How Do 404 Errors Affect SEO?
When we do SEO management for clients, one of the many things we look to do is to resolve any 404 errors. For those not in the know, 404 errors occur when you arrive at a webpage that no longer exists. Overall, having broken links on your site doesn’t directly affect traffic negatively, but if a user’s first experience with your site involves clicking on a dead link, it’s much more likely that they won’t hang around.
Troubleshooting Broken Links
A good way to troubleshoot broken links on your site is to use Google Webmaster Console. It identifies broken links on your site, and ranks them by importance. So while you may not be able to eliminate all of the errors right away, you at least have an idea of priority. However, not all 404 errors are bad – sometimes we see a large uptick of these on the eCommerce sites we manage, where it’s pretty much inevitable that 404 errors will happen. This is especially the case when each product is a one-off model – once it’s sold, there isn’t another like it to replace it in stock.
404 Errors Aren’t All Bad!
Another situation in which we tend to see an increase in 404 errors is when a new site is launched – especially if the content or pages on the site changed. It’s very important to catch these within the first month of launch, especially if you’re expecting a lot of new visitors. While 404 errors don’t automatically translate into SEO losses, the first impression that a user has with a website is important, and if you want them to come back, you should make sure their experience is as streamlined and worry-free as possible.
Next time you decide to eliminate some content on your site, or change your site significantly, keep in mind that it’s important to forward on users to the updated page URL. First and foremost, a website provides an experience or service to the user and it’s important to try to get them where they want to go.