If you imagine you have been browsing the internet for a specific product, service or article and find a really useful website but the link takes you to an error page, or the page doesn’t exist you will navigate back to the search engine and try another website or company, how frustrating is that for your potential customers or partners.
These kind of errors are known as 404 errors and are usually caused by a page being renamed or removed from the website but no redirect to its new location has been setup, or even worse there is a typo in the page link that causes the link to show a 404 error.
Google has stated that 404 errors do not have a direct negative impact on search engine optimisation but they do interrupt the user experience a visitor to your website will receive, and possibly cause the user to go to one of your competitors. Having dead links will also reduce any SEO value the page had and any “link juice” the page once had will be lost.
Every website is bound to have a few 404 errors, the Googlebot will not crawl every webpage everyday so you need to ensure once it looks at your website it can crawl every page to prevent wasting the efforts of the Googlebot when it does visit your website. Having 100s or 1000s of 404 errors will get in the way of the crawler actually finding any new content.
As mentioned above the usability of your website is also a factor in SEO, if you are driving traffic to a website but the content cant be found or is broken the visitor will quickly leave resulting in a higher than average bounce rate. If Google sees that a lot of visitors visiting your website and immediately leaving it is possible that certain webpages will start to drop in the search results.
It may sound harsh but Google doesn’t care about your website, Google cares about making the best possible search results for their users because search volume is how they charge people for AdWords. If your website has a lot of 404 errors than that isn’t a very good search experience for the user and you are undermining Google’s main goal on the internet.
Google has a great tool called Google Search Console, this was originally known as Google Webmaster Tools, and allows users to browse all of the pages that are giving 404 errors, this can then form a to-do list of pages to fix or setup 301 redirects to their new location.
Once you have your list of pages causing the errors you need to decide where the page needs to be redirected to, this will tell Google and other search engines the page has been moved, or renamed and this is the new location so it can be recrawled by Googlebot and for browsers to find the page a visitor may request. The fixes can then be put in place in WordPress within a dedicated plugin that creates 301 redirects, the same can be done in OpenCart using similar plugins.
We can provide help and support in fixing your websites 404 errors and setting up redirects to pages, articles or products that have been moved or renamed. If you would like us to help or perform a review of your website please get in contact with us.