If you own a website, it’s almost inevitable that you will encounter 404 errors at some point. These errors occur when a user tries to access a page that no longer exists, resulting in a “404 Page Not Found” error message. While 404 errors can be frustrating for users, they can also have a negative impact on your website’s SEO if not handled properly. In this post, we’ll discuss best practices for handling 404 errors in SEO.
Monitor and Fix 404 Errors
The first step in handling 404 errors is to monitor them and fix them as soon as possible. Use tools like Google Analytics to track the pages on your website that generate the most 404 errors, and investigate why they are occurring. Once you identify the cause of the error, you can take steps to fix it, such as redirecting the URL to a working page or removing the link altogether.
Create Custom 404 Pages
When a user encounters a 404 error, they are often greeted with a generic error message that doesn’t provide much information. To improve user experience, create a custom 404 page that provides helpful information, such as links to popular pages on your website or a search bar to help users find what they’re looking for. By providing a helpful custom 404 page, you can reduce bounce rates and keep users on your website.
Use Proper HTTP Status Codes
When handling 404 errors, it’s important to use the correct HTTP status codes. A 404 status code should be returned when a page is not found, and a 410 status code should be returned when a page has been permanently removed. Using the correct status codes will help search engines understand the nature of the error and prevent them from indexing pages that no longer exist.
Use 301 Redirects
When a page has been permanently moved or deleted, it’s important to use a 301 redirect to direct users to the new page. A 301 redirect tells search engines that the page has permanently moved and that the new page should be indexed instead. This ensures that users are directed to the correct page and that any link equity from the old page is transferred to the new page.
Handling 404 errors is an important part of SEO. By monitoring and fixing 404 errors, creating custom 404 pages, using proper HTTP status codes, and using 301 redirects, you can improve user experience and prevent negative impacts on your website’s SEO. Follow these best practices to ensure that your website is handling 404 errors effectively.