If you are a website owner or administrator, you may have encountered the frustrating issue of 404 errors in Google Search Console. These errors occur when a requested webpage cannot be found on the server. While it is important to address certain types of 404 errors, it is equally important to understand which ones can be safely ignored. In this article, we will delve into the world of 404 errors, explore the reasons behind their occurrence, and provide actionable steps to handle them effectively.
Understanding the 404 Error Response
Before we dive into resolving 404 errors, let’s take a moment to understand what they actually mean. When a server encounters a request for a webpage that does not exist, it sends a 404 error response to the crawler or browser. This response is simply an acknowledgment that the requested webpage is not available. It is not an error in the traditional sense, but rather a standard server response.
Reasons for 404 Errors
Several reasons can lead to the occurrence of 404 errors on your website. Let’s explore some of the most common ones:
- Outdated Sitemap: If your website’s sitemap is listing pages that no longer exist, it can cause 404 errors to be reported in Google Search Console. It is crucial to regularly update your sitemap to ensure it accurately reflects the current structure of your website.
- Broken Internal Links: When internal webpages on your site link to webpages that have been removed or no longer exist, users and search engines encounter 404 errors. It is essential to periodically review and fix any broken internal links you come across.
- Misspelled URLs: Typos happen, and sometimes they can lead to 404 errors. If a webpage’s URL has been misspelled, users and search engines will be directed to a non-existent page. Double-check your URLs to ensure they are free of typographical errors.
- Missing Redirects: If you have moved content from one URL to another without implementing proper redirects, users and search engines will encounter 404 errors when trying to access the old URL. Setting up redirects is crucial to ensure a smooth user experience and preserve search engine rankings.
- Spam Links: In some cases, spam websites may link to non-existent pages on your site, resulting in 404 errors being reported in Google Search Console. While these spam links are beyond your control, they can safely be ignored as they do not impact your website’s overall performance.
By identifying the specific reasons behind your 404 errors, you can take targeted actions to resolve them effectively.
Dealing with 404 Errors in Google Search Console
Now that we have a clear understanding of what 404 errors are and why they occur, let’s explore how to handle them in Google Search Console.
- Identify the Source: Begin by reviewing the 404 errors reported in Google Search Console. Pay attention to the specific URLs that are triggering the errors and analyze the patterns. This analysis will help you determine if the errors are a result of outdated sitemaps, broken internal links, misspelled URLs, or missing redirects.
- Update Your Sitemap: If your sitemap is the culprit behind the 404 errors, it is crucial to update it promptly. Remove any URLs that no longer exist and include any new URLs that have been added to your website. Once you have made the necessary changes, submit the updated sitemap to Google Search Console for indexing.
- Fix Broken Internal Links: Broken internal links can lead to a poor user experience and negatively impact your website’s SEO. Conduct a thorough audit of your website and identify any broken internal links. Replace them with the correct URLs or remove them altogether. Additionally, consider implementing a mechanism to automatically check for broken links periodically.
- Implement Redirects: If you have moved content to a new URL, implement 301 redirects from the old URL to the new one. This will ensure that users and search engines are seamlessly redirected to the correct page. Redirects not only help solve 404 errors but also preserve any search engine rankings and backlinks associated with the old URL.
- Monitor and Resolve: After implementing the necessary fixes, keep an eye on the 404 errors reported in Google Search Console. Monitor the situation closely to ensure that the reported errors decrease over time. If new errors appear, investigate the source and take appropriate action to resolve them promptly.
The Importance of Ignoring Certain 404 Errors
While it is crucial to address the website issues causing most 404 errors, it is equally important to understand when certain errors can be safely ignored. External links from spam websites that lead to non-existent pages on your site fall into this category. These links are beyond your control and do not impact the overall performance of your website. Therefore, it is best to focus your efforts on resolving the errors that are within your control and have a direct impact on user experience and SEO.
See first source: Search Engine Journal
What is a 404 error?
A 404 error is a server response indicating that the requested webpage cannot be found on the server. It’s not an error in the traditional sense but a standard response for non-existent webpages.
Why do 404 errors occur?
Common reasons include outdated sitemaps, broken internal links, misspelled URLs, missing redirects, and spam links from external websites.
How do 404 errors impact my website?
While some 404 errors can be ignored, others can lead to a poor user experience and may negatively impact your website’s SEO if not addressed.
How do I identify the source of 404 errors on my website?
Review the 404 errors reported in Google Search Console, analyze the URLs triggering the errors, and identify patterns to determine the cause of the errors.
How can I fix an outdated sitemap causing 404 errors?
Update your sitemap by removing URLs of pages that no longer exist and including new URLs, then submit the updated sitemap to Google Search Console for indexing.
What should I do about broken internal links?
Conduct a website audit to identify and fix or remove any broken internal links. Implementing an automatic mechanism to check for broken links periodically can also be beneficial.
How do I handle missing redirects leading to 404 errors?
Implement 301 redirects from the old URLs to the new ones to ensure users and search engines are directed to the correct pages, preserving search engine rankings and backlinks associated with the old URLs.
What action should be taken with misspelled URLs causing 404 errors?
Double-check and correct the URLs to ensure they are free of typographical errors, redirecting any incorrect URLs to the correct ones.
How do I deal with spam links causing 404 errors?
Spam links from external websites can be ignored as they do not impact your website’s performance and are beyond your control.
Featured Image Credit: Erik Mclean; Unsplash – Thank you!
Olivia is the Editor in Chief of Blog Herald.