#1
  1. Not An Expert
    SEO Chat Hero (2000 - 2499 posts)

    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Posts
    2,172
    Rep Power
    2033

    Your 404s - Google Doesn't Care Like You Think They Do


    Time for another "common misconceptions and questions" thread!

    This article comes from The SEM Post and I think every single newbie SEO in the world will benefit from reading it. Google doesn't crawl to see what is on your 404 pages; no SEO benefit.

    Apparently people have been creating custom 404 pages just for the SEO benefits. Now, don't get me wrong - custom 404s can be great! They can provide a better, friendlier user experience. If you link to common or related pages, you can help get people to pages where you want them to go (and where they want to be, which will encourage them to stay and return)!

    But those links you put on your 404s? They're not going to make a difference in your ranking. And if you're building links to your custom 404s, God help you.

    How did the idea that custom 404 pages would improve your ranking come about? Apparently it's in Google's Quality Rater Guidelines:

    Originally Posted by The SEM Post
    ...in the Google Quality Rater Guidelines, they ask raters to look at what is on the 404 page, whether it is useful, and to rate it accordingly. And since the rater guidelines essentially are guidelines for what Google wants to see on a high quality site, the fact that Google is jsut seeing the 404 being served, but not crawling to see what is on that 404 means that the value of the 404 page, in Google's eyes, isn't as high as previously thought.
    Whether you trust what Google says or not is up to you. You can always try running your own tests. But Google says they don't follow any content on pages that return 404s.

    Check out their page about custom 404s on Search Console Help. They list several reasons to create good, custom 404 pages. You'll notice that none of them are about manipulating the SERPs or improving your ranking. They're GREAT for your user experience - and that's something you should care about.

    I see a lot of newbie questions asking how to fix their 404s, too. I suspect that many of these questions come from newbie freelancers who are working with some kind of "SEO checklist" that they found online, and one of the entries on this checklist is probably "fix as many 404s as possible." Yeah, if you've got a ton of 404s you might want to look at them and figure out why. But more often than not, excessive amounts of 404 pages are symptoms of a larger problem, and not a problem themselves. 404 error pages do not cause any kind of penalty! None!

    Check out what Google Search Console Help has to say about fixing 404 errors. Head to the bottom of that page, under "URL error types" and click "Common URL errors" to expand.

    Originally Posted by Google
    Most 404 errors don't affect your site's ranking in Google, so you can safely ignore them. Typically, they are caused by typos, site misconfigurations, or by Google's increased efforts to recognize and crawl links in embedded content such as JavaScript.
    The first step is even "decide if it's worth fixing."

    Point is, you don't need to freak out about every freakin' 404 ;P

    Got thoughts about 404 errors? Custom 404 pages? Tips, criticisms, crazy thoughts? Just wanna vent? Post below!
  2. #2
  3. Dinosaur
    SEO Chat Genius (4000 - 4499 posts)

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    4,130
    Rep Power
    6553
    I seem to have answered a few of these of late but mark as always seems to have covered most things here.

    Just wanted to add that a 404 error that google has picked up is because they will have followed a live link from some where to generate the 404. It can only come from 3 places.

    1. External link (most of the time outside your control)
    2. Internal link (you should fix these as your users will also get to the page)
    3. Sitemap tut tut, rebuild your site map, you should not have none existing pages in here only live ones.

    Using a tool such as screaming frog will quickly find the 404 errors and also at the bottom you can look at the inlinks which are where all your links are located to that page. The free version allows you to do 500 pages. The paid for version is unlimited but requires a lot of ram if your site is 100,000 pages or more.

    Every site produces a 404 error, simply goto any site and type in anything on the end of the URL so mydomain.com/asdsjkhdghfsdjkghdfjghkjdsfhgk and it will produce either a standard or custom 404 error. Some sites may direct you to a different page with some sort of message but effectively its a 404 (not found) these of course you cant fix as the site is not broken its just users being stupid.

    The 404's coming from the 3 places above I have listed though you should try and reduce, External ones are the hardest but even so, a quick email to the owner can get the link changed quite quickly as they also dont want to send someone to a 404.

    Google generally understand the internet is broken, it will not take action against a site with a few 404 errors, if they detect a large number of 404 errors all of a sudden they will email you to inform you and you should take action but it is not the show stopper some people think it is.

    Comments on this post

    • Will-O-The-Wisp agrees : Excellent addition, thank you!
    Owner of Page Explorer the page onsite SEO checker
    Useful Tools: Site Crawler: Screaming Frog | Free SSL: Cloudflare
  4. #3
  5. No Profile Picture
    Registered User
    SEO Chat Explorer (0 - 99 posts)

    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Posts
    15
    Rep Power
    0
    Hi, thanks for your info about 404. I have a 4. scenario though.

    If you have a website with a lot of products (webshop or classifieds site), you will have a lot of products go in and out of stock. The website no longer links to a deleted product, but google still crawls it and register it as a 404.

    How do you handle that in the best way?

    Right now my website will try to find a similar product and redirect to that. If no similar product is present, I return a 404 and show "newest products".

    Thanks
    Rasmus / Denmark
  6. #4
  7. Dinosaur
    SEO Chat Genius (4000 - 4499 posts)

    Join Date
    Jun 2011
    Location
    UK
    Posts
    4,130
    Rep Power
    6553
    If google know about the page then one of the 3 would have applied at some point. Google will try a few times to check if the page comes back even if the links have gone. It however will give up after a few attempts and the page dropped from its index.
    So your 4th scenario is really a result of one of the 3
    Owner of Page Explorer the page onsite SEO checker
    Useful Tools: Site Crawler: Screaming Frog | Free SSL: Cloudflare

Similar Threads

  1. 'Fake' 404s
    By Tibble in forum New User SEO Questions and Answers
    Replies: 8
    Last Post: Nov 15th, 2016, 05:54 AM
  2. Article on what Google says about 404s
    By Kevin H in forum Search Engine Optimization
    Replies: 4
    Last Post: Mar 16th, 2013, 07:09 AM
  3. Pet care doesn't end at death for some consumers (Reuters)
    By RSS_News_User in forum Science News
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Jan 22nd, 2007, 04:04 PM
  4. Yahoo doesn't care if content is duplicated?
    By raz in forum BING/Yahoo Search Optimization
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Mar 2nd, 2005, 03:43 PM

IMN logo majestic logo threadwatch logo seochat tools logo