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404 error

If you're a web surfer, you've probably encountered the annoying 404 error code in an unsuccessful attempt to visit a website. But for those of you with a website, this error code is more than just an annoying message - it has an impact on your website SEO and user experience.

Nicolai Vittrup
Last updated: Jun 23, 2023

What is a 404 error?

When you click on a link in a search engine like Google, it's as if you're asking the search engine to find a specific page for you. The search engine wants to do that, so it takes you to the website you clicked on. However, sometimes web server errors can occur and the search engine can't find its way to the website, leaving you with an error code.

In short, a 404 error is a response from a web server telling you that the page you're trying to reach doesn't exist. The missing page is a mystery with many possible solutions - for example, the URL may have changed or been deleted.

404 error on dr.dk

A 404 error code on dr.dk

How do 404 errors affect SEO?

A 404 error can damage your website's SEO (search engine optimization), which is a key part of digital marketing. If users click on a link to your website and receive a 404 error, they are likely to become frustrated and leave your website in favor of your competitors.

This increases your bounce rate and can affect your website's ranking in search results. Ease of use is key if you want to rank highly on Google, and as 404 errors reduce the usability of your website, they can lead to lower rankings.

But it's not just usability that search engines take into account. The search engine also needs to be able to understand your website, and if it encounters a 404 error code on your website, it can also affect your ranking. Search engines prefer websites that are easy to navigate, and many 404 errors can make your website difficult to understand.

In other words, both usability and bot-friendliness need to be top-notch if your ranking in search results is to be top-notch.

How do you avoid 404 errors?

Here's a short checklist on how to fix your 404 errors in three simple steps:

  • Identify your 404 errors.
  • Correct the errors or restore the missing pages.
  • Create a custom 404 page.

The first step to dealing with 404 errors is to identify them. There are several ways to do this - free tools include Google's free webmaster tool Google Search Console, which gives you detailed reports on any 404 errors on your website for free. You can also use tools like Screaming Frog and Ahrefs - see more in our article on SEO tools.

Once you've identified the errors, the next step is to fix them. You can do this by redirecting the broken links to relevant pages on your website or by restoring the missing pages.
Finally, it's important to make sure your website has a custom 404 page. A custom 404 page offers alternative links and information so that the user hasn't visited your website in vain. This way you can increase user-friendliness - even if 404 errors occur.

It's important to remember that a single error won't ruin your digital marketing strategy. However, a collection of smaller issues - such as multiple 404 errors - can hamper your ranking in search results. Many birds with one stone.

404 i ahref

Ahrefs Site Audit is great for monitoring 404 errors

More tips and tricks

It's important to remember that a 404 error usually doesn't affect your website's visibility on search engines - as long as the URLs causing 404 errors don't actually exist on your website.

If you want to fix a 404 error, you first need to assess whether it's worth fixing at all. This is often not necessary if the error does not harm your website's visibility on search engines. This may be the case if the error comes from a URL that doesn't even exist on your website. You will often discover this, for example, if you look at Google Search Console's page report.

If the error is coming from a page that actually exists on your website, it may be because the page often has its URL misspelled. If a URL is misspelled frequently or contains a word that can be spelled in multiple ways, you can link the common misspellings to the correct page using redirects.
Don't create fake content and redirect to your homepage, as this only makes it harder for search engines to decode your website and doesn't help your digital marketing.

Overall, your digital marketing strategy is crucial to the success of your website. By managing 404 errors effectively, you can improve user experience, optimize your website for search engines and ensure your digital marketing is as effective as possible.

Test your 404 error knowledge

What is a 404 error code?

A 404 error code is a response from a web server telling you that the page you are trying to reach does not exist on the website.

How do 404 errors affect SEO?

A 404 error can damage your website SEO because it reduces the usability of your website - usability is paramount in SEO.

How can I identify my 404 errors?

You can identify your 404 errors using tools like Google Search Console, Ahrefs or Screaming Frog, which provide you with detailed reports on any 404 errors on your website.

Get even smarter and increase your online presence

Whether you're a generalist or a marketing specialist, our specialists have put together some great advice for you on our blog.

Learn more at Webamp Academy.

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