How SEO should deal with 404 Errors?

Nothing Found Page/ Error 404 page


Going to a blog without any content yet or broken URL would generate a 404 error message. In a WordPress blog, your website should display your recent posts, however, when you don’t have posted anything and deleted the default Hello World! Template, you will be prompted to a “Not Found” warning.

There are two types of 404 error code: hard and soft. The hard one is the traditional HTTP response code for moved or deleted pages while soft 404 error code means that there was a communication with the server but the webpage got a 200 OK response code. With the traditional 404 the bots and the users see the same deleted page but with the soft 404 confusions may rise. With soft 404, the user is shown with several information of the server; contents that are irrelevant to them.

A 404 error can affect your website’s status in Google because the crawlers may spend their time crawling and indexing a non-existing page. It will also affect how your users will perceive your website.

How Google Reads a 404 or not found page?

Generally, Google understands that some pages may change moved or deleted from time to time. As a web owner you need to update your website. Some pages with low quality contents may compel you to delete it. However, as the search engine crawlers found a link anywhere in the internet, it will continue to go into that link whether it has contents or not. When that page has been deleted it should return a 404 code, though some times 200 response code is also returned. A soft 404 is not advised because it will confuse users and search engine.

To make it simple, there are three ways to inform Google that such page is moved or deleted. You have the 404, 410 and 301 redirects. As mentioned above, traditional 404 is better than soft 404, so you need to stick with that. In line with this, when you want Google to index that page as Gone 410 HTTP code is advised but if such page is simply moved to another URL, 301 redirect is the most suitable to use. This is because a page that has been moved and returned with 301 redirect will still benefit from the traffic driven to the old URL.

Will it affect your sites ranking?

When the user clicked your link because of informational or transactional purposes, he expected that the link will cater him to what he is looking for. However, when the page he was directed was broken such as “Nothing Found” warning sign, the page dissatisfies the user. Therefore, Panda will take action on it. It will cause a bounce back, urgent exit on the page, or click other links in the page. These are all alarms for Panda to look into the page and whose site it is affiliated. Also, these are all ranking signals that can affect the rankings of your website.

On the other hand, not because you have one or two broken URL, your rankings will be significantly affected. A minimal number of 404 pages won’t affect your ranking because Google understands that it happens, however, when you have lots of 404 pages and it is already affecting user’s experience, you can also experience a drop on your rankings.

Solution for Panda Update

Broken links annoy users. They hope to find information on the page but were prompted with a no content page. If there are 10k pages which are broken in your blog, it will definitely hurt your website to solve such problem you need to bury these pages with 410 HTTP code provided that you are sure that these contain low quality and can’t be improved. After that you must use the Google Disavow Tool to ensure that Google won’t count it for you. Another way to solve your bulky broken links is to use the Xenu Link Sleuth.

Broken links are one of the major issues face by many websites. Aside from it affects your user’s welfare; it significantly affects your rankings. So, always check on your website’s pages and use appropriate error codes and tools to solve any issue to avoid future penalties.

Have some questions? Just drop me a comment or send me a message.

Al Gomez

SEO Consultant, Online Marketer & Blogger, Web Developer & DLINKERS Founder.

“Chose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”