7 min. read
You know the experience: you click on a link, eager to read the content. But instead of getting the information you want, an error appears saying that the page you requested is unavailable. It reads: "404. That's an error."
A 404 not found error is an HTTP status code that means that the page you wanted to access a website couldn't be found on their server.
Did you know that search engines, such as Google and Yahoo, will get a negative impression of a website if it has too many HTTP 404 errors? Here's what else we've found:
Every time you try to access a link on the web or visit a site, you're actually telling a server that's located somewhere to send you a page. For example, when you go to Amazon.com, you're telling the Amazon server that you want to see their home page.
This is called a request. The server then responds to your request by sending you back a page. And this system of communication is known as HTTP. If you were talking to a real person, it would go something like this:
You: I want to see your Today's Deals page.
Amazon's server: Okay, got it. It's coming right away
There are several reasons why you're getting an HTTP 404 code:
Broken links are often left for long periods of time after the page has been deleted or moved. The reason for this is that websites that link to this page are not informed that the site doesn't exist anymore or that it can be found under a new URL. It's common for websites not to check their external links regularly, leading to users trying to access a dead link. That's why webmasters need to perform regular website maintenance.
Have you ever tried to access a page in search of some information only to discover a 404 error? What did you do at that moment? Chances are you closed the tab and went on searching for a different site. This is how the majority of users behave on the internet.
The more 404 pages you have on your site, the fewer time users will spend on the site. And the longer you have a broken link on your site, the more users will experience the error.
The search engine algorithms pay special attention to how users behave on your website. Their online behavior has a major role in the ranking process. And an HTTP 404 code is one of the most frustrating things your visitors can come across. Once they see that the content they're trying to reach is unavailable, they will leave your site and go to your competitor's.
Apart from a negative user experience, high bounce rates due to broken links can negatively affect your SEO. SEMrush has found that the bounce rate is the fourth most significant ranking factor in SERPs. Although Google’s algorithm may not directly consider bounce rate, it can indeed hurt your online rankings.
If a user enters your page but soon leaves without clicking anywhere, this signals to Google that your result doesn't match the user's intent. As a result, it will rank your page lower in the search results.
It's basically inevitable: 404 errors will appear on your site. To avoid SEO issues and low user engagement, make sure you proactively monitor the performance of your website. Checking for an HTTP 404 is as vital as posting unique and high-quality content.
Check your 404s at least once every month and if your site is bigger, every week. Putting time aside to update your website and perform technical testing will help you stay ahead of the competition and keep those users interested.
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