It can be quite distressing when you direct someone to an important page on your website only to find that they are confronted with the big bold words “404 Error Not Found”. If you aren’t involved in the world of websites and have no technical SEO knowledge yourself, this might send you into a downward spiral of panic. Where has your page gone? Is your content missing? What does “404 Error Not Found” even mean?
Error 404 Meaning | What is a 404 Error?
The 404 error is actually an HTTP status code. When someone searches for a URL that doesn’t seem to exist or has an error, the 404 code is sent and displayed on the screen. This comes from the server of website host. It is intended to let the browser know that the information they are looking for no longer exists or that there is an error in the URL that they are trying to visit. It’s really just a warning code that is advising of a specific problem.
What is the 404 Error Meaning?
What the 404 Error code basically means is that the information that you are looking for isn’t there. It could be missing for a number of reasons. A few common reasons for the 404 Error popping up include the following:
- The website owner has removed the content from their website without removing internal links to it, or external links to it on other websites.
- The URL has been edited or changed on the server and the links to the old, outdated page are still included in the website’s content and on external websites.
- The website’s server host is down or the connection to it was interrupted.
- The domain name no longer exists (the website may have been shut down or deleted).
- The URL has been incorrectly typed into the search bar.
- The designer/developer has made a typo in the link when creating internal links.
The Danger of the 404 Error Message for Your Business
Unfortunately, because you probably aren’t scouring your website for errors every day, 404 Error pages or “dead links” as they are sometimes called, often go unnoticed for long periods of time. This can wreak havoc on your search engine rankings.
Google is all about the customer experience nowadays. You can create pages and pages of content with as many keywords as you like, but if the customer experience isn’t deemed valuable, your website rankings will start to fall. The search engine gives preference to websites with content that provides real value to the browser and a 404 Error page is not considered real value.
404 Error pages are a sign that the website isn’t well-maintained. When you don’t tend to your 404 Error pages and rectify them, you will start to notice your website visitors dwindling. Eventually Google will stop indexing your site and content all together. All because of a few missed 404 Error pages, you ask? Yes, that’s right – the 404 Error page can mean sure death to a successful website, in terms of rankings and loss of customer trust.
How do I Fix a 404 Error?
The only way for a website owner to fix a 404 Error is to make sure that the pages are deleted or edited accordingly, as soon as they crop up. You need to be 100% thorough when changing content, internal links, and adding or removing pages from your website. Being thorough and meticulous will help to eliminate the risk of 404 Error pages negatively impacting on Google’s opinion of your website and content. It may seem like an impossible task to keep up with and it may also be quite scary to think that missing an internal dead link, or not acting promptly enough, could result in poor search engine rankings.
Of course, you cannot click every link on your website and test each and every URL personally, but there are tools that you can use to make the job/task a whole lot easier through automation. You can either make use of a professional technical SEO team to analyse your website regularly and keep it in full operational order, or you make use of 5 free SEO tools that help to uncover overlooked HTTP 404 Errors on your website.
5 Free Tools to Find Broken Links on Your Website
Check My Links is a browser extension which is able to quickly and effectively find dead links on your website as well as embedded in content on external websites. You may be surprised at how easy this extension is to use. It requires absolutely no technical SEO knowledge at all. Simply visit the page and open the extension in your browser. Soon you will be provided with a list of dead links and error codes that are on your website or linked to it.
When setting up your website and registering it on the Google search engine, you will be prompted to open a Google account. When doing so, your website will be linked to Google Search Console. Here you can find a variety of reports and warnings regarding errors and issues on your website. If your website has 404 Error pages, you will find them listed in the web tool. You can also mark the error pages as “corrected” using this very same tool.
If your website is Word Press operated, there’s a great free tool that you can use to check for dead links, missing images, and various other error codes on the website. The WP Broken Link Checker tool will run a site search and then display a full report on all links that contain errors or problems. You can then set work rectifying the issues.
While this is a free tool, it is one of the most thorough broken link checkers on the market. The app allows you to enter the destination of your website’s root folder and thereafter it will perform a full scan on your website. It will uncover missing images and dead links both on your website and external sites. It provides a full report with all error codes so that you can ascertain the problems you are dealing with and take action.
This is another of the most thorough dead link checkers on the market. As a free tool, it is especially impressive. It takes its time to carefully scan every single link, page, comment, post, and image on the website. Using the app is as simple as entering your website URL or the single page you want to analyse and then hitting enter. A detailed report is then provided so that the found issues can be rectified.
Website Maintenance is Essential to Eliminating the Risk of Error 404 Page Damage
A 404 Error page can be damaging to a business in several ways. For starters, as mentioned already, it can have a negative impact on your search engine rankings. It can also be quite frustrating for a consumer who is desperately seeking information or products to be consistently met with error codes and pages.
Consumers who encounter error pages usually head over to competitor websites and if it happens more than once, they generally lose trust in the business as they aren’t sure that the information will be there when they need it. Error pages make a website appear unreliable. This is certainly not the type of image you want for your business.
By hiring a technical SEO team to assist with the management and maintenance of your website, you can greatly reduce the risk of Error 404 pages cropping up. Alternatively, if you have the time, you can run the above recommended dead link checkers on a regular basis to ensure that your website is never sporting a frustrating 404 Error page just waiting for your customers to encounter.