404 error pages: tips for detecting and fixing them

404 error pages: tips for detecting and fixing them The 404 error page is a message that the browser displays when a requested web page cannot be found.

404 error pages: tips for detecting and fixing them

This may mean that the page no longer exists or that it has been moved. But this error code will end up irreparably harming your users' experience as well as your SEO.

So, how to identify these errors in your pages and what to do to fix them?

What is a 404 error HTML code?

This is a response sent by the server in two cases. Either the web page you are looking for has been deleted, or it has changed its address, but its URL has not been updated.

Can be internal (page of your site) or external (page pointing to another site), these dead links have a considerable impact on natural referencing.

Causes causing a 404 error page

Errors related to the deletion of content or links

As a general rule, they display the 404 error page following the deletion of a link or transferring it to another address.

This happens in particular when the URL of a page or its content (text, data, images, and so forth) has been removed from the web.

The message can also appear if you have externalized the data of certain pages to another server, without having changed the internal links of your site.

404 error messages related to a technical problem

Common malfunctions such as an HS server or a broken connection can also cause this code to appear. In these cases, the page you are looking for may be temporarily unavailable until the problem is resolved.

Sometimes the causes of the 404 error message come from the domain name. Indeed, in certain situations the domain name of the site visited cannot be converted into an IP address and therefore the link will be considered dead or broken.

Finally, the domain name you are looking for simply no longer exists.

Site migration errors

The migration of a website can generate many errors, sometimes punctually, but some can also persist.

If you've recently redesigned your site or migrated data to a new server, any oversights during the operation may cause bogus links.

These will then redirect the user to a 404 error page, impacting at the same time the positioning of your site on search engines.

Here, remember to check the new links generated and especially to perform the necessary 301 redirects so that the old links redirect to the new URLs that you have just put online.

404 errors related to the day-to-day management of the site

Even without a site migration, 404 error pages can occur when you change your web pages.

This is particularly the case when you delete a page, a product sheet, or a category on your site. And yet, some CMS do not support automatic updating of page addresses after these changes.

Thus, instead of redirecting the user to your new web pages, the old links lead to a 404 error page.

Tools to detect unavailable pages

Often, broken links remain on a site for a long time because the administrator has not noticed these URLs which no longer work.

To avoid these errors, there are various tools to identify dead links, whether internal or external.

The crawler

The easiest way to detect broken links on a website is to run a crawler. It's actually a robot scanner that will scan the internal and external links of all your pages to identify problems that result in 404 errors.

Besides dead links, this tool can also help you identify the source of other malfunctions.

The best known of these crawlers is Screaming Frog, which is free up to 500 URLs.

Google Search Console

Formerly called Google Webmaster Tools, this tool solves effectively check your site for broken links.

From your Google account, you will register your website for the Google Search Console and then screen it. Within seconds, Google's crawlers will detect existing 404 codes, allowing you to quickly fix them.

With Google Search Console, you also have other very practical features such as the analysis of search queries or the identification of other errors, including compatibility with mobile devices.

Dead Link Checker

I consider this tool the simplest and also the fastest for detecting 404 error codes. To carry out an analysis on Dead Link Checker, you simply have to enter the URL to be checked and then launch the search.

Depending on your needs, you can choose between detection for an entire site or only for a particular web page (blog page, product page, contact page, and so forth). In a few clicks, the tool will list the list of all the errors detected, specifying the error code and the link.

World Wide Web Consortium or W3C

Functioning in the same way as the previous tool, W3C will be able to carefully scrutinize each page of your site.

The grip, as well as the use of the tool, is also quite simple. However, it should be noted that its scanning process may take longer than other solutions.

The detection and correction of these errors make it possible to avoid any penalties whose presence on your site can have harmful consequences for its natural referencing, known as SEO.

Impact of 404 errors on the SEO of its website

Often, website administrators neglect the analysis of 404 error pages, and yet these dead links can impact different aspects of your activity:

User experience

One of the direct consequences of dead links is the poor user experience experienced by those who visit your website.

Indeed, by falling on error 404 pages after having clicked on a link, whether this one is internal or external, their navigation will reach a dead end, and they will leave your site irretrievably.

This bad user experience can have serious consequences, such as a loss of notoriety or sales with e-commerce sites.

Referencing and indexing your web pages

In the event of a 404 error, your web pages will not have any real positioning, since the data transmitted to the indexing robots will be incorrect or incomplete.

In addition, your pages with dead links will be penalized by search engines because they are considered abandoned (since you have not corrected the problems).

If your pages have too many 404 errors, Google robots will waste a lot of time analyzing one by one the links that ultimately do not work. As a result, indexing will be diluted, and you could lose the crawl budget.

Fix a 404 error in 4 steps

After identifying the error pages on your site, it's time to fix them to get rid of this problem for good. To do this, you just need to follow a few steps.

Step 1: Remove dead links

Typically, your 404 error detection tool will display a list of all broken links that are identified on your pages.

So your task will be to either fix the link with a valid URL or remove it for each page listed. You will also need to check if your content (image or video) does not contain addresses redirecting to non-existent pages.

Step 2: replacing broken links

If you changed the page URL after a redesign or migration, you'll need to make sure the new link leads to the new content you uploaded. As a result, a manual or automatic replacement of old links will be necessary.

Step 3: 301 redirect

An essential process when changing a URL, the 301 redirection, is an operation that shows to search engines that they have permanently moved the links pointing to an old URL to a new web page.

Your CMS can handle most of the time. Otherwise, it will be necessary to add plug-ins designed specifically for this operation. Nothing prevents you from doing this manually, but it can be complicated.

Finally, note that you can also set up a 302 redirect, which will be temporary. This is used, for example, with maintenance work.

Step 4: Creating a Custom 404 Error Page

Even with a lot of vigilance and control, it can still happen that a malfunction leads to a 404 error on your web pages. 

Thus, to avoid any inconvenience, we recommend you design a 404 error page that will be personalized according to your company's colors, logo, or graphic identity.

This tailor-made page should contain the link to your home page or the links to your new internal pages.

This, so that the Internet user can more easily find your address and, above all, that someone directly redirected him to a valid page on your website.

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