Every page that you access through your browser has a response code. This code is the number such as 200, 301, 302 which tells you whether your request was satisfied or not. Another response code that you may encounter is 404. This means that the webpage could not be found.
While this might sound like a minor irritation, imagine yourself in this situation: You are looking for something specific on the web and every link leads to a broken page because it has a 404 status. Obviously, getting frustrated would be an understatement of what you will feel after spending hours trying to find what you are looking for only to end up with lots of “page cannot be found” messages.
To put it simply, any code that comes between 400 to 499 shows that the page didn’t load properly. In addition, the 404 code reflects that the page is being deleted, shifted, and not coming back anytime soon. On the other hand, a 301 code tells you that the page was moved to a new location. This is something very useful if you want to avoid broken pages in the future because it saves all of the relevant information from one location and takes it to another.
What is a 404 error?
A 404 is the response that your browser sends when it cannot find a web page or resource. The “404 Not Found” error message is displayed when the webpage you are trying to reach can’t be found on the server, meaning that either the page was deleted, never existed before in the first place, has moved to another location or something went wrong while displaying it.
This means that if you have made several links between two pages and one of them happens to link to an invalid URL, all of them will not work anymore. This problem becomes significant with dynamic sites because they change their location frequently. If this occurs in static websites though, things are much more simple since they don’t move very often.
Many browsers try to give you an idea of what went wrong with a web page by showing a “Did you mean?” message under the 404 error code. This way, if you have misspelled the URL you can still get where you wanted to go, but this depends also on your server settings.
How to fix 404 errors?
The first recommendation is to make sure that your web server doesn’t show “404 Not Found” but instead returns a custom page with information aimed at your users, apologizing for the inconvenience. This way you will avoid broken links and because of that, think positively about search engine crawling too.
This may be achieved if you are using dynamic content which changes constantly or if your web pages are stored in several servers. If this isn’t the case though then there are many other ways to solve the problem: Fortunately, it is possible no matter how complex your website structure is.
The first step would be to install Apache Traffic Server so you can monitor all of the incoming requests from your users and check if any of them point to a 404 page. If that is the case then you can redirect these requests by sending them to another valid URL. This can be done automatically only on the basis of the domain name or it can be implemented as a custom script that finds out what was requested and finds an alternative for it.
Another option is to install a plugin, such as Redirection, which does exactly that: finds pages with a different status code and changes their URL accordingly so they remain functional even though they returned an error code. Even though this method creates many duplicate URLs, also called soft duplicates, these aren’t something bad since search engines understand how dynamic content works and treat those URLs as separate listings instead of just one.
Finally, it is also possible to use custom 404 pages created with one of the many WordPress 404 plugins. This option has both pros and cons: on one hand, you fix the problem once and for all by having a single plugin but on the other hand, you need to assign an administrator user rights to access that page and don’t have as much control over how it works.
Now that you know what causes 404 errors and how to avoid them, think about why they actually happen and decide which way of fixing them will best suit your needs. Don’t forget that not only do search engines dislike broken links, so do your audience! If people can’t find what they are looking for after clicking a link from your website then they won’t come back again.
Also, Read – How To Do SEO For Google Hindi News Websites?
What are soft 404 Errors?
Soft 404s are pages that return a valid HTTP response code, but not one in the 200 range – i.e., they return an answer other than HTML which matches what browsers expect from a web page. Soft 404s cause problems because while they do serve content to users and don’t look like broken pages, search engines see these as non-existent pages and don’t include them in their indexing process, which hurts crawl rate and the site’s indexing process.
How to fix soft 404s?
One way to ensure that your website doesn’t return a soft 404 is to configure your web server. So it serves as a custom page with some information about what happened and how users can navigate the website. While this method causes additional traffic, as search engines may see these custom pages as duplicates of each other, or even worse, as attempts at cloaking content from them, they are better for user experience and will encourage visitors to come back.
The other option is to not have a file with the same name as the non-existent URL but instead use paths that do lead somewhere. This way you avoid any confusion on behalf of both visitors and search engines because there is no chance for them to think that you wanted one page or another. For the time being though it’s probably best to stick with using custom pages, as these allow for more control over what you display.
Most web designers are aware of how important it is to make websites compatible across different browsers but they tend to forget about honoring the conventions set by search engines – having all links point to existing pages that are also available in HTML format, for example. If this isn’t done then search engines may not be able to crawl your website at full speed or won’t even crawl it at all – which leads to lower rankings and worse user experience.
Also, Read – How to Drop a Pin in Google Maps on Desktop & Mobile
Google treats 404 and soft 404 the same
Google deals with 404 errors & soft 404 errors the same way, by not including the non-existent page in its index. Google has programs to find 404 pages and help webmasters fix them, but they won’t affect rankings.
It is possible for WordPress users to fix soft 404 errors through plugins. Custom 404 pages are also possible via plugin or custom coding.
By fixing soft 404 errors, you can avoid losing traffic & rankings because of search engine crawlers ‘not finding’ something on your site that doesn’t exist. It’s best to fix soft 404 errors with custom pages rather than redirecting links because search engines might see this as providing duplicate content which could hurt your site’s ranking or even get it penalized.
There are several disadvantages of 404 pages. Firstly, they can cause problems for users who are already looking for what you offer. For example, if the user has visited the 404 page from a search engine listing then it is likely that they have bookmarked your website in order to return at a later date. Now if your website gives them a 404 error then they will be extremely annoyed because not only have they lost their bookmark but since you didn’t give them any other information on how to get hold of the content that they were looking for, there is nothing else that they can do to find it.
Secondly, when someone gets a 404 page instead of the content that was originally promised; many users won’t take this well and decide never to visit your site again. Even worse, some people may assume that this means your website is no longer up and running – which can be harmful to your reputation.
Soft 404s are a special class of HTTP response code which means “I don’t have anything for you”. Soft 404 responses occur when a webpage does not exist on your server but the client was able to establish a connection and is expecting some kind of response back (it will either receive it or get an error). If this happens, chances are that they expected something specific; instead, they received an empty page with no content on it.
Keep auditing your site
For avoiding problems of 404 and soft 404 errors, ensure you perform a regular technical audit of your website. You can visit your site with various tools that are available on the web.
Prominent search engine optimization firm, SEOmoz provides excellent Search Engine Optimization (SEO) software, known as Moz Link Explorer, to check for broken links and more importantly – the return of HTTP code 404 or status code. You can also run it on your backlink profile to find broken backlinks pointing to your web pages.
You can also check a website for 404 errors and other problems by using the Xenu Link Sleuth, which is free to use.
In order to ensure that your WordPress site does not give out any HTTP/404 errors or soft 404 errors then you should always have a valid backup of both the database and files. In addition, it’s important to test frequently – making changes to your WordPress site manually without testing them thoroughly beforehand could lead to major problems occurring on the live version of your site.
The easiest way would be to create a staging environment where you can experiment without affecting how things are currently doing on your website. This way you’ll avoid any potential losses in rankings and traffic.’ “title”: “404 vs. Soft 404 Errors:
Fix the thin content issue
You can eliminate the soft 404 errors by fixing the pages that have thin content. You can do this by:
Adding more and relevant content to the pages so that the chance of them not getting indexed is reduced. Adding necessary links on these pages to pages that are already working. Ensure that there’s a good user experience throughout your site, especially for 404 errors.
If you don’t need certain pages then it’d be best to get rid of them rather than leaving them there until they start causing problems with rankings or traffic. If you’re using WordPress as your CMS then deleting a post automatically redirects it to another page, which is good because it helps you avoid losing traffic due to soft errors.’ “description”:
If some of the website pages have duplicate content, consider fixing it on priority. You can fix duplicate content by either making the necessary changes to each version of the page or consolidating all these pages into one. You can use Google Webmaster Tools to find out which version of a particular webpage has more indexed content.
You should remember that for each of the pages, you’ll only be able to make use of them at most once per search query. Having too many irrelevant or duplicate pages with thin content is not good for your site’s rankings and thus it would make sense to consolidate all similar web pages into one page.
Fixing broken links improves SEO
When you fix 404s and soft 404s, the overall SEO performance of your website improves. When you fix broken links, visitors can easily find what they were searching for without any hassle.
When you fix 404 errors, Google crawlers see that the website is more responsive. Even if it’s not related to your top keywords, Google crawl may start visiting your site frequently after fixing all 404s.
When you are done fixing soft and hard 404 errors, go through every page of your website to make sure there are no more errors or warnings in 404 pages reported by Google Search Console (formerly known as Web Tools).
You can also check a website for 404 errors and other problems by using the Xenu Link Sleuth, which is free to use.
There are several advantages of fixing soft 404 errors. Firstly, it is easy to fix soft 404s compared to hard 404 errors. Secondly, search engines take into consideration your effort in correcting mistakes and reward you with good rankings for your efforts leading to high traffic from organic sources. Thirdly, users will be able to find what they search for on your site which means higher conversion rates.
Fixing soft 404 errors is an easy process that can be done by anyone. You just have to filter through the search results to manually find out where the soft 404 errors are. Then you need to change your internal linking structure so that URLs with 404 errors do not appear in search results anymore.
Using Screaming Frog tool
Screaming Frog is a useful SEO tool that helps you find pages with thin content. It crawls pages, extracts all the necessary information from a website, and allows you to filter through the data so that you can find errors easily.
In this tool, you can select the near duplicate option and then start the scanning of your website. You can scan for these pages and import all of them in an excel file. You can then use the list to find out the pages that have thin content.
You also need to check your website’s code so that all links are in place and you don’t have broken links. You should be looking for any instance of a 404 or 410 page being used as a response page, in your HTTP headers or anywhere else on your site (unless you deliberately choose to show these errors). The link structure of every website is complex because the number of pages usually exceeds.
Along with this, also ensure there is no technical issue with the website. After fixing 404 errors make sure there are no more outgoing links to pages that do not exist.
Ensure the Google bot is able to crawl and index the pages that you’ve fixed. If you have a WordPress site then the Yoast SEO plugin can help. It shows you all the incoming and outgoing links on your website and also warns if there is any broken link.
Both 404 and soft 404-page errors are harmful to your website’s SEO and overall user experience. Thus, always ensure there are no such errors and you’ve fixed them for better website indexability. If you don’t have an in-house technical SEO team, then it’s better to hire professionals and let them fix 404 and soft 404 errors. As search engines focus more on the overall user experience, it’s better to fix these errors and ensure an interactive user experience.