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Why you should never ignore a 404 error

Why you should never ignore a 404 error

Most of us have experienced the dreaded error 404 before, in which we click on a website link and are directed to a page that doesn’t exist with the infamous 404 – Page Not Found message. As frustrating as it can be, there are some simple steps you can take to ensure your website doesn’t experience this errors! By implementing these strategies into your existing website, you’ll likely see an improvement in rankings and traffic in no time at all!

The anatomy of an error page. What is error 404?

If you try to visit a page on your site that doesn’t exist, the browser may generate an HTTP 404 error message. This often happens when you enter a URL in the address bar by mistake. In other cases, pages might be missing because they were removed or never existed in the first place. Page not found errors can also occur with CMS websites like WordPress because they depend on pages created by an administrator. The page either never existed, or it was intentionally deleted by a website admin.


  • 400 – Bad request. Invalid request that was rejected by the server (eg, due to misformation or false routing).
  • 401 – Unauthorized. Target content does not contain a valid authentication credential.
  • 403 – Forbidden. Content that the user does not have permission to access (e.g., when trying to view a password-protected resource while the user is not logged in).
  • 404 – Not found. the requested resource does not exist, and the server cannot find out if it has ever been available (the most common HTTP message).
  • 405 – Method not allowed. The resource found exists, but the client used an illegal HTTP method.
  • 408 – Request timeout. the server timed out waiting for a full browser request (eg due to network congestion).
  • 410 – Gone. The requested resource does not exist, but the server is aware of it (404 error related).
  • 429 – Too many requests. user sent too many requests within the specified time.
  • 499 – Client closed request. closing the request while it is being processed by the server (NGNIX).

What causes error 404?

These errors signify that there was a problem finding the URL or file that you requested on your browser or server, which usually happens for one of three reasons. Either there was a typo in your URL or someone intentionally set up a redirect from one page/website to another website without telling Google (ie. because they are transferring their site). Sometimes these errors can happen if you’re trying to visit a directory rather than an individual web page. Finally, sometimes 404s happen because of htaccess files or error messages within the code of a specific website that prevent Googlebot from being able to crawl it correctly.

How can you find a 404 error?

There are many ways that you can identify a 404 error. Most of the time, it is easy to detect if you are the one experiencing this error since your website will not load when a link cannot be found or there is no specific page that can be accessed. Other times, you may see an alert from Google Analytics informing you that someone has experienced a Page Not Found (404) on your site.

404 errors can hurt you in two ways: bad links and negative user experience. If a site visitor arrives at your site and sees a URL that doesn’t exist, it’s likely that they’ll click on the back button or will try an alternate search term. Either way, your website just lost potential visibility on SERPS or interest from an organic visitor.

So what effect does it have on SEO? Well, an error page tells the search engine that something has gone wrong, but it doesn’t give much else. A well-coded error page will tell search engines where the new page should be indexed in place of the broken one. In some cases, this might have a negative effect on a site’s ranking if you’re penalized for duplicate content.

Google Panda Algorithm

Panda was a drastic algorithm change made by Google. The idea behind it was to filter out all low quality sites from the Google results pages. Panda is not an exclusively anti-spam initiative, its focus is on providing higher-quality search results and better user experience. One of the ways it achieves this is by cutting off lower quality content at the knees while sending higher quality content up in the rankings.

Ways to fix error 404 on your website

There are a number of reasons you may be seeing an error page instead of your web page. Let’s go over some fixes.

  • Ensure the URL is typed correctly.
  • Clean the cache on your browser.
  • Check to see if any other websites have the same content.
  • Clear cookies.
  • Search for your website with different keywords.
  • Ask someone else if they can find it.
  • If you’re using WordPress, try using the site search.
  • Re-uploading or refreshing content can fix this issue.
  • The more links pointing to your site, the less likely it is that Google will flag it as spam.

Redirecting with 301 and 302

There are two types of redirects you can use: 301 or 302. If you’re redirecting an old URL to a new one, you should always use a 301 redirect. A 301 status code tells search engines that the page has permanently moved, so they’ll index the content on the new URL instead of the old one. But a 302 response will tell them that it’s only temporary, so they’ll index both URLs until the time expires.


It is important to note that what is actually displayed when you encounter a 404 error can depend on a number of factors, including the level of deep linking and the presence of other errors. These errors do not adversely affect search engine rankings, but should be corrected as soon as possible because they will hinder your site’s usability. If you want your site to avoid these types of broken links, maintain an up-to-date blog with relevant articles which people return to again and again.

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Aleksandra Pietrzak
Curator at the National Museum in Poznań, graduate of Art History at the Jagiellonian University and Contemporary Art at the Pedagogical University of Krakow, curator of exhibitions and author of scientific and popular texts. A lover of contemporary art, literature and travel.
Category: SEO
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