What is a 404 page? 404 page errors are urls that don’t lead to a webpage anymore or never did. Something has gone wrong, and there wasn’t a 301 redirect setup to send users and searchbots somewhere else. So now you are stopping users and searchbots in their tracks. From a user perspective, it’s just unprofessional. Most users click the back button and find another website to research when they encounter 404s. 404s can be considered an on page SEO factor, since website owners have direct control over fixing them with 301 redirects.
A 404 error is part of a larger set of errors, called ” client errors “.There are 32 different client error codes. They won’t be listed here, since that would confuse many, as for SEO only the 404 error is of the most concern. However, it’s good to take a look and understand them, if SEO or web development is your career choice, as they are informative.
Reasons a webpage will 404 are:
- There never was a webpage with the url in question
- The url structure was changed but no 301 redirect was setup
- There is a 301 redirect setup, but there is a redirection loop
- There could be a server configuration issue, most likely in the .htaccess file
404 Page Errors Can Prevent Keyword Rankings
When you have webpages that once were live, go 404 not found you will see any keywords ranking for that webpage start to lose SERPs positions. Once keywords start to lose relevancy for the website, organic traffic loss is the result. Eventually if that 404 webpage is not fixed, the website will not rank for that keyword at all and any organic traffic those keywords brought in, is gone. This is called keyword bleed, and happens with larger websites mainly, but can happen to any website that goes neglected.
Searchbots crawl the website to find keywords to rank the website for, when a webpage is not found, the keywords on that webpage are not found and that’s why 301 redirects can help. When searchbots get to the webpage not found, if a 301 redirect is setup, searchbots will find the keywords to rank the new webpage url with and the website keeps it’s keyword rankings. There are a few more factors involved, but it works to summarize the process.
404 Errors Can Prevent Webpage Indexing
From indexing Google’s AMP pages, to making sure last weeks blogs were properly indexed. When any one of those webpages 404s, they can prevent searchbots from crawling other important pages on a website. Depending on the issue, whole sections can be deindexed by search engines, as they will think the webpages were no longer needed, and true 410 webpages, which mean GONE. If a webpage’s SEO wasn’t fixed yet, even if the webpage has had proper SEO done since, until searchbots crawl the webpage again search engines will not see the new changes.
If the webpage that was not found or worse, the whole url folder, any internal linking on those webpages will be lost, which will also affect further indexing and keyword ranking. SEO can have a domino effect if not careful. When searchbot crawling is prevented, the whole SEO of a website is affected, since until the pages are crawled again, whatever the last cache of the webpage was, would be used by RankBrain to do it’s checks and balances on.