Google: Large Number of 404s Doesn't Hurt You

Mar 29, 2010 • 7:38 am | comments (2) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Google Search Engine Optimization

A Google Webmaster Help thread has Googler, JohnMu, replying to some concerns about using 404s, page not found commands.

JohnMu said:

Having a large number of 404's on a site is generally not a problem for us, especially if the 404 page helps the user to find related entries within your site.

Of course, Google likes when webmasters return proper http header codes, especially in the page not found case. JohnMu explains:

Using a 404 (or perhaps, if you're certain that the page will be gone forever, a 410) is a good idea because it helps us to remove the old entries from our index over time.

Some people feel 404s are a bad thing. They are not. Use them properly and they can be extremely helpful to the health of a whole web site in a search engine.

Forum discussion at Google Webmaster Help.

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Chris Reilly

03/30/2010 03:06 am

I don't think the forum post was taken entirely in context. Having broken links on your site is NOT a good thing... It inevitably will happen but is best to repair them or do a 301 redirect rather than toss away any PR from links pointing to that page. Perhaps having 404's on your domain won't hurt the reputation of the domain overall, but I think it is still a very good idea to avoid them at ALL costs- even if only from a usability standpoint.


04/07/2010 08:56 am

@Chris - You are not making a difference between internal and external links. If you have a section or page that has PR because of internal links, it is better to 404 the page and clean up all the dead links across your site. This way you strengthen all the PR on the other pages (one less link on those pages) and usability is better (do not have to wait for redirect or user landing on a page they did not request). If you have external (backlinks) links to a page, you can clean up your site - 404 the page and remove internal links (see above) and 301 redirect to the next best page so not to loss any PR from external links. It is always better to have zero dead links (even if 301 redirected) on your site. Kalman

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