There are many factors which Search Engines use to rank a website, and an individual web page.
One of the ways you can check the ‘SEO health’ of your website is by using Google’s Search Console – a set of tools which allows you to ‘crawl’ your website to throw up any areas of concern.
A common and crucial error that Search Console will discover and highlight for you are broken links, or 404 Errors which occur when a page is no longer located on a listed URL.
If you are changing a URL on your website, deleting a page, or moving a page to different part of the site, you need to be aware that this will cause a 404 error for anyone clicking on the old URL (they may have the page bookmarked, or find the link on another site which hasn’t updated it to the new URL).
In SEO terms, this is a critical negative factor, so it’s important to find all instances of 404 Errors on your site, and set about fixing them.
Fixing 404 Errors
There are a number of ways you can ensure 404 Errors don’t lose you traffic:
- You can set up a custom 404 Error message so that in the case someone lands on a broken link on your site, you direct them to somewhere else (perhaps your home page). Your web developer should be able to do this for you.
- But the best solution is to set up a 301 Redirect – whether you know beforehand that your URL structure is going to change (perhaps your site is moving to a new domain) or you crawl your site and discover error pages, setting up a 301 redirect on these pages ensures that visitors are automatically sent to the correct URL and page they were looking for.