Are 404 errors hurting your SEO and paid campaigns?

Coming from an SEO background, I was taught to look at my website as a starting point for any SEO improvements. If you are spending money on paid traffic you will be judged by the algorithms that weight the user experience and relevancy of your landing pages. A score of 2/10 Vs 3/10 is a big difference when money is being spent on paid traffic. Webpages that do not open or load slowly is a sure way to burn money and jeopardize your brands reputation. The amount of times I have clicked on a paid ad only to be lead to page that does not open with a big 404 error showing is tragic. Also, just to make that scenario even worse is when a website does not make a custom 404 page, a nice creative 404 page shows that you care about the customers journey on your website and once again it’s an easily measurable SEO factor the algorithms designed by Google and Bing are looking for.

So, let’s get started, how do you approach this problem? Firstly, you need to examine and check your website for broken links. At Feedonomics we provide a deep link checking service. For more information regarding this service, Learn more here

Understanding the report

One you have a breakdown of the broken elements on your website it makes it easier to deal with each problem individually. There are a few classifications on the report which will help you focus on dealing with each error separately. Each element is classified differently with a status code.

For now, we are only going to deal with the 404 errors which are normally easy to fix and can help get your website healthy again.

Webpages that are no longer live, that are being referenced in your source code. Our report will indicate the name of the referenced link and where it can be found in the source code. Once you have that information you can look at the referenced URL, often its just the format, spelling or relativity based on website folder structure of the URL being referenced. Or the page has been removed completely. Let’s look at each scenario:

Format: (you will notice one of the w’s is missing, to fix this, you can add the w, however I suggest you reference the full website address

Spelling: (mickey mouse is spelled wrong)

Folder based website: mice/mickymouse (if you have a folder named mice and the webpage mickeymouse was in that folder, make sure your web pages referencing format is correct)

Deleted page: in this case you would need to remove the link or change to an existing page

Please note – with missing images the same methodology as missing web pages apply.

For a list of other status codes please refer to this guide

Fun 404  pages

2019 SEO Update:
Steve Weber, an SEO expert who has led campaigns for Calvin Klein and Jansport, reminded me that there is still incredible value in redirecting your 404 errors as part of your SEO linking strategy. If a broken url received a link from another part of the web, then you need to make it clear for Google, and your site visitors, that the url has moved to another location on your website. If you do not implement a redirect, then the value of the link pointing to your broken url completely lost. In 2019, it is less important about the type of redirect you use (ie a 301 vs a 302) and more important that you are keeping your redirects topically related. If the old url was about blue widgets, then your redirect’s destination url should also be about blue widgets. Google’s John Mueller has stated in a tweet that if a redirect is not topically related, Google will most likely treat it as a soft 404 anyway.

So for SEO purposes, redirect those 404s to a closely related destination!