Does a 404 page hurt SEO?
2020 February 26
A 404 page is so common in the website development and SEO world, but do 404s hurt SEO?
What is a 404 page?
A 404 page is a hypertext transfer protocol that indicates that the server could not find the page that was typed into the search engine or clicked on through the website. A 404 page is simply letting a searcher that this page no longer exists.
A 404 page is defined as, “commonly known as an error page, is the content a user sees when they reach a page that no longer exists on a website. The page your server displays when it can’t find the URL requested by the user.”
The issue that arises when it comes to a website redesign or revamping old content is that a simple mistake can completely change a website and its pages.
A great example is this blog article. This URL is, “omgaustin.com/blog/article/does-a-404-page-hurt-seo” which is a normal and good URL for SEO strategies, but simply changing it to, “omgaustin.com/blog/artlce/does-a-404-page-hurt-sei” completely changes this page changes the page itself. On our website, you will get this simple 404 page.
While a 404 page is not the only error page out there, it is the most common one used to simply tell a searcher that the content is no longer here. A 410 is a status code that returns to search engines and browsers which means that page is being indexed on purpose by search engines. A 301 is when you have an error but want to tell searchers the content has simply just moved to a new page. As suggested, depending on the old page or content, a 404 could be the easiest page to use. How does a simple 404 page hurt SEO? Does it really hurt it? Let’s find out.
Do 404s hurt SEO?
The first example is redirecting all of the 404 pages to the homepage. Our experts are telling you to simply not do this. This is because users will be confused on how they even landed on the homepage. Another reason is that the homepage might not be ranking for that keyword, the service page is, and if people continue to click out the page it warns search engines that this page is not relevant to this search query. When this happens, the pages will slowly start to lose ranking.
The second example deals with the URL structure. One of the biggest ranking factors is the URL structure for SEO. If a URL is typed wrong, and somehow no one notices this, it can start ranking for keyword phrases. This does not seem like a big deal, but it can be a messy deal if it is never caught.
The thing is, once there is a 404 page in place, Google will crawl it but will only crawl it once. Google does remember 404 pages and will not keep this page in its index. This is where it can start to hurt SEO. If Google indexes and crawls this page that is a 404 page, but should not be a 404 page, Google will put it in a safeguard to know not to index and crawl this page. This is where a company should implement a 410 page as listed above to let search engines know that this information is elsewhere and to crawl that new page. If something is missed in the process of all of this, 404s will hurt SEO.
Do 404s hurt SEO? They can, but it is not the end of the world. A 404 page can be a simple fix and a 410 page will let search engines know to start crawling the newest page.
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Posted In: SEO and Search Marketing