From Smart Solutions
No matter how user-friendly and easy-to-navigate your site is, there will always be someone who puts in the wrong address—mistyping the URL, or clicking on a broken link from another site. It happens to every website: 404 errors.
What are 404 Errors?
You’ll get a 404 error when you type in a URL incorrectly. If the site doesn’t have a page created with the address you typed in, you’ll get a 404 error. Some 404 landing pages are funny and some are simple, like in the examples above—but when you get one, it simply means, something went wrong. The most likely case is that the URL in your address bar was typed incorrectly, although it could be that the webmaster deleted the page you were trying to access, or changed the URL.
Fixing a 404 Error on Your Website
If you’ve found or been alerted to a 404 error on your company website, you’ll want to fix it right away. You can do that by finding the source of the mistyped link and editing that, or by putting a 301 redirect in place. A 301 redirect will simply take the incorrect link and direct it toward the correct web address of your choosing.
If you are changing a URL on your website, deleting a page, or moving a page to different part of the site, a 301 redirect MUST be put in place. If people have bookmarked that page or linked to it from another website, not putting a redirect in place could result in lost customers. It’s important to take the time to make sure they get to the right place.
Another reason a 301 redirect should be put in place when a page is moved or changed is because link equity is involved. If Google has assigned a certain amount of link equity on that page, the equity will be passed along with the redirect.
When is a 404 Error Okay?
There are cases in which a 404 error is fine to leave un-redirected. When you’ve removed content that doesn’t relate to anything else on your website, letting them land on your helpful 404 Landing Page with a search box, or links to other content is perfectly acceptable. In general (and every case is different), if you can’t think of any place that a 404 error should redirect to, let your visitors land on your 404 landing page. An article from Rand Fishkin of Moz has some great information on which URLs to redirect and which to let 404.
How to Stop 404 Errors from Happening
There’s no way to stop a 404 error from happening on your site—but there are ways to catch them fast! If you use Google Webmaster Tools, they’ll alert you when there’s a sharp increase of 404 errors on your website. If you monitor it on a regular (monthly or weekly) basis, you can keep these at bay by redirecting them as they happen.
The other step you can take to make sure you aren’t losing your customers through 404 errors is to make sure they aren’t STOPPED by that error page, by providing a well thought-out 404 landing page. Pinterest gives you a quick link to get back to the Pinterest homepage. On our site (and most of the sites we build), we like to give website visitors a friendly 404 landing page that helps them find whatever they were looking for quickly.
When it comes to your own site, it’s important to monitor your 404 errors regularly—and that’s something that we do for our web marketing clients. We’d love to chat with you more about our web marketing strategies and how we can help you! Give us a call or fill out our easy contact form.
Any more questions about 404 errors or 301 redirects? Let us know in the comments!