404s, Dead Links and Missing Pages

What is a 404, how do I find them and what should I do about them?

What does 404 mean?

404 is a server response code that identifies a missing page or dead link. A 404 is a normal response for a page that has been removed or moved or renamed on your website. This 404 response code helps search engines and visitors to understand when a page no longer exists.

Are 404 response codes bad?

Not always, in fact sometimes they are necessary. If you have an online shop and you remove a product, it is likely your product is still listed in search engines. Google asks that we use 404s to help them to identify missing products and pages. The downside is, when you remove products, you will likely see a drop in traffic and sales.

Saying that, 404s can indicate a problem on your website such as internal links that have not been updated. Moved, deleted or renamed pages that have not been redirected, create a poor user experience and can leave you in hot water with search engines.

What should I do if I move a page?

If you move or rename a page you should create a permanent redirect (301) linking your old URL to the updated version. This technique can also be used for products that are removed or superseded. It is a good idea, when you remove a product, to link to a similar or updated product. Google asks us not to link to unrelated items or pages as this creates a poor user experience.

Redirecting your pages helps to pass on the page authority from the old page and maintains any inward links from external websites.

It is also a good idea to identify and remove/replace dead links on your website as it improves the user experience and helps Google to crawl the site.

How do I know if I have dead links on our website?

Without using specialised software, it can be tricky. If your site is small, you can go through your site manually (clicking on links). For the more tech savvy, you can download Screaming Frog SEO Spider. However, for first time users, it can be hard to understand and the free version has limitations. If you have a large site or you would just like some help, get in touch.

How do I create a 301 redirect

Depending on your CMS (Content Management System), there may be free plugins that can create 301 redirects for you. If you find this difficult, or you would just like someone to sort this for you, contact me to discuss this further.

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