are 404 errors bad for SEO

Last Updated in July 2021 by Lukasz Zelezny

When browsing the web, the most common HTTP error that people often face is the 404 error. Any internet user who has been using the web for at least a year may have encountered this type of error.

Many of the experts have mentioned that 404 errors can hurt your SEO and ruin your ranking. However, this is not valid as 404 errors are believed to be helpful and are quite normal.

If you take it theoretically, then 404 errors may hurt your ranking but not on the entire site; if a page returns a code error of 404, that means that the page does not exist at all. This is why Google or any other search engine is not able to index it.

The pages need to exist if you are looking for a good SEO ranking. Error 404 is created due to broken links, which means that if there were no broken links, there would be no 404 error.

If you want to experience the 404 error yourself, it is advised to add a slash after the domain by entering something random and then hitting the enter button. On the other hand, Google has always believed that 404s are normal.

What is 404 Error?

404 errors are a very normal part of the web. Profound changes are happening on the web wherein new content is born, and the old content dies.

The 404 errors occur when the old content dies. Search engines are aware of these scenarios as 404 errors are very common irrespective of the site's popularity.

Therefore, if some URLs on a site face 404 errors, it does not hurt the SEO on the Google search engine.

Besides, there are some other reasons for the same. It is essential to check why there are 404 errors when crawling.

This can be due to the misspelling of the URL. This means that if someone tries to link it to a website but has made a spelling mistake in the URL. In such cases, it is advised to 301 redirect the misspelled URL to the correct URL and then capture the intended traffic from the link. It is advised to help the users who land up with a 404 error on your site by allowing them to find what they were looking for instead of showing a 404 error.

Many believe that 404 errors are a fancy way of saying that the page was not found. Unfortunately, error pages can result to be very disturbing at times and the impact on SEOs depends on several factors that we shall learn below.

There are several reasons for the occurrence of 404 errors that are mentioned below.

Internal Links that are broken:

When a page does not exist anymore, or the page is being linked incorrectly then it can result in internal links that are broken. The broken links can create a huge nuisance as they interfere with Google's ability on particular sites by crawling and getting access to it.

There are several ways you can find the links that are broken. One smart way to find broken internal links is by using a web crawler regularly for the best results.

Soft 404 Pages:

Soft 404s can be troublesome, as when users find those pages, the search engine will continue to show the pages that have no existence. This results in a loss of time and a bad experience for users.

You can also perform a crawl using the screaming frog. This can be done by filtering the pages showing a 200-status code for the best results.

Does 404 affect SEO?

You are surfing through a website, and you click a link. On clicking the link, you get redirected and it says the page that you were searching for is not found.

This experience can be annoying for users. If you are the site owner, you must look into the matter for the best results.

Error 404 is a widespread problem that is seen on the internet.

Regarding the effects 404 errors have on SEO, there is a mixed opinion. Many people believe that receiving too many 404 errors can drop the ranking of a website affecting SEO and can levy a penalty too.

The truth here is there are no such penalties for having too many 404 errors on your website. There are few chances that the 404 errors can affect the SEO ranking.

This occurs if a critical landing page has been deleted. There are also chances in such circumstances that the landing page is using a new URL that it has been moved to and was not redirected.

If a page that you own has 404 errors, is able to get good traffic, and has backlinks, then it is advised to go for 301 redirects for the best results. Mentioned below are a few reasons why 404 errors in your website can be caused.

  • Suppose an internal link is linking to a page, which does not exist anymore on a website. It is advised to find the non-existence of the page for the best results.

    If you find the page not valid anymore, it is advised to remove it. 301 redirect can opt if the page that got deleted is moved to another page.

  • Suppose there is a typing mistake in the URL. In this case, you can opt for a fix by editing the link using the right spelling.
  • Sometimes it has been also seen that there is an issue with the sitemap that forces the specified link to some pages, which do not exist at all. If there is manual control, the page can be deleted from the sitemap and then resubmit the sitemap to the Google search for the best results.

The above points state that 404 errors do not have a drastic effect on the website. However, it is advised to do a proper investigation to determine why these errors are occurring and look for the best solution.

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