Take a minute this week and connect with your webmaster and ask these two questions:
1: What happens if someone comes to my website and can’t find the page they are looking for?
You can test this yourself if you go to your website and look for a bogus page. For example: http://yourdomain.com/fakepage
2: What are we doing to manage 404 errors if someone does experience a missing page?
What is a 404 error?
When someone visits your website, or clicks on a link to your website from a search engine, and your hosting server can’t find the page requested, a 404 event takes place and an error is generated by your hosting server.
404 errors arguably do not happen that often, but they do occur and they occur for a variety of reasons. Some 404 errors are legitimate mistakes (nobody is perfect!), but most are either an oversight or a result of cutting corners or not paying attention.
404 errors WILL hurt your rankings and visibility at Google.
Basically, Google looks at your website and sees a 404 error as sloppy website management.
Bottom line: a 404 error is not a good thing for your website or your business.
Obviously, this is a not a good thing because someone who was interested in your business is looking for something that isn’t there.
A 404 error doesn’t create the best exerience for a visitor at your website. Some argue it is a poor reflection on your business.
Wikipedia defines it as:
“The 404 or Not Found error message is a HTTP standard response code indicating that the client was able to communicate with a given server, but the server could not find what was requested.”
Why do 404 errors occur?
In most cases a 404 error is the result of:
- Deleting a page at your website
- Moving a page
- Renaming a page
- Changing a permalink (if you are using WordPress)
- Programming errors (typos or similar mistakes)
404 errors are most commonly associated with website updates and not replacing or redirect old pages to new pages.
Here’s what you can do to manage 404 errors:
If Your Website Was Built on WordPress
If your website was built using WordPress you can install a plugin that allows you to redirect 404 errors to a custom page. I recommend the 404 to 301 Redirect WordPress plugin by Joel James (https://wordpress.org/plugins/404-to-301/). It is really simple to use.
1. Create a new page (PAGE) at your website.
2. Download and install the plugin from the WordPress repository.
3. Configure the404 to 301 Redirect plugin from your WordPress dashboard (i.e. plugins) to show the page you created if a 404 error occurs.
If Your Website is NOT Built on WordPress
If you’re website isn’t built using WordPress you’ll need to talk to your hosting company and find out the best way to redirect 404 errors. Often it requires managing your website’s HTACCESS file.
How a 404 is handled, and how it is configured, depends on your hosting platform (MS-Windows, Unix, Apache, etc.).
Given how hard it is now to get high-quality website traffic you’ll want to do everything you can to make sure your visitors don’t leave your website. Addressing 404 errors effectively will keep brides and grooms who find your website AT YOUR WEBSITE !!
Examples / Screen Captures
1 – A custom 404 error page using a WordPress plugin.
2 – Typical “default” 404 error message used by a hosting server, with no custom 404 error page.