My Page Is 404ing: What Do I Do?

404

You know that sinking sensation of being totally lost? You may feel frustrated and move in circles, unsure where to go. If your website is 404ing, this may describe your user experience (UX). And that spells disaster when it comes to meeting search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing goals. To help avoid hurting your brand’s UX, let’s take a closer look at why you may be getting 404 Errors on your website.

Why Am I Getting 404 Messages on My Site?

A 404 on a website is a “page not found” message. It most often appears when you or the person managing your site moved or deleted a page with a link to it without correcting the link. That link is now broken, so it returns a 404 message. 

This means you’ll need to spend some time finding what happened to your content and correcting the errors. Here are three steps to take when you find a page error:

Step 1. Identify the 404s

You can’t rely on yourself stumbling upon 404 messages. Correcting them quickly is critical to your website’s success. Instead, use free tools like Screaming Frog, Google Search Console, Bing Webmaster, and more to find 404s.

Step 2. Choose How to Fix It

The link is already broken, so now it’s time to choose how to fix it. The solution here depends on what caused the 404 and how the missing page impacts your website.

  • Get rid of the link. If you no longer need the link, you can choose to delete it from the page pointing toward the missing page.
  • Redirect the page. If you want to keep the link, you can redirect the link elsewhere. Simply find another similar page to link to and then change the link to the new URL. 
  • Correct the link. The URL for the link could be mistyped. Inspect it carefully and replace the incorrect URL with the right one. A URL includes the domain extension plus a slug, which is the page’s unique name. You might also need to correct the link if you changed the slug for a webpage. Anytime you change a website address after publishing the page, you risk creating a 404.
  • Undo delete. If you deleted the page in error then restored the page, the link should no longer produce a 404.

Step 3. Prevent Future 404s

404s hurt your brand, so develop an SEO strategy to prevent them. This may include action items like:

  • Running a 404 report regularly.
  • Develop a written URL naming scheme so that you do not feel inclined to change a slug.
  • Instead of deleting a page, have it redirect to your homepage. But be careful not to overdo redirects, as it can get annoying as well.
  • Instead of deleting a page, have it redirect to a “404 page” that is funny, apologetic, or otherwise aligns with your brand.
  • Stay organized in both site structure and publishing to maintain a healthy website. 

Now, get out there and fix your 404s to create the best experience for your visitors!

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