404 Errors: Why are they bad and how can you stop them?

404 - in recent years this has become a number that no one wants to see when browsing online. A 404 Error basically means that you can’t get to your intended destination. As a user it can be a frustrating experience and for businesses it can mean potentially losing a customer or a lead that could have been converted later on. So, how do you deal with 404 Errors and what can you do to stop them?

What is a 404 Error?

It basically means that the page that has been requested can’t be found on the server. If your site is returning 404 Errors to those who are trying to browse it then there could be a number of reasons for this. Among the most common are when you’ve deleted or removed pages from your site recently and you haven’t redirected the URLs. You might also be generating this error a lot if you’ve made changes to your domain, such as relaunching it, without redirecting old URLs to the new site. If you’ve mistyped a URL in an internal link this can also generate the error message, as can changing or altering any part of the URL of a page.

Why does a 404 Error matter?

There are two key reasons:

  1. You’re not creating the best experience for people browsing. In fact, you’re likely to get high levels of disengagement with your site if users are constantly coming across 404 Errors. Even one of these can mean that someone bounces from your site, potentially losing you a sale or lead.
  2. The impact on SEO. You can also damage your site’s rankings if there are lots of these broken links. Although there are no direct penalties for 404 Errors, broken links will make it difficult for search engines to crawl your site and link equity won’t be passed around your site well. If you’re getting higher bounce rates as a result of 404 Errors then this is also going to have a direct impact on your rankings.

Stopping 404 Errors

There are a number of different tools available to help you identify broken links on your website, including site crawlers and Google Search Console (via Coverage - Excluded). These can enable you to see a full list of the pages that are currently returning 404 Errors so that you can go in and fix the links to stop the problem. There are three simple ways to fix a 404 Error:

  • Redirect users to another relevant page. This is the most straightforward fix but just make sure that the redirect goes to another useful page and not just your homepage.
  • Reinstate the original page. If you’re seeing a lot of people looking for a page that you’ve deleted then you might want to consider reinstating it.
  • If the problem is an incorrect link on your website then go in and edit the link to correct it.

404 Errors seem like a small thing but they can be a big deal when it comes to the effectiveness of your website. It’s important to tackle them up front to ensure that they don’t become an obstacle to connection and engagement for your business.

To find out how Iconic Digital can help you improve your lead generation and improve your return on your marketing spend, get in touch today and call us on 020 7100 0726. You can also explore our digital marketing services online today.

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