What is a 404 error
Nothing lasts forever and is not perfect – not even websites. An “Achilles heel” that can spoil the impression of the coolest and most modern site can be a 404 error, which means there is no web page at the specified address. It would seem that there is nothing wrong with this, but a couple of “killed” pages can easily spoil the general idea of readers about the site. If there are a lot of such errors, it is necessary to take measures, because otherwise the online business can significantly lose its efficiency.
What does 404 error mean?
Ideally, the user should not encounter any 404 errors. In practice, this is very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve, especially if it is an online store with a large number of products, sections and subsections. Non-existent pages may appear when editing or deleting materials, after the end of promotions or when stocks of the goods being sold come to an end. In some cases, this error appears after changing the site structure or when moving to another engine (CMS), as well as disabling some plugins and modules. Error 404, which means the actual absence of a web page, is a gap for leaking precious traffic. This page may well have existed in the past, but the URL may have changed due to deletion, relocation, or name adjustments. At the same time, both external and internal links may well lead to it, but when trying to access this page, the user sees “Page not found”. Here another problem appears – broken links as a result of linking to a remote page. A large number of broken links harms effective SEO promotion. Error 404 needs to be fixed! There are too many of these pages? Deleted a couple of sections and a whole 100 404s popped up? The site can significantly lose its effectiveness, and therefore you need to act now!
What is a 404 error and what causes it
The answer to the question “what does a 404 error mean” lies on the surface: 404 Not Found is the standard server response code that it sends to the client (user’s PC) if the requested page is not on the site.
When surfing (navigating through the pages of the site), the web browser sends requests to the server, which in turn checks whether such a page exists at all, and what information is there. If the page exists, the server sends the “200 OK” code invisible to the user, but if the page is not found, the same 404 Not Found comes. Be that as it may, even the most “pumped” administrator cannot track each of the response codes manually – for automated tracking, you must use special web utilities and programs. On your own, even when using these utilities, it is extremely difficult to deal with the codes.
So what does 404 not found mean? Each code sent by the browser has its own unique value. The first four in the 404 code means waiting too long for a response from the server. The second digit, zero, indicates a syntax inaccuracy, and the rightmost digit indicates the type of problem that occurred on the server side. There can be several reasons for the occurrence of Error 404 Not Found:
- syntax errors in URLs or broken links;
- a document removed from a web resource;
- incorrect redirect to the page whose address has been changed;
- web server malfunction.
The 404 error seriously affects the behavioral factors and the number of users on the site, and most importantly, the ranking of the site. This is explained simply: the user goes to the section he needs to view the content, and instead he sees a message about Error 404. In most cases (according to statistics, in 7 out of 10 cases), he will close the tab and continue searching for the necessary information on other sites. The number of visitors will fall, and if this trend continues, further content of the once powerful resource will become unprofitable. Both Google and Yandex regard the appearance of permanent 404s as a deterioration in the quality of the resource, gradually reducing its position in the search results. A short stay of the reader on the site or returning to the search results negatively affects the ranking for search queries.
What is a 404 page not found error and why is it bad
The presence of such errors leads to the following situations:
- a decrease in positions in organic search – the ranking is noticeably worsening, which is why the resource literally “fails” in the search results;
- 404 pages are indexed by search engines as working pages, they can get into search results, which means that the percentage of bounces will grow inexorably;
- deterioration in the effectiveness of promotions and promotions – have you ever seen an ad page, the transition to which knocks out a 404 on the screen? The loss of the lion’s share of the target audience means that advertising money will be wasted;
- drop in the user-friendly parameter – users land on a non-existent page, which leads to loss of time and causes distrust of the site as a whole.
Users themselves encounter 404 pages mainly only because of “broken” links on a web resource. The solution is obvious: to remove “dead” pages, you should eliminate the source of such links. For this, crawling is used with the help of specialized software, after which the URL is changed to the correct one.
Eliminating such errors will significantly improve the quality of the resource – users and search engines will be happy with a completely working and informative resource!
What should an ideal 404 Not Found page look like?
By itself, the 404 Not Found page is completely useless to readers. However, a decent design can smooth out a negative impression, turning into a kind of apology. And most importantly, a blank page will become much more informative and useful. It must solve the following tasks:
- attract attention, tune in to positive;
- explain to users why they got to this page;
- suggest possible options.
It is in your power to make a non-existent page your advantage! For example, you can place information about sales and special offers there, a product search form, or even make an entire advertising landing page! You can add anything that can be useful to this page! To achieve a similar effect, you can introduce the following elements:
- transition to the main page;
- search form;
- button to report a broken link;
- list of thematic articles;
- map of site.
A couple of years ago, Google set the following requirements: 404 must be in harmony with the overall concept of the resource, complementing its graphic and semantic content. But Yandex recommends doing without graphic excesses by designing a 404 page in a similar color scheme. Despite the actual uselessness of the 404 page, it can add the necessary functionality to the site – and you need to design it correctly. If the overall design and semantic content of your resource is official and strict, a couple of words are enough for an explanation, the “Home” button and forms, but for entertainment portals you can use graphics, flash animation and even video inserts. Now you know what a 404 error is, how to fix the “Page Not Found” that has arisen and how important it is, and therefore, if there are too many such errors on your site, you should at least optimize them, and eliminate them as a maximum.
Don’t want to do all this yourself? Set a task for GS4B specialists – All errors on the site will be corrected as soon as possible!