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How To Fix 404 Errors: A Simple Guide For Beginners

How To Fix 404 Errors A Simple Guide For Beginners

A 404 error happens when a page on your website can’t be found. It’s like looking for a book in the library, but it’s missing from the shelf.

This can make visitors upset and hurt your site’s ranking on search engines. A study shows that 74% of people leave a website after seeing a 404 error.

Fixing these errors is super important to keep visitors happy and ensure search engines can find all your pages.

In this guide, we’ll show you how to fix 404 errors easily and keep your website running smoothly.

What is a 404 Error?

A 404 error means a webpage cannot be found. It is an HTTP status code.

When you type a URL or click a link and see a “404 Page Not Found” message, it means the page is missing. 

This could happen because the page was deleted, the URL is wrong, or the link is broken. These errors can frustrate visitors and hurt your website’s SEO. Fixing 404 errors helps keep your site user-friendly and ensures search engines can find your pages.

HTTP status codes

Hard 404 vs. Soft 404 Errors

Hard 404 Errors: A hard 404 error occurs when a webpage truly does not exist on the server, and the server correctly returns a 404 HTTP status code. This clearly indicates to both users and search engines that the page cannot be found.

Soft 404 Errors: A soft 404 error happens when a page is missing or provides no useful content, but the server returns a 200 OK status code instead of a 404 status code. 

In easy words, when the Server returns an HTTP code other than “Page not found”, but the user can’t find that page or sees a “page not found error”.

  1. Thin or No Content:
    • Pages with very little or no content, such as empty category or product pages.
    • These pages fail to provide value to users and are often flagged as soft 404 errors by search engines​​​​​​.
  2. Incorrect Redirects:
    • Pages that redirect to irrelevant content or to the homepage instead of a relevant page.
    • Misconfigured redirects can confuse search engines, leading to soft 404 errors​​​​.
  3. Improper Error Handling:
    • Pages that should return a 404 or 410 status code but instead return a 200 OK status code with a “not found” message.
    • This improper handling causes search engines to think the page exists when it doesn’t​​​​​​.

Why It Matters: Soft 404 errors can waste your crawl budget, as search engines might index these non-valuable pages, which can hurt your site’s overall SEO performance. Fixing these errors helps ensure search engines only index relevant and valuable content, improving your search rankings​​​​​​.

Quick Fixes for 404 Errors

Let’s dive into some quick fixes for those pesky 404 errors. We’ll start with what you can do as a user and then move on to what website admins can do to keep things running smoothly.

Fixes as a User:

  1. Check the URL: Sometimes, it’s just a simple typo. Double-check the URL for any mistakes.
  2. Refresh the Page: Give the page a quick refresh. It might just be a temporary glitch.
  3. Use the Website’s Search Bar: Can’t find what you’re looking for? Try using the search bar on the website to locate the page.
  4. Navigate from the Homepage: If the direct link isn’t working, go to the homepage and use the menus or links to find the page.

Fixes as a Website Admin:

Now, let’s talk about what you can do behind the scenes to fix 404 errors and keep your website user-friendly and SEO-friendly.

  1. Restore Deleted Pages: Sometimes, pages get deleted by mistake. If they’re still needed, re-upload or recreate them.
  2. Update Broken Links: Regular audits are key. Use tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, or Ahrefs to find and fix broken links.
  3. Implement 301 Redirects: When pages move, set up 301 redirects to guide users from the old URL to the new one. This keeps your SEO intact.
  4. Create a Custom 404 Page: A friendly 404 page can turn a bad experience into a helpful one. Include links to popular pages, a search bar, and a positive message.
  5. Improve Content on Thin Pages: Pages with very little content can be flagged as soft 404 errors. Beef up these pages with more valuable content.
  6. Configure Proper Error Codes: Make sure pages that no longer exist return a 404 or 410 status code, not a 200. This helps search engines understand the true status of the page.
  7. Redirect Non-Relevant Pages: Avoid redirecting all deleted pages to the homepage. Instead, redirect them to the most relevant pages to provide a better user experience.

By following these tips, you can quickly fix 404 errors and ensure your website stays in tip-top shape for both users and search engines.

Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing 404 Errors

Step-by-Step Guide to Fixing 404 Errors

We’ll break this down step by step, starting with identifying the errors. Let’s focus on each step in detail.

Step 1: Identify 404 Errors

There are various tools for detecting broken links. Talking about free tools, we have Google Search Console (GSC), which is highly effective and user-friendly. For more advanced options, consider tools like Screaming Frog and Ahrefs.

Tools to Use:

  • Google Search Console
  • Screaming Frog
  • Ahrefs

How to Use Google Search Console:

  1. Navigate to Coverage Report:
  • Open Google Search Console and select your property.

Google Search Console for 404 errors-step1

  • Go to the “pages” section under “Indexing.”

Google Search Console for 404 errors-step2

  • Here, you’ll find a list of errors, including 404 errors.

Google Search Console for 404 errors-step3

2. Inspect URLs:

  • Click on the error to see the affected URLs.
  • Note down the URLs for further action.

Google Search Console for 404 errors

How to Use Screaming Frog:

1. Crawl Your Website:

  • Open Screaming Frog and enter your website URL.


  • Start the crawl to find all URLs.

2. Filter 404 Errors:

  • After the crawl is complete, go to the “Response Codes” tab.


  • Filter by “Client Error (4xx)” to see all 404 errors.

response-codes-404-errors screaming frog

How to Use Ahrefs:

1. Site Audit Tool:

  • Open Ahrefs and use the “Site Audit” tool.

404 errors using Ahrefs-step1

  • Run a new audit or review an existing one for 404 errors.

404 errors using ahrefs-step2

2. Review Issues:

  • Check the “Internal Pages” report to find 404 errors.

404 pages using Ahref tool

Check Server Logs:

1. Access Server Logs:

  • Log in to your server and access the error logs.

server access-log

Look for entries that indicate 404 errors. These logs often provide the URL requested, the referrer, and the time of the request.


2. Analyze Log Data:

  • Note down the URLs and refer to them while fixing the errors. Server logs can give insights into how often and why these errors occur.

By using these tools, you can effectively identify all the 404 errors on your site. Next, we’ll move on to analyzing the causes of these errors.

Step 2: Analyze the Cause

Now that you have identified the 404 errors, the next step is to analyze why these errors are occurring. This will help you determine the best way to fix them.

Common Causes of 404 Errors:

  1. Deleted Pages: Sometimes, pages are deleted intentionally or by mistake. Identify if any of the 404 errors are due to deleted pages.
  2. Broken Links: Links pointing to incorrect or non-existent URLs can cause 404 errors. This often happens when URLs are changed without updating the links pointing to them.
  3. Typos in URLs: Simple typing mistakes in URLs can lead to 404 errors. Double-check the URLs to ensure they are correct.

How to Analyze the Cause:

  1. Review Deleted Pages: Check your website’s content management system (CMS) or backup logs to see if any pages were deleted. Determine if these pages should be restored or permanently removed.
  2. Inspect Broken Links: Use the reports from your tools (Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, Ahrefs) to identify broken links. Note down these links for correction.
  3. Check for Typos: Manually review the URLs that are returning 404 errors to see if there are any typos. Correct any mistakes you find.

By analyzing the causes of 404 errors, you can determine the appropriate actions to take to fix them. Next, we’ll move on to fixing these errors effectively.

Step 3: Fix the Errors

Now, let’s move on to the practical steps of fixing these 404 errors. This involves restoring pages, updating links, setting up redirects, and creating a helpful 404 page.

1. Implement 301 Redirects:

Purpose: Redirect old URLs to relevant new pages to preserve link equity and guide users correctly.

How to Set Up:

  • Use an SEO plugin like Yoast SEO for WordPress.
  • In the “Redirects” section, enter the old URL and the new destination URL.
  • Example: Redirect example.com/old-page to example.com/new-page.

2. Update Links:

Purpose: Ensure all links on your site point to the correct URLs.

How to Update:

  • Manually update broken links found in your site audit.
  • Use a tool like “Broken Link Checker” for WordPress to automate the process.
  • Example: Fix a link pointing to example.com/missing-page to example.com/correct-page.

3. Restore Pages:

Purpose: Re-upload or recreate pages that were deleted by mistake or are still needed.

How to Restore:

  • Check your CMS or website backups for the deleted content.
  • Re-publish the content to its original URL.
  • Example: Restore example.com/important-page from a backup.

4. Create a Custom 404 Page:

custom 404 page - pixar

Purpose: Provide a helpful user experience even when they hit a 404 error.

How to Create:

  • Design a custom 404 page with helpful links, a search bar, and a friendly message.
  • Use your CMS’s theme settings to set this custom page.
  • Example: A custom 404 page saying, “Oops! This page doesn’t exist. Try these links instead.”

By following these steps and utilizing the right tools, you can effectively fix 404 errors, improve user experience, and maintain your website’s SEO health. 

Impact of 404 Errors on SEO

404 errors can have a significant impact on your website’s SEO and overall user experience. Here’s why fixing them is crucial:

1. User Experience

When users encounter 404 errors, it can be frustrating. Imagine clicking a link expecting useful information, only to find a “page not found” message. This can lead users to leave your site quickly, increasing your bounce rate. High bounce rates signal to search engines that your site may not be providing a good user experience, which can negatively affect your rankings.

2. Crawl Budget

Search engines allocate a specific amount of resources to crawl each site, known as the crawl budget. When search engines spend time crawling 404 error pages, they waste part of this budget that could have been used to index your valuable content. According to Google, excessive 404 errors can reduce the efficiency of their crawling.

3. Link Equity

404 errors can cause a loss of link equity. Link equity (or “link juice”) refers to the value passed from one page to another through hyperlinks. If external sites link to a page that returns a 404 error, the value of those backlinks is lost. This can harm your site’s authority and search engine rankings.

4. Search Engine Indexing

When search engines encounter 404 errors, they might deindex the pages, thinking they are no longer relevant or available. This means that any existing rankings for those pages can be lost. Sites like Moz emphasize the importance of keeping your site free from 404 errors to ensure all valuable pages remain indexed.

5. User Trust

Repeatedly encountering 404 errors can erode user trust. Visitors may think the site is poorly maintained or unreliable, which can deter them from returning. Trust is a critical factor for both user retention and conversion rates.

404 errors can harm your site’s SEO by affecting user experience, wasting crawl budget, losing link equity, and risking deindexing by search engines. Fixing these errors helps maintain a smooth, reliable, and SEO-friendly website.

Preventing 404 Errors

“Prevention is better than cure”, right? Let’s check out how we can prevent “404 Page Not Found Errors”:

1. Regular Audits

  • Schedule Audits: Conduct monthly or quarterly audits using tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, and Ahrefs.
  • Review Reports: Regularly review and address any issues found in the audit reports.

2. Consistent URL Structure

  • Use Clear URLs: Implement clear and descriptive URLs that are easy to read.
  • Standardize Formats: Use a standard format for URLs, employing hyphens to separate words and keeping them lowercase.

3. Proper Redirects

  • Implement 301 redirects: Set up 301 redirects for moved or deleted pages to maintain SEO value and guide users correctly.
  • Avoid Irrelevant Redirects: Do not redirect all pages to the homepage; ensure redirects point to relevant content.

4. User Feedback

  • Feedback Mechanism: Encourage users to report broken links or missing pages through a feedback form.

5. Sitemap Updates

  • Regular Updates: Keep your XML sitemap updated and submit it to search engines to aid in proper indexing.

By following these strategies, you can proactively prevent 404 errors and maintain a smooth, user-friendly website.


404 errors can harm your website’s user experience and SEO.

Make sure to conduct regular site audits, check your links, keep your sitemap updated, and create custom 404 pages that are truly helpful. These steps are absolutely crucial for maintaining a top-notch website!

Take Action Now

Boost your website’s authority and traffic with Outreach Monks’ top-notch link-building services. Contact us today to learn how our strategies can improve your online presence. Visit our Guest Posting Services to get started.

By staying proactive and following these tips, you can keep your website user-friendly and your SEO strong.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can 404 errors affect my site's load time?

Yes, too many 404 errors can slow down your site's performance.

Is there a tool to automate 404 error fixes?

Yes, tools like Ahrefs and SEMrush can help automate finding and fixing 404 errors.

Can 404 errors impact my website's bounce rate?

Yes, frequent 404 errors can increase your site's bounce rate.

How often should I check for 404 errors?

It's best to check for 404 errors at least once a month.

Do 404 errors affect mobile SEO differently than desktop SEO?

Yes, 404 errors can negatively impact both mobile and desktop SEO, but the user experience on mobile might suffer more.

Ekta Chauhan

Ekta Chauhan

Ekta is a seasoned link builder at Outreach Monks. She uses her digital marketing expertise to deliver great results. Specializing in the SaaS niche, she excels at crafting and executing effective link-building strategies. Ekta also shares her insights by writing engaging and informative articles regularly. On the personal side, despite her calm and quiet nature, don't be fooled—Ekta's creativity means she’s probably plotting to take over the world. When she's not working, she enjoys exploring new hobbies, from painting to trying out new recipes in her kitchen.


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