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4XX Errors come in a range of different forms – the most common probably being the 404 Not Found error.

Since the 404 Error is the most common, we’ll cover that in depth here. For a list of all the other 4XX Errors, and what the mean, Wikipedia is a great place to start.

Essentially a 404 Not Found error means exactly as the name describes. It means that the page you were trying to reach on a website doesn’t exist on their server. This could be due to a number of things, including:

The website deleted the page
They changed the URL
The user is mistyping the URL into their address bar
The link to the page returning a 404 Error had a misspelling in it
A 4XX Error is what is known as a client side error, which implies that the error is your mistake, either because you typed the URL incorrectly, or the page has been moved or removed from the website and you should have known.

There are a number of ways a 404 Error will be presented on a page:

  • 404 Error
  • Error 404
  • HTTP 404
  • 404 File or Directory Not Found
  • The requested URL was not found on this server
  • HTTP 404 Not Found

Are 404 Errors bad for SEO?

There are a few schools of thought on what you should do with 404 Errors in terms of SEO. The three schools are:

Never allow a 404 to occur. Every page that is currently resulting in a 404 should be 301 redirected back to the homepage or another relevant page.
Always allow 404 pages to occur. If a page is linked incorrectly from another site, or something misspelt, the user just gets a 404 Error page.
A mix of the above. Some pages are allowed to 404, while others should get 301 redirected.
Our recommendation is this – if a page on your website…

Has backlinks from high quality other websites and shows a 404 page; or
Is getting (or previously got) a lot of traffic and now has a 404 page because you changed the URL or deleted the page
…then you should 301 redirect the page. In most other cases, it’s ok to let the 404 remain.

Regardless, it’s a great idea to have a well designed 404 Error Page on your website. Give the users links back to the homepage and any other page that they might be looking for.

Need help explaining this to your boss, or web developer?

Use our concise explanation below to explain this issue via email:

Hi Boss,

Some pages on our website link to an error page (a 4XX error to be exact….probably a 404 Error).

This can be caused by pages being moved or deleted, and results in a poor customer experience.

I have a list of pages which are causing a 4XX error and plan to work through these to either remove the link to these deleted pages, or correct the link to point to the correct page.

It won’t take to long!


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