404 is an HTTP Status Code returned by a server for any particular page.
HTTP Status Codes?
Let’s take a look at what are these status codes and what are they meant and used for.
HTTP Status Codes are generally three digit codes or numbers which are returned by a browser for a particular page or an element when it is accessed by a visitor.
Generally, there are five types of status codes returned by any browser :-
- 200 OK/Success
- 301 Permanent
- 302 Temporary
- 404 Not Found
- 500 Server Error
What we are most concerned with in this blogging tip are the “404 – Page Not Found” status codes. Though we might discuss rest of the codes someday later.
404s are returned when the server is unable to find anything matching for the requested URL. In that case, your server or CMS will display a 404 – URL Not Found Page.
Even if you check your blog’s or website’s Google Webmaster Account, you will certainly find some 404 pages returned by your server.
Though 404 pages are not something to be worried for. In fact, they are not supposed to harm your site directly in terms of SEO. Though, by managing them wisely, you can use them for greater benefits. Let’s see how.
3 Ways to Manage 404 Errors on Your Website
- Do Not Redirect Every 404 Page :- There is absolutely no reason to fear 404 pages. No one has ever given proof that major search engine like Google will ever penalize your site for 404 pages directly. Hence, you must not panic to redirect every 404 page to your homepage or any category. The best way to sort out this is to conduct an audit of your 404 pages. Those 404 pages which have high number of quality backlinks pointing to it or have a decent traffic to them from Google for certain keywords should be redirected to homepage or any other page of equivalent relevance and importance. This will help you save link juice to your website and will even conserve traffic from search engines and natural links. The rest of the 404 pages which you think are not of that importance and bring nothing to your website should be left as they are.
- Keep a Count on the Number :- Another result of a large number of 404 pages on your website can be that your webpages are either not accessible or do not exist. If this number of total 404 pages on your website grows beyond a certain limit, for example, 500 pages out of a total of 1,000 pages on your website are 404s, then there is something to worry about and you need to to take a deep look on your site’s structure and server’s configuration.
- Design and Customize Your 404 Page :- This useful technique is used by many expert bloggers and webmasters (not me of course) to gain more subscribers and visitors. All they do is that they design and customize their 404 pages beautifully to redirect their visitors to homepage, sales page or any subscription form. This will help your website to grow from pages which do not even exist on your website.
404 pages can be extremely useful and handy if used with caution and great mind. How do you manage the 404 pages on your website? Where do you redirect the traffic from 404 pages? Please feel free to leave any suggestion below in the comments.