Ensuring that your SEO efforts pay off in the long run often means that you have to keep a close eye on your site structure, and the pages you link out to. In this post, we’ll have a look at 404 errors, and the impact these errors can have on your SEO effectivity.
What are 404 errors?
Essentially a 404 error is given when your browser tries to access a web page that has been deleted, or moved from the location that the link you used specified. And while Google’s official statement is that they do not penalise 404 errors as such, there are ways, indicated by the way their Search algorithms work, that it can have a detrimental effect on your ranking anyway.
Why they are bad for your SEO
There are two big problems when it comes to 404 errors, one technical, and the other a bit more down to earth.
First, the fact that Google looks at, amongst other things, the external and internal linking in your website. If for example, there are twenty other sites that are linking to one of your pages, and that page is deleted, you will lose a lot of linking power, which will affect your ranking.
The other problem lies with internal links giving to a 404 error. This means that on one of your pages, there are links to other pages of your website, which are essentially not working. The biggest problem with internal links is that they have a very negative impact on the user experience on your website, which means that if you have a large amount of internal 404s, you’ll start seeing your bounce rates increase. This can also impact negatively on your ranking, seeing as Google has been focusing on user experience when ranking pages since 2011.
What you can do
Make sure that the Google webmaster’s search console is using the most updated sitemap, and marked the URL issues as fixed. These URL errors will not impact your site performance, and rather are a tool to allow you to see what indexed pages Google has been unable to find, to let you know what pages will not be listed in Google searches. As the sitemap is up to date, Google should no longer attempt to crawl the nonexistent pages, however, their algorithms can sometimes take a bit of time to recognise that a particular URL should no longer be checked by their crawler.
If you suspect that your website is harbouring more than its fair share of 404 errors, the best approach is to take a look at your Google Search Console to see how many sites are giving the error. If you’re uncertain how to go about fixing them, contact us, and we’ll help you find a solution to your 404 errors. A redirection plugin can also be installed into your admin panel which can be used to redirect your most important pages from old social media posts, newsletters and more.