404 Error : What Do They Mean For SEO

  • April 30, 2015
  • SEO
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***What is HTTP Response Status Code ?

HTTP or Hypertext Transfer Protocol <place link of any reputated website which defines about http> response status code always returned whenever any user (search engine or any website visitor from anywhere on the Globe) makes a request to the web server.HTTP code are always returned three digit codes which indicate response and status of the http request.

* **Kinds of HTTP Status Codes.

According to the HTTP standards, HTTP status codes are the three digit number which is returned by the server at the time of requesting any web based element. Basically it indicates the status of the web-element.

For the technological purpose, it is must for us to understand the each digit of these three digit numbers or special status codes which begins from 1 to 5 or from 100s to 500s. Now, we are going to discuss about these status codes in brief.

100s Request Received–the request has been received and it is in process i.e. Work In Progress.

200sRequest Success– Request was received and processed successfully i.e. output is ready.

300sRedirection–your request has been received and it needs an additional task to complete your request or to provide output. Basically, all the redirections are comes in this category.

400s Client Error–your request has been received and when the server performs any action on that request, it does not found the requested source. In other terms, when client made any request to the server, and server did not found the requested resource.

500s Server Error – when the client made any request to the server but, the server fails to complete the requested resource.

***Important HTTP Status Codes for SEO purposes and search engines point of view.

  1. 200 OK: Your request has been received and succeeded. Basically, this code is just like a green light for any request. This is considered proper for most cases.
  2. 301 Permanent Redirect: 301 permanent redirect means the requested resource has been assigned a new URL and all the value of this URL will pass to the returned URL. The 301 redirect is most common in the SEO field which is commonly used to redirect any one page to another permanently. This type of URL redirection is the most SEO friendly redirection.


  1. 302 Temporary Redirect.

The server is currently responding to the request with a page from a different location

  1. 404 Page Not Found Error

Generally, this type of error occurred when the requested URL or resource not found on the server.This type of situation can be occurred at any time when the server cannot find the requested page. Often, Google Webmastersdisplay this kind of error in the crawl errors section that indicates, your website have some links which is targeted to those resources which are not present actually.



  1. 503 Service Unavailable

The server is currently unable to handle the requested resource due to a temporary error or overloading or server maintenance.

SEO BEST PRACTICES: – why we need custom “404 Page”?

As we know that webmasters is a health checker of our website. It always looks all the pages of website according to the seo best practices and if it founds any error then they are providing. 404 page not found is the main issue. In fact, if you are properly paying attention to this section, it helps your site to rank better in the search engine result page as well as contribute the best user experience.

###Below are some important points which can help you to tells more about 404

Tip #1: Make a well-designed 404 page

As we already discussed about 404 page.404 page is a page where any user will land when they will not get their requested URL from the server side. You have an option to handle this error with the help of user friendly Custom Page.
Now, the question is how we can create custom page?
You should keep four guide lines in your mind at the time of designing page.
1. The page should explain proper reason that why the user has landed on the particular page instead of requested resource?

  1. Your page should include “Search Box” through which user can able to search relevant keyword in the hope to get the right post or information.
  2. Your page should be as simple as possible. It should not contain any type of server related errors.
  3. Your Custom 404 or user friendly page should include other important navigation which helps the user to browse your website quickly. Generally, sliders, menu bar, header and footer are includes so that user can easily navigate your website.

If you are new in this field and you are worrying about how you can see your own 404 error page then there is no need to get worried about it because it is pretty simple. Just open your web browser, type your domain + and press randomly keys after “/”. The resulting page is your 404 page as it is not exist on your server.

Example : – http://www.example.com/fdfdfd

Tip #2: Make sure your “404 error pages” really provide a “404 header status”

It is not necessary that all 404 error page provides 404 header status. This status is just for search engine bots or crawlers as “Page Not Found”. For example, the search engine giant Google uses this server header status when removing removed pages and outdated pages from your website. For an instance, suppose you have deleted 20 URLs from your website and these 20 URLs returning 404 header status. When Google crawlers re crawl your website then they will return 404 not found. There is no need to submit url removal request in Google Webmasters.

Okay, so how can you be sure that your 404 error page will really return a 404 header status? Follow the steps below:

  1. Go to this server header status checker: http://web-sniffer.net/
  1. Enter the URL of your 404 page (or any URL that should return a 404).
  1. Click the “Check” button.
  1. Now you can see a “404” as the header status.
    For example, see the screen shot below:



From the above screen shot you can confirm that the requested URL” http://www.php-developer.org/dfdsfdf” does not exist on the server and returns “404 Not Found” header status.

In case, if your 404 Not Found page does not return a 404 header status. What can you do?

In this case, you can use .htaccess file and PHP method if you are using PHP platform.

Method #1

Using .htaccess, you can define your 404 error document:
ErrorDocument 404 /error-404.php
Note: error-404.php is your 404 custom page.

Method #2

Using PHP to dynamically assign pages with 404 not found header status:

header( “HTTP/1.1 404 Not Found” );

Mostly, the above methods will fix your 404 page issue but, in case if both of the above methods fail, then you can contact to your development team member which has sound knowledge to fix the 404 errors. Apart from that if your developer also not able to fix this issue then you can contact to your web hosting agency. This is mainly due to server miss configuration.

If your 404 error page is not returning 404 header status then, what happened?

If this situation is occurred in your site then it is a big problem. For example, if you are removing thousand of url from your site which should returning clean 404. But, search engines only trust on the header status. If your server not returning 404 header status to the search engine crawlers, then it will be like 200 OK. Your removedURLs  are stills indexed in the Google.
Tip #3: How you can know about your all the URLs that return 404.
For this you just need to register with Google webmasters tools. As, these errors are only discovered by Google crawlers/bots. For more details, you can also take help from your server log file. If you are using Cpanel, you can follow these steps.

Steps : –
1. Log in to your cpanel account.
2.èLogsèRaw Access Log
3.select the domain for which you wish to see.
4. Download zip file and unzip it to know more …
Tip #4: Transform a 404 into a link building opportunity
Now, we are going to discuss the main important point about how to use 404 page in link building. Some time it happens that your site hassome wrong spelling links which not opens properly and give 404 status code.As a result, the website visitor not properly land on the chosen page and instead this they lands on the 404 page which increase the bad impression on the user.
So, following points can help you to know how you can increase the user experience to use these error pages into link building.
1. Log in to Google Webmaster Tools.
2. Crawl è Crawl Errors.
3. Check all “Not found” pages reported by Google.
4.Examine all the URLs and do the following…
^^Use 301 method to redirect all the wrong spelling links to their correct and respected links. This technique will transfer all the link juice to the correct UTL.You can use .htaccess to do this, just use this syntax:

redirect 301 “/thisisthemispelledurl.php” http://www.example.com/thisisthecorrecturl.php

NOTE : – Before using301 redirection method on a particular link, you need to double check the link.

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