Every time a page loads in a browser, it returns a response code included in the HTTP headers sent to that browser. Most of the time, the user will not see these response codes unless an error occurs. One of the most common of these error codes is the 404-response code.
What is a 404- Response Code?
Any code with 400 to 499 attached to it is a result of the page not loading. The 404-response code indicates that the specific URL trying to be reached cannot be found and is most likely gone forever. But, there are regular 404 errors and soft 404 errors.
Regular vs. Soft 404 Errors
Soft 404 errors are a concept introduced by Google to avoid showing search results for pages that don’t return a 404 in the HTTP headers. Meaning the page is not found. Google will note the characteristics of the page. If it appears that the content is that of a “404 Not Found” page, then it will return a soft 404. In the case of a regular 404 error, a website actually returns the 404 response code in the HTTP headers. This means that the page or post you tried to reach on that website no longer (or never) existed.
Why are 404 Codes Important?
A 404-response code can be seen as a bad thing in SEO. But they are still needed in some instances. When someone uses Google to find a page on your website, and it returns a 404 error, it shows Google that the page should be removed from their search results. For the most part, we want to avoid this. This means our website is no longer returning search results for that topic. Now, if that page and its subject matter truly no longer exist on your website, then a 404 is the perfect solution. However, if you have a relevant page or product that can help the user find what they are looking for, we use a 301 redirect.
What is a 301 code?
A 301 response code tells the browser and Google that this page has been moved. This code can be helpful for SEO, as your company can continue to rank for that content using a new URL and not lose any of that clout with Google. A 301 code is returned when you add a redirect for an existing URL. For example, if you discovered an unintentional 404 error for a page displaying in Google, you could add a 301 redirect to take the user to a relevant page instead. You can accomplish this either through plugins or through adding them directly to the access file.
Let jWeb Media fix your 404 Errors
With our team of engineers, we are no stranger to dealing with 404 codes. Or any issues you might face with your website. If you are looking for a company to help improve your SEO and site ranking on Google, contact us at jWeb Media. We can walk you through tips to increase your site today!