301 redirection, thus preventing the 404 error message from being displayed. This technique allows you to inform the server about the movement of a page, which is now at another address.
Therefore, the 301 redirect will automatically take the user to a working page, where no error will be displayed. In this way you will avoid loss of traffic, user dissatisfaction, and possible SEO penalties.
Why should you create a custom 404 Error page?
Nobody wants a customer to find an error page instead of the home page of their website. However, when this happens, wouldn’t it be better to create a customized page, in line with your website’s branding, instead of just presenting a white page with the typical Times New Roman letters, without much personality or interest?
By customizing your error page while maintaining your website’s own aesthetic, you are telling the user that they are actually at the correct web site, not a random one, which can help provide some clarity to the person faced with an unexpected error.
Also, by customizing your own error page, you can offer the user a solution to the problem, rather than just an apology for the inconvenience. For example, if the user typed the name of your website incorrectly, highlight the error and offer a link to the right page.
How to take advantage of 404 Error?
Despite the disadvantages and drawbacks already mentioned, it is also worth mentioning how you can take advantage of this error page:
- Turn the page into a search box
In order to avoid user dissatisfaction and consequent website abandonment, turn the error page into something useful, like a search box, for example. In this way, the user can take advantage of a page that would be useless in the first place. Consequently, user satisfaction levels may end up increasing.
- Include your contact
In order to prevent the user from leaving your page empty-handed and without the information they were looking for, make sure that you include your phone number or email address on the error page. In this way you will show your intention to help the user regardless of the error in question.
- Translate the error page
Ideally, your error page should inform the user of the problem at hand and provide a solution to it. As such, this information should be understood by all visitors. So make sure you translate the error page into multiple languages, thus reaching and helping more people.
The 404 error can really bring some drawbacks, but the truth is that it is possible to work around them through the actions presented here. Although they are less and less present on web pages, you should be prepared in case they end up occurring unexpectedly. As such, you should consider implementing 301 redirection and 404 error page customization, which can ease the inconvenience associated with this problem.