404 Page Not Found
A 404 Page Not Found status code is an HTTP response status code indicating that the server cannot find the requested resource.
This can happen when a user tries to access a URL that does not exist on the server, or when the resource has been removed or renamed.
Importance in SEO
The 404 status code is important for SEO because it helps to prevent “soft 404” errors, where a page returns a 200 OK status code but does not have any content, which can be seen as a poor user experience and can negatively impact SEO.
A clear 404 error message helps search engines understand that the page is genuinely not found, which can prevent indexing issues.
For instance, if a user types in a URL that does not exist on the website, such as
example.com/non-existent-page, the server would return a 404 status code, informing the user that the page they are looking for does not exist.
- Use 404 for non-existent resources: To inform users and search engines that the requested resource does not exist.
- Customize the 404 page: Create a custom 404 page that provides helpful suggestions or a search function to guide users to relevant content.
- Implement 301 redirects for old URLs: If a page has been removed or moved, use a 301 redirect to point users and search engines to the new location.
- Avoid using 404 for pages that have been moved: This can lead to broken links and lost SEO value.
- Avoid using 404 for pages that should exist: Ensure that all URLs in your site map are valid and accessible.
- Avoid displaying the server’s default 404 page: A custom 404 page can improve the user experience by providing helpful information or a way to navigate the site.
The 404 Page Not Found status code is a fundamental part of the HTTP protocol and is essential for maintaining a clear and accurate representation of a website’s content structure.
By using it correctly, website owners can help ensure that search engines and users are directed to the most relevant content, which can improve SEO and user satisfaction.