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Have you ever clicked on a link and when the page loaded, it showed you a “404-Page Not Found” error? As confusing as it may sound, 404 errors are common on blogs, far and wide on the web. In this article, I will discuss what this error means, how to determine if your 404 error page needs a “fix”, and if so, what the fix is.


What is a 404 Page Not Found Error?

A 404 Page Not Found error is an HTTP server response code that is displayed when the page cannot be located and displayed. In other words, the page or resource you clicked and expecting to look at on your screen has been intentionally or unintentionally deleted and simply doesn’t exist anymore.

When you click on a link, there is a lot of “stuff” that happens between the server and the browser to pull up the resource. If the server can’t find the resource the user has asked for, the browser basically responds with, “Yo Pal! I can’t find what you’ve asked for despite talking to the server.” Of course, that’s human speak and my brain was having a bit of fun. The browser ends up displaying a 404 error. The server and browser can communicate fine but the resource can’t be found. Kaput!

There are other cases where a 404 is served:

  • A user typed the wrong URL or misspelled something in the URL of your page
  • You accidentally or purposely deleted the page or post or resource


Can Having 404 Errors Affect Your Blog Rankings?

According to Google, 404 errors on your blog do NOT affect your blog’s rankings. However, there is a caveat here.

404 errors in themselves do not hurt the rankings of other posts and pages on your blog. But, if you have internal links from other posts or pages pointing to a 404 page on your blog that no longer exists, it impacts the user experience negatively and can increase the bounce rate of your site… all factors that can hurt rankings overall.

While having 404s isn’t a big deal, having hundreds or thousands of 404s can impact your blog overall.

Imagine if a few hundred pages and posts were deleted by me on Affiliate Phoenix. However, they are internally linked to where it made sense. Now, imagine visitors on Affiliate Phoenix clicking on that resource, interested in reading it, end up viewing a 404 Page Not Found error. Not only that, if they are on another page, and it’s linked to the same page that is serving the 404 error or is linked to another deleted page, the visitor is affected negatively. This could cause mistrust in the brand and the business or outright frustration. This is why essential to clean up your internal linking after deleting a page or at the very least, redirect it to a new resource when a good one exists.


Does a 404 Page Not Found Error Need to be Fixed?


It depends 😉 If you have a good resource on your blog to replace the old page with, then you will want to redirect users to the new page. You can do this with a 301 or a 302 redirect. If this is a permanent redirect, then use the 301 redirect; if it’s a temporary redirect, you can use a 302 redirect. Lastly, if you don’t have a resource to redirect a user to and the page is gone forever, you can use a 410 status code which indicates that the resource is permanently gone. If you’re not sure what action to take, you can leave things as they are (but clean up any internal links going to the 404 page).

Here is a summary of the HTTP response codes:

  • 301 – permanent redirect
  • 302 – temporary redirect
  • 404 – temporary inaccessible
  • 410 – permanently gone

With all that said, there is another type of 404 code which is a soft 404.


What is a Soft 404?

Soft 404s are made of silly putty and some confusion.. Just kidding; sort of. A soft 404 occurs when a deleted resource or page on your blog displays a “page not found” message to users but… *wait for the plot twist!*…. returns a 200 OK status to search engines. Gasp!

In Google’s own words, “A soft 404 occurs when a web server responds with a 200 OK HTTP response code for a page that doesn’t exist rather than the appropriate 404 Not Found. Soft 404s can limit a site’s crawl coverage by search engines because these duplicate URLs may be crawled instead of pages with unique content.”


How Do I Fix Regular and Soft 404s?

robot 404

The thing about regular 404s is that they don’t necessarily need to be fixed if there isn’t a better resource to point it to. If there is, you can use a permanent 301 redirect; if the resource is permanently removed, you can use the 410 response to indicate that the response is gone forever.

In the case of fixing 404s, find the offending URLs in the Google Search Console and then determine:

a. If the page contains content and is properly returning the correct 200 response code

b. If you should implement a 301 redirect to a better resource

c. Doesn’t exist and should return a 404 or 410

If you have a WordPress blog, then a simple plugin like Redirection works well and let’s you choose the type of redirect or response code you want to put in place.


In Summary

Having a few 404 Page Not Found errors on your blog in itself isn’t a big deal but you want to make sure that you review them and resolve them as necessary. To keep visitors happy on your blog, if you do have 404s, make sure you remove any internal links pointing to them or point them to a better response so your bounce rate doesn’t get affected in a negative way.