Error 404 meaning, impact and best practices

Error 404 meaning, impact and best practices

One of the most common problems encountered by visitors to various sites is bug 404 Not Found. Today we will analyze in detail why it occurs, how to get rid of it, and whether it is possible to secure your resource.

What is a 404 error

To begin with, you should understand what the error 404 meaning. It’s also called ‘Not found’ and the name speaks for itself. Not Found is translated as not found. If you speak a simple language, it means that pages with this address do not exist.

If you consider this issue from a technical viewpoint, everything is a bit more interesting. An uninformed user may think that when writing any random character set in a browser, a 404 error will be generated saying that there is no such page. This is incorrect. In the case of a random character set, you will see a message that you cannot establish a connection to the server.

The thing is that the user request is initially sent to the server where the site is located. If it is possible to establish a connection with the server of the site, then, in this case, will be received any response. If all is well, the request is correct, such a page exists, then you will receive an answer with code 200. Accordingly, the page will be loaded. But if something went wrong, an error message will be sent.

But what about the numbers 404 meaning?

There is a legend that the first server was in a room with the number 404. But this phenomenon also has a more pragmatic description. The first number 4 indicates that the request was too long and there may have been an error in writing the address. The last digit indicates a specific error. 4, in this case, indicates the absence of such a link on the site. If the last digit was, for example, 3, it would mean that this link exists, but access to it from the device used is prohibited.

Main causes of error 404

Now that we know what is error 404, let’s discuss what could cause it. To fix the 404 Not Found error, you must determine the cause of the error. There are several of them and each one should be considered separately:

Incorrect page address. Everything here is quite simple – the user tried to enter a direct link manually and made a misprint. Or the link tries to open a page that does not exist.

Broken link. It is a link that does not lead to any page of the site. Most often they appear at the internal linking pages site. The main difference from the previous paragraph – this page once existed on the site.

Removed page. If the page was removed from the server side, it does not mean that no one will try to go to it. It will remain for some time in search engines. Also, a link to a particular page of the site may be in the browser bookmarks users.

Incorrect server operation. Sometimes the error 404 is on the server due to the faulty work of the latter. However, this case is an exception to the rules.

To sum up all the above, in most cases the 404 error occurs when it is impossible to find the requested page for some reason. All of them are very similar to each other but require a different approach to solving the problem that has arisen.

Each of us encountered a 404 error on the site and we wanted to leave this page as soon as possible. But some companies, online stores, media create pages with a 404 server response, which you immediately add to bookmarks. Let’s talk about how to achieve this effect and “squeeze” the maximum of 404.

Does Error 404 harm SEO?

404 Not Found – Server response code that tells you that you cannot find the page at the specified address.

There is an opinion that having a page with a 404 error in the site harms SEO, but this is not true.

Here’s what Google knowledgebase states:

Usually, 404 errors don’t affect the website’s ranking in Google, so you can ignore them. Most often they are related to misprints, incorrect settings, or attempts by Google to recognize and scan links in embedded content (e.g. JavaScript code).

The appearance of 404 errors on a site is an inevitable phenomenon and the reasons may be different:

  • a change in the structure of the site;
  • broken links;
  • a change in the URL of a page;
  • the page or site no longer exists.

These reasons require careful study – it is necessary to replace the broken links with the actual ones when changing the structure and URLs of the site correctly set the 301 redirect to the actual pages. However, there are also quite “everyday” situations where 404 pages appear. For example:

  • a misprint when a user enters a URL;
  • removal of goods on the site.

In these cases, the appearance of the 404th page is inevitable and logical for search robots. I will tell you how to minimize the impact of a large number of such pages in the next article, and now let’s consider how to develop a high-quality 404 page for the site.

In each of these cases, you need to create a template and configure the 404 server response code for non-existing pages. In doing so, follow the rules that help SEO:

The 404 pages must be configured correctly and give the HTTP 404 (Not Found) code so that it does not get into the search engine index. First, such pages will be counted as duplicates. Secondly, it may negatively affect behavioral factors. After all, if a person from the search gets to a 404 page, he or she will be upset because he or she expected to see quite another thing. Consequently, he will quickly leave and return to the search.

You should not do 301 redirects to the main. In this way you are misleading the user: he expected to get one page, but incomprehensibly was on the main page. From the 404th page there should be a link to the main page, but not redirect.

Do you need to create custom 404 pages?

Very often 404 pages are designed in a standard way and look like this:

404 meaningfully article illustration

Agree, not very loyal to the user and we are more likely to lose him if we do not create a unique and useful template 404 error.

Google recommends that you create your own 404 pages.

A standard 404 page is usually uninformative and has nothing to do with your site. And on your own 404 page you can place useful links and design elements of your site.

If you have access to a server, then try to create your own 404 page. It will help users find the information they need or offer them other interesting content to stay on your site.

Basic recommendations for creating your own 404 pages

When creating your own 404 pages, you must adhere to a single website or brand style. Also design 404 pages can emphasize the specifics of the business. So the user will immediately realize that he got to the site he was looking for, but there were certain difficulties.

Be polite and explain why the person was on this page. Almost every user is familiar with such an error and generally represents what happened. But be prepared to help those who are confused. The message should be clear and clear – without technical details.

Give links that may be useful to the user. Optionally: the most visited pages, popular categories, or new material on the site. The user should be able to go to the main page.

Allow the user to report a problem. This is an additional way to track site errors and show the user how important your attention and comfort is.

Place a search string on the 404 server response code page. You will see that this action will have a positive impact on user behavior. However, first, make sure that the search works correctly and the person will find what he or she was looking for. Otherwise, he will not make two disappointments and is unlikely to want in the future is on your site.

An effective method for online stores – output on 404 pages of similar or recently viewed products.

If your site is small and well structured, place a link to the site map.

How to find 404 error

Some sites have hundreds or even thousands of pages, tracing everything manually is simply not possible. There are a lot of programs and services that allow you to find broken links on any resource. Each webmaster chooses what he likes best, based on personal preferences. But first of all, we should pay attention to the following:

  • Google Search Console;
  • Various specialized scanners.

In the vast majority of cases, all these services are free and allow full control over all errors that occur on the Internet resource. First of all, you should use the first two, as they specialize in tracking technical problems.

How to fix 404 error

It will be easy to find the problem using one or more tools presented above. The most important thing is to fix the bug in time. We can distinguish two main problems and ways to solve them.

1. The link leads to nowhere.

As a rule, this situation occurs when a page has been set with an incorrect address. The problem is solved quite easily – there is a page you are looking for and a link is attached to it. This can be done manually if the resource is placed a few dozen or hundreds of pages.

But if we are talking about a huge portal, which can be up to a few hundred categories, it’s more complicated. Specialists recommend using widgets, which will automatically generate links for pages. This will avoid a huge number of problems in the future.

2. The presence of broken links.

This problem, as a rule, is associated with the internal linking of pages. Often there is a link to a page, and it is long gone. In this case, the element itself is no longer on the resource, but its address remains, which is very disliked by search engines. The problem has several solutions. First, you can simply remove the link, and second, you can change the address. The third solution automates the process again – you can set up automatic internal linking using third-party programs and services. When you’ve found out the reason that caused the bug, you can easily figure out how to fix 404 error.

Other cases of 404 Not Found

The two main solutions to the error that occurs are described above. But they do not solve all the possible problems. There are some more tips that experts give webmasters:

You should not give complex addresses to the main pages of the site. Such important tabs, such as “contacts” should have a simple address.

You should not often rename pages, giving them new links. This will mislead absolutely everyone, including search robots.

Your resource should be placed only on reliable servers. This will save you from a huge number of problems.


Work on audience loyalty, try to crash into memory: remember and stand out even with the 404th error. Make it a chip of the site and remember:

The presence of the 404th error on the site does not directly affect the position in the issue.

In order not to lose traffic and improve behavioral factors, you should create custom pages with the 404th server response.

On pages with 404 errors should be placed information explaining why the user was here, where to go next. This is necessary for a person to understand: the site works and you can stay on it.

When creating 404 pages correctly configure the response codes of the server and check them. This will help avoid problems with indexing the site by search engines.

Found cool on the design, idea, implementation of the page – give links in comments, add to the post.



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