What to Do When You Have a 404 Error

Jun 26, 2008 • 10:38 am | comments (4) by twitter | Filed Under Link Building Tips & SEO

Rae Hoffman wrote a post at Search Engine Land about the opportunities you have if one of the links you have points to a 404. You can create a relevant 301 redirect, a user-friendly 404 page, or a custom non-404 error page that catches broken links. Rae goes through the various pros and cons of each strategy in a very useful and informative post.

It's really important for you to reclaim those broken links. Vanessa Fox comments on the Sphinn discussion that you can check your 404s using Google Webmaster Tools. Internal links can be fixed, but you should contact the people behind the external links if you can.

An important note is to avoid getting those 404 pages indexed as Vanessa and Rae agree:

One problem with redirecting all requests that would ordinarily return a 404 response with a 301 to a 200 is that search engine bots will think all non-existent pages are real pages and lots of badness can happen because of that. As Rae notes, your 404 pages will get indexed.

Therefore, you may want to be careful when implementing these strategies.

Forum discussion continues at Sphinn.

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06/26/2008 04:54 pm

Hmmm. I've been running a series of topics at WebmasterWorld that cover this entire process. Its great that I can have an influence on others, makes me proud of my involvement. ;) 2007-11-28 - Tracking of 400 and 500 Errors Are you being Proactive or Reactive? http://www.webmasterworld.com/website_technology/3515295.htm 2008-05-26 - Tracking of 400 and 500 Errors Part II Are you being Proactive or Reactive http://www.webmasterworld.com/website_technology/3659304.htm 2008-06-13 - Tracking of 400 Errors Part III Are you being Proactive or Reactive http://www.webmasterworld.com/website_technology/3674285.htm

Barry Schwartz

06/26/2008 05:04 pm

Thanks for adding these threads, sorry we missed them.


06/26/2008 05:34 pm

Thanks Barry! I would have Sphunn this but with no credit to where "I believe" the original "idea" came about, I'm going to pass. It is really great that Webmasters are now micro-managing stuff like this. The tracking of 404s are a Gold Mine Barry, get that out to your audience. :)

Rob Abdul

07/01/2008 09:17 pm

I’ve always regarded the 404 error is worse for a human than a robot. A simple meta noindex tag or and entry in the robots.txt will prevent your custom 404 error page from being indexed. Ah, but if a human encounters a 404 error on your site, you do not want to risk the human leaving. Instead present the human with a sitemap/search page.

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