Updated on February 4, 2024
404 errors can negatively impact your website’s SEO and user experience. When a user or search engine crawler encounters a 404 error, it means that the requested page does not exist. This can happen due to various reasons such as a mistyped URL, deleted page, or broken link. In this article, we will discuss how to use Search Console to identify and fix 404 errors on your website, ensuring smoother user experiences and better search engine rankings.
Understanding 404 Errors
Before we dive into fixing 404 errors, it’s essential to understand what they are and how they affect your website. A 404 error is an HTTP status code that indicates a page not found error. When a user or search engine crawler lands on a webpage that displays a 404 error, it means that the requested URL does not exist. This can lead to a negative impact on user experience, as visitors may become frustrated when they can’t find the information they were looking for.
In addition to user experience, 404 errors can also harm your website’s SEO efforts. Search engines consider broken links or 404 errors as an indication of poor website quality and may lower your rankings as a result. It’s essential to regularly check for and fix 404 errors to ensure your website is performing optimally.
Identifying 404 Errors with Search Console
Google Search Console is a powerful tool that can help you identify and fix 404 errors on your website. Follow these steps to check for 404 errors using Search Console:
Step 1: Access Search Console
If you haven’t already done so, set up and verify your website with Google Search Console. It’s a free tool provided by Google, and it offers valuable insights into your website’s performance. Once you have verified your website, proceed to the next step.
Step 2: Navigate to the Coverage Report
In the left-hand menu of Search Console, click on “Coverage” under the “Index” section. This will take you to the Coverage report, which provides an overview of indexed pages and any issues found on your website.
Step 3: Check the Error Section
In the Coverage report, look for the “Error” section. Here, you will find a list of URLs that returned a 404 error. Click on this section to view the specific URLs that are problematic.
Step 4: Review and Fix 404 Error URLs
Carefully review each URL listed in the “Error” section and determine whether it’s a legitimate 404 error. Sometimes, the reported URLs may not be actual errors but rather intentional pages that you have removed. In such cases, you can mark them as “Valid” or “Fixed.” For URLs that are indeed errors, it’s crucial to identify the root cause and fix them appropriately.
Fixing 404 Errors
After identifying the 404 error URLs in Search Console, it’s time to fix them. Here are some strategies to help you rectify 404 errors:
1. Redirect the URLs
If a page has permanently moved or the URL structure has changed, you can set up redirects to ensure users and search engines land on the correct page. Implementing 301 redirects will redirect visitors and pass the ranking power to the new URL.
2. Restore or Recreate the Page
If a page has been mistakenly deleted or removed, consider restoring it from a backup or recreating it. This will ensure that the content is accessible again, and the 404 error is resolved.
3. Update Internal Links
Carefully examine your website’s internal links and update any outdated links that may be causing 404 errors. Update the links to point to the correct URL or remove broken links altogether.
4. Create Custom 404 Page
Even with vigilant monitoring, some 404 errors may slip through the cracks. In such cases, it’s beneficial to create a custom 404 error page. This page can provide helpful information, suggest similar or popular pages, or offer a search bar to help users navigate your website more easily.
Monitoring and Preventing Future 404 Errors
Fixing existing 404 errors is important, but it’s equally crucial to monitor and prevent future occurrences. Here are some steps to take:
Regularly Check Search Console
Maintain regular checks of your website’s coverage reports in Search Console to catch any new 404 errors. This allows you to address them promptly and avoid potential negative impacts on your website’s performance.
Perform Periodic Website Audits
Conduct periodic audits of your website to identify any broken links or outdated URLs that may lead to 404 errors. Use tools like crawling software to scan your website and generate reports highlighting any broken or redirected links.
Update or Remove Outdated Content
Content can become outdated over time, leading to broken links and 404 errors. Regularly review your website’s content and update or remove any outdated pages or links that are no longer relevant.
Implement Proper URL Structure
Ensure that your website’s URL structure is logical and follows a consistent pattern. This makes it easier for users and search engines to navigate your website, reducing the chances of encountering 404 errors.
404 errors are a common occurrence on websites, but they can have adverse effects on user experience and SEO. By utilizing Google Search Console and following the strategies mentioned above, you can identify and fix 404 errors efficiently. Regular monitoring and prevention measures will help ensure your website provides seamless user experiences and maintains a strong search engine presence.
Who is Alizaib Hassan? Alizaib Hassan is a search engine optimization specialist. Alizaib Hassan: Automate SEO-related tasks using Python. Alizaib regularly attends webinars, conferences, and SEO-related events. He focuses on automation, data science, web development, entity-based SEO, marketing, and branding.