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404 Error

What is a 404 error?

A 404 error is an HTTP error status code indicating that a web page you’re trying to reach can’t be found by the server. In simpler terms, it means the page requested doesn’t exist or there’s something wrong with it.

Variations of the 404 error

Typically, websites display a custom 404 error message instead of the default template to improve user experience. 

A custom 404 message can also redirect the visitors to another page by providing a link they can click on the page. 

There are different name variations of 404 errors you might see when you encounter this error, such as:

  • Error 404
  • 404 Error
  • 404 Page Not Found
  • 404 File or Directory Not Found
  • 404 Not Found
  • The requested URL [URL] was not found on this server’
  • “Error 404: page not found”
  • Error 404 Not Found
  • HTTP Error 404
  • HTTP 404 Not Found

What causes the 404 error message?

There are many possible causes behind the 404 error messages. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • The web page has been moved without redirects — if a page is moved or deleted with no redirects, 404 errors can occur as a result. 
  • Misspelled URL — the most common cause of a 404 error is when a visitor types in a URL address into their browser incorrectly when trying to access a website.
  • Broken links — broken links from other websites or from your own site can also trigger this message to appear.

What is a soft 404 error?

Another variation of the 404 error is the soft 404 that you might come across when you’re analyzing your website through web analytics software. Despite the name, this error is different from the usual 404 error and can be considered to be more harmful to your site. 

It happens when there’s an empty page on your website and your server sends successful request codes for the page but Google returns a 404 status code due to the lack of content.

To put it simply, this type of 404 refers to pages that don’t and shouldn’t exist but are still listed on your website. This might affect your website’s SEO greatly if crawled and indexed by search engines.

How to fix a 404 not found error?

As there are many possible causes of a 404 error, and the methods of fixing one vary. Here are some of the most common fixes for the error:

  • Make sure to type the URL link correctly — since a 404 error might happen due to misspelled URLs, make sure you have not made any errors when typing the URL.
  • Refresh the webpage — a 404 error may appear when the page is not loaded properly. Press the F5 key on your keyboard (on Windows OS) or command + R (on macOS) to reload the web page.
  • Search for the URL in a search engine — typing the URL into a search engine might also help you find the link you’re trying to access. This is because search engines typically fix misspelled URLs and suggest the correct ones.
  • Clear your browser’s cache and cookies — sometimes your internet browsers might be the cause of the error 404. Try deleting your browser’s cache and cookies and access the website again.
  • Contact the website’s administrator — in some cases, a website page with the 404 error is either moved or deleted off the website. If the page you’re looking for isn’t there, try contacting the website’s management for assistance.

If you’re a website owner and one of your web pages is returning a 404 error code, here are some solutions you can try:

  • Properly set up new redirects for the page — if you’ve just recently made changes to your website’s permalink structure, make sure you’ve properly set up a new redirect for the page to avoid the error.
  • Make sure there are no broken links directing to the page — your web visitors might stumble upon the error 404 due to a broken link they find on your website. If that’s the case, make sure every single link on your website works.

Broken links are one of the most common causes of 404 errors. However, it’s almost impossible to check every single page of your website for a broken link.

Luckily, you can check if your website has broken links through tools you can easily find on the internet. Probably the easiest way is to use Google’s Search Console.

These tools scan your website for any broken link and show you exactly where the problem lies. If your website is already verified with the Google Search Console, you can find your broken links under the Crawls error section.

For a simpler method, the dead link checker allows you to check broken links on a site simply by putting the site’s URL in its search bar. You can either choose to scan the whole website or a single URL page.

Why customize your website’s 404 error page

There are many benefits to having a customized 404 page on your website. It gives a personal touch to the message and you can use it to direct your visitors to another page of your website. 

This avoids lost traffic, reduces bounce rate, and provides a more positive user experience.

Most website builders, including Zyro, come with a unique 404 error message prepared for your visitors that redirects them to your homepage. In some cases, this error message can also be customized.

Are 404 errors bad for SEO?

In short, yes. If your website has 404 errors that are not resolved, search engines will penalize you through your SEO ranking.  

The benefits of having a 404 page include a reduced bounce rate on your website, as well as a better user experience, since it’s easy to redirect visitors.

In addition, since a page that results in a 404 error technically doesn’t exist, it’s not crawled or indexed by search engines.

Having too many broken links on your pages ruins user experience, increases bounce rate, and hinders the crawling process of search engines.

Written by

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Matleena is a seasoned eCommerce writer, with a particular interest in emerging digital marketing trends, dropshipping, and growth hacking. She’s addicted to coming up with new eCommerce business ideas and making them a reality; she deserves her nickname of ‘print on demand business mogul.' In her free time, she enjoys cups of good coffee, tends to her balcony garden, and studies Japanese.

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