404 Pages – Why Do They Matter For SEO?


404 pages are a double-edged sword of sorts.

They are absolutely essential to the user experience, but if used improperly they can harm your website’s reputation.

Believe it or not, a good 404 error page could simultaneously improve your SEO and boost your brand image.

Don’t believe us? Read on to find out why.

What is a 404 Error Page?


A 404 is an error page that is served up when a link goes bad and the page it is referring to cannot be found.

Links go bad all the time; products get removed, content is deleted, and changes to the website happen over time.

If a website visitor clicks on a bad link, or if they mistype a URL address, they will be met with a 404 page like this:

404 error page

404 Pages Matter


The question is, does your 404-error page reflect your brand and its products?

If not, this could be all it take for a visitor to get fed up and leave your site altogether.

To see what we mean, have a look at this antique 404 page:

This is not a great look at all.

While these are rarely served up nowadays, ones similar to this are still out there and being put in front of potential customers all the time.

Now have a look at this one from Google:

Much better right?

This page engages the visitor and might even bring a smile to their face when they meet poor broken Google Bot.

Branded 404 Pages


When a 404 is used properly, it can actually be a great way to boost your brand image with visitors.

Check out this great 404 page from Lego:

This 404 is completely on point with Lego’s branding, and it is also fun and simple to understand.

Notice that there is no technical wording and it doesn’t even refer to 404 errors anywhere.

There is a handy button to navigate back to the home page, which offers a solution, rather than just telling people they cannot do something.

This is a very clever 404 page as Lego knows that many of their visitors could be young children that might not understand what a 404 error actually is.

Interactive 404 Pages


Another great way to increase your brands image and make 404s fun and engaging is to make them interactive.

Some website use 404s with links to frequently visited pages, to help get visitors moving again.

Other sites use videos and animations so that people find them fun and interesting.

Check out this great looped video from 9Gag’s 404 error page:

9Gag seem to update these from time to time, and every one is guaranteed to make you smile.

By doing this it takes away the boring technical aspect from 404s and allows companies to inject a bit of their own personality into the page.

This is exactly what Amazon do with their 404s, which are completely custom and change every time you request one.

If these aren’t a prime example (no pun intended) of a 404 page done well, then we don’t what is:

They address the problem of the missing page or broken link perfectly, with a simple explanation of ‘Sorry, we couldn’t find that page.’

It then gives 3 options for users so that then can keep browsing:

  • Perform a search
  • Go to the Homepage
  • Meet the Dogs Of Amazon

Let’s be honest, unless you urgently need something, you are probably going to choose the last option (we certainly did).

The Importance of Monitoring 404s


So, a nice custom 404 is important for your website, but the truth is that we don’t really want to use them that often.

404s should always be address with a redirect to the correct page or another page that fulfils the users request.

If you can’t do either of these things, you should probably try to remove the original link in the first place, as it is not providing any value to visitors.

Furthermore, it could actually be putting them off, no matter how many cute dogs you have on the page.

404 Errors and Google Ranking


404s are essential, but it is important to remember that too many error pages on your website can hurt your SEO score.

This is especially true if you have several 404s active on your website for a prolonged period of time.

Google views this negatively and will take it as a sign of poor website maintenance if a link stays directed to a 404 page for a while.

You can actually use Google’s own Search Console tool to tell you if you have any 404s on your website.

This way you can then address them with a permanent 301 redirect, or a temporary 302 while you fix the missing link.

Complete SEO Solutions


At Smarter Digital Marketing, we offer complete technical SEO solutions included in all our SEO packages.

Technical SEO is an important part of your overall SEO equation, and it is often neglected by some practitioners which can be detrimental to your Google rankings.

If you think you have some 404 pages active on your site, they should be addressed quickly in order to avoid penalisation from Google.

Get in touch today for a full SEO audit and advice on how to get your website performing to its full potential.

FAQ


You can use Google Search Console to identify 404s on your website.

You can use a plug in for management tools like WordPress, or code it in yourself.

If used in the correct way, redirects will not harm your website’s rankings.

If you are permanently moving a webpage, use a 301, if it is temporary, use a 302.

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