Now You Know: 404s & Soft 404s

We’ve all experienced going to a website and being greeted with the frustrating message “404 Page Not Found.” What is a 404 error and what does it mean for you and your site?

What are 404 Errors?

A 404 error appears when a crawler tries to visit a page on your site that doesn’t exist. Common 404 error messages include:

  • 404 Error
  • 404 Not Found
  • HTTP 404 Not Found
  • 404 Page Not Found

How Do 404s Affect My Site & Brand?

According to Google, hard 404 errors can be “safely ignored” since they won’t necessarily affect site ranking. Regardless, it’s still a good idea to address them to avoid a negative user experience. If people come to your site and are greeted with 404 errors, they’ll most likely not come back again. Your site may develop a reputation of not working correctly.

Types of 404 Errors

There are two types of 404 errors: hard and soft.

Hard 404 Errors

Also known as a traditional 404 error, a hard 404 is when a page has been moved or deleted without being redirected to a new URL, causing a broken link. Hard 404 errors are common—especially on large sites where the sheer number of pages makes them more difficult to manage.

Soft 404 Errors

A soft 404 error occurs when there is an error while communicating with the site’s server that reroutes the user to another page, such as the home page, and displays the error message. As you can imagine, this confuses users and search engines. When soft 404s happen, search engines see that there is a page, but it’s currently nonexistent.

How an SEO Agency Can Help

A professional agency can help you manage 404 errors and create custom 404 errors to explain the reason a user encountered it and offer them other options, like going to the home page. An SEO service can also help prevent unwanted 404 errors by:

  • Checking for broken links that would contribute to a 404 error.
  • Creating a redirect plugin to take users to another part of your site.
  • Creating a custom 404 page when a page is removed or being moved.
  • Checking for malware or viruses that would interfere with your site.

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