Web Design

What is an Error 404 & How to Fix It On Your Website

Have you ever clicked on a link only to arrive at an Error 404 page? Even worse, no matter how many times you refresh the page or click the link, you still…

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business owner completing web maintenance tasks on his website

Have you ever clicked on a link only to arrive at an Error 404 page? Even worse, no matter how many times you refresh the page or click the link, you still arrive at the same error. It’s annoying, frustrating, and completely fixable. 

What is Error 404? Read on to learn everything you need to know about the pesky error, including how to fix it on your website! 

What Is Error 404?

Error 404 means the webpage isn’t available. It’s an HTML status code indicating an error with the specific page but not the server.  

error 404 message on laptop

What Causes an Error 404?

Three primary issues result in an Error 404 page. Depending on the cause, you may or may not be able to prevent your visitors from arriving at the 404 Error.

User Error

Unfortunately, the most common cause of 404 Errors is the visitor mistyping the URL. Whenever a user enters an incorrect or incomplete website, they end up on an Error 404 page. While you can’t necessarily prevent all user errors, it helps keep your URLs short, sweet, and intuitive.

For example, say your carpentry website is AAAcarpentry.com, and you have a page about cabinets. Even if you have the cleanest website of all the carpenters in your area, using complicated URLs like AAAcarpentry.com/build-renovate-cabinets-for-all/552945 leaves far too much room for user error. Instead, keep it simple, like AAAcarpentry.com/cabinets.

Missing 301 Redirects 

If you created a new page or converted to a new domain and failed to redirect an old URL to the new one, your visitors end up on Error 404 pages. Whenever you update your website, it’s a good idea to review your URLs to make sure they all work correctly.

Broken Links

Do you link to a lot of external content? It’s possible to encounter broken links for outdated or deleted material. It’s more common for older content to have broken or dead links.

Why Fix an Error 404 Page?

According to Google Search Console, many 404 Errors don’t hurt indexing or ranking for SEO purposes. However, if you have too many errors, it suggests to the search engines that your site has issues. 

Of course, it’s also terribly frustrating for visitors who encounter those pesky Error 404 pages! Consider how often people leave your site because of the 404 Errors and what that means for leads and future traffic.

How to Fix an Error 404

team working to fix an error 404 message

Remember, not all 404 Errors are bad or worth correcting. You can’t neutralize all user errors because we are all human and can make mistakes typing in a URL. 

  • If Error 404 occurs because you deleted a page and did not replace it with something similar, then you should leave it alone. 
  • Broken links resulting in Error 404 codes need correcting and should be easy to fix by updating the URL to a functioning page.
  • For pages that frequently result in 404 Errors, you may want to check the URL for complexity to see if you can simplify it.

Note that using a robots.txt file or some other method to block 404 Errors is a bad idea. Blocking all 404 errors on your site can significantly impact site crawls and harm your site.

What Is an Error 404 Custom Page?

One other consideration for your site is creating a custom Error 404 page. Since you can’t prevent all 404 Errors, you can limit the harm to your site by developing a custom page. There are several advantages to including a custom Error 404 during your website development.

  • A custom page uses your branding and a short message to your customers.
  • Incorporate your sitemap and important, functional links for your customers to use to navigate your site better.
  • Include contact information for your visitors to reach you for assistance.

You can take several different approaches to a custom Error 404 page, but the key is to have it flow with your website. Discuss your options with your web developer to find a sweet spot between creative and clever so that you don’t lose visitors unnecessarily. If you’re lucky, you may be able to turn those inevitable Error 404 issues into a boon!

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