Definition: The 404 Error Page, known as "page not found," is an HTTP[S] standardized status code that indicates an established connection with the server but an inability to find the page in question. Excessive 404 errors negatively impact a website's SEO and are lost revenue opportunities when the user does not ultimately navigate to the website.

Why do 404 error codes occur?

A 404 response code can be caused on either the user or website's end.

a) Client (User):

  • Manually enter a URL with a typo
  • Click on a hyperlink that includes a typo

b) Host (website):

  • Server is not properly configured to fulfill the requested action.
  • Page is moved to a new location (new URL) without a redirect set in place
  • Page is temporarily unavailable, perhaps because it is being worked on.
  • Page has been permanently deleted with no redirect set in place

404 errors are lost revenue opportunities

According to a Webmasters' survey, 77% of people who attempt to visit a webpage but receive the 404 Error Page instead make no further attempt to access the searched-for page.

The average website will show 7 out of every 100 would-be visitors the 404 error page, demonstrating the profit potential for minimizing broken links. Keeping the rate at or near zero is the best way to capture the maximum number of visitors, but another way is to customize the site's 404 Error Page to assist the would-be visitor in finding the website and to assure him or her that the issue is being addressed.

404 errors will negatively impact your SEO

Besides losing customers when a 404 error is actually displayed, there are negative SEO impacts to having a high 404 error rate:

  1. Google penalizes the SEO ranking of sites with consistently high 404 error percentages because they are less reliable for Web searchers. Cleaning up bad links, broken images and missing pages can increase search ranking in the neighborhood of 6 spots for the average keyword.
  2. Broken external links hurt a website's PageRank, a reliability/authority ranking metric used by Google. If a site has similar quality, keywords and internal/external links to another site but better PageRank, it will outperform its competition in terms of SEO.

How to greatly reduce 404 errors

To ensure 404 errors don't get out of hand, it is considered best practice to regularly check for and fix broken links. While 404 errors can be found in log files, the easiest method is by navigating to Google Search Console. When remedying 404 errors, there are three easy ways to classify them:

  • Broken internal links are the quickest to fix. Change the hyperlink for every 404 that returns a "Linked from" value in Search Console.
  • External links: Set up a 301 redirect for pages that have external broken hyperlinks. For example, another website may link to instead of
  • Direct navigation: There is no course of action for users who directly navigate to a broken page, and these can only be identified by process of elimination. Since there are no links, there is no way to prevent user error in these cases.
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