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How-to 11 min read August 31, 2020

How to Find and Fix 404 Error on Your Website

Иллюстрация: Как найти темы для постов, которые решают проблемы вашей аудитории?
Автор статьи о продвинутых инструментах Serpstat
Yuliya Telizhniak
Content Marketer at Netpeak Software
Anyone with Internet access has most likely seen the '404 Not Found' caption when trying to visit a web page. The 404 error means that the requested page couldn't be found because it doesn't exist. Usually, this error hampers your website optimization.

In this post, we're going to help you understand what threat 404 pages pose, how to find and fix them.

Why 404 Error Pages Are Dangerous for Your Site

Each website has pages returning the 404 status code. Just mistype the page address, and you will land on one of them.

However, if the 404 error occurred due to the page removal or typos in the link on a site, it may negatively affect search engine optimization. Why?
First of all, it makes your behavioral factors suffer. The more unavailable pages on your site, the fewer users spend time on it and return to it. Search engines do pay attention to behavioral factors, so they play an important role in ranking.
Secondly, it wastes the crawl budget. Each site has a limited crawl budget since search robots can't crawl large sites in one sitting. The more 404 pages they face on their way, the fewer important pages they are going to crawl.
Last but not least, it burns link weight. If the page is deleted, all link weight it got is demolished.
Links leading to 404 pages are called broken and pose a severe threat. That's why when you delete pages on your site, you should replace or delete links pointing to them.

Why 404 Error Occurs

The most widespread reasons for 404 pages are:

  1. Incorrectly typed in URL (e.g., typos in the address or missing '/' in the end).

  2. The page was deleted.

  3. The page was moved to a new address, and no redirect was set. In this case, users who had bookmarked the page earlier will land on the 404 page.

No matter why broken pages appear, you have to fix them and minimize the negative consequences.

How to Find 404 Pages

There are various methods you may use to check your site for 404 errors. I'll list the most effective ones.

Google Search Console

Open the service and go to the 'Overview' tab.
Scroll down to see the issue types found on the site. They are also specified on the 'Coverage' tab.
Coverage and site errors in Google Search Console


The Site Audit module will help you find broken links. You have to:
Create a project.
In the opened window, enter the domain name, project name and group, and click 'Create'.

Once the site is added to the project list, you will see the 'Site Audit' column on the left side. Hit the 'Start audit' button.
Set the corresponding settings and click 'Start scan'.
Serpstat Site Audit settings
When the analysis is complete, open the report and check the 404 pages.
Here you can find information about the issue and how to fix it.
Site errors in Serpstat's SEO audit

Netpeak Spider

You can also check broke pages with Netpeak Spider.
Start the crawler.
Select the 'Minimum' template on the 'Parameters' tab in a sidebar if you only want to focus on 404 errors.
Netpeak Spider crawler
Enter your website address in the address bar and click 'Start'.
When crawling is complete, go to 'Reports' → 'Issues'. Have a look at the '4xx Error Pages: Client Error' and 'Broken pages' issues. Click on each issue to see the list of pages they were found on.
To find what links lead to broken pages, open the issue report by clicking on the corresponding button.
Site issue checking in Netpeak Spider
You can also export a special report on broken links through the 'Export' menu → 'Special issue reports' → 'Broken links'.
Broken links report in Netpeak Spider
Besides the above-mentioned methods, you can also detect 404 errors using Google Analytics and Tag Manager.

How to Fix Broken Pages

Once you have detected 404 pages and broken links on your site, you need to fix them as soon as possible. There are several ways to do it:

  1. Replace incorrect links with the working ones.

  2. Delete all links pointing to 404 pages. You should also remove broken pages from the search index.Use the URL removal tool to deindex broken pages. Note that the tool only allows hiding pages from a search for 90 days. Learn more about how to permanently deindex pages in the Google Help Center.

Why design a 404 page?

The "404 Not found" error is one of the standard server response codes. It reports that the user has connected to the server, but the requested object was not found. 404 pages are needed, If you want to notify users about the following:

  • Incorrectly entered URL address in the browser line.

  • The user followed a "broken" link that leads to a non-existent page.

  • Typing mistake.

  • The link is correct, but the page has been removed or moved.

You can't get rid of all 404 pages since any user can make a mistake in the URL. Though, you can diminish their impact and make the best use of 404 pages.
First, you need to fill up your 404 page with the information on why people landed on it and what they should do next.
Invite users to your homepage or offer other exciting content on your site.
Show custom search bar.
Stick to your main design while creating a custom 404 page.
If you want, you can provide contact data so users can contact you.
Many reputable websites have awesome custom 404 pages. Here are some of the examples:
404 error template
Error 404 design example
Creative 404 error page design

How can competitors exploit your 404 errors

Sometimes your 404 Page Not Found can be used against you by your competitors.

How come, you may ask? They may come in handy in building relevant backlinks.

Once competitors used tools to crawl your website, including the rankings, they will reveal all your 404 pages. Successfully finding 404 errors, and with link opportunities in hand, competitors can create content that's relevant for their brands.

Final Thoughts

Each and every site has 404 errors. However, if you don't control them, they might worsen your behavioral factors, decrease rankings and traffic. The most common reasons of 404 pages are page removal, changes in URL, and relocation.

Conduct regular technical site audit to minimize the negative effect for 404 pages on your site. Another essential step is to create a custom 404 page, so users don't leave your site straight away. Find out more ideas to do so within this video by Serpstat SEO academy.


Do 404 errors hurt SEO?

Alhough 404 error pages don't really affect your SEO directly, not fixing them might lead to other issues you wouldn’t want to have. If your website has backlinks referring to sites that return a 404 error, make sure to fix those backlinks and redirect your broken URLs to more appropriate pages. If you have broken links on your site, put effort into fixing them as quickly as possible, that way you will maximize user experience and link equity flow. And your visitors’ positive behavioural factors actually tend to have a positive impact on your website’s rankings in search results.

How do I remove 404 pages from Google index?

If you want to remove 404 pages from Google index, make sure your site has been added to and verified by Google Search Console. Follow next steps: Log in to Google Search Console Under “Index” in the sidebar, select “Removals” Click “New request” and enter your URL This will block the URL from Google Search. Make sure there are no old links to the missing page, or it could be indexed again.

What is the difference between 404 Not Found and Soft 404 errors?

The status code is the main distinction between a "404 Not Found" error and a soft 404 error. The former has a 404 or 410 status code, indicating that the page cannot be found. With a soft 404 error the page is still not found Instead of the 404 or 410 error code, a "200 OK" error code is returned. Search engines do not index 404 pages, meaning they do not appear in search engine results. Soft 404 pages, on the other hand, are indexed by search engines and may appear in search results.

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