Your website's success, like the success of most websites, probably depends on how many visitors you geet from Google (and other search engines, like Bing). To get more visitors from Google (and other search engines), you work hard to optimize your website and earn the highest rankings you can.
Unfortunately, 404 errors on your website can hurt your rankings in those search results. When you lose rankings, you will lose visitors. Without those visitors, you'll lose business.
There are five ways that 404's can hurt your search marketing efforts:
- 404's Break Backlinks: One of the biggest factors that determines where your website ranks in a search result is how many other websites link to your website (backlinks). However, if those backlinks have grown rotten and lead to 404 errors instead of working pages, those backlinks will not do anything to help you earn rankings. Instead, you want those backlinks to lead to working pages on your website, not broken pages, so that the working pages on your website rank higher in the search results allowing more people to find your website.
- 404's Reduce Site Quality: Increasingly, the quality of the experience people have on your website plays a big role in where you rank in search results. The better Google and Bing think your website's quality is, the higher you will rank when somebody conducts a search. The higher you rank, the more visitors you get. However, lots of 404 errors will reduce your website's quality and hurt your chances of earning those higher rankings. After all, 404 errors frustrate and annoy your visitors, causing those visitors to have a bad experience with your website.
- Direct Loss Of 404 Results: Approximately 6-8% of all 404 errors visitors encounter come from search results. This happens because Google (Bing, etc.) show a page in a search result that you removed from your website. When Google and Bing realize that page has been removed from your website, your website will no longer appear in that search result. You worked hard to show up in the search result in the first place. The last thing you want is to lose that ranking and the visitors that come to your website from that ranking.
- Distract Robots: Google and Bing send robots to investigate your website. Those robots only spend so much time on your website and only look at so many pages during each visit. Do you want those robots to spend time investigating broken pages or working pages on your website? Getting rid of 404's can help those search engine robots better understand and investigate the best parts of your website.
- Soft 404's Can Look Like Spam: Depending on how your 404 errors are configured, Google, Bing, and visitors to your website may not realize that they have encountered a 404 error. In some cases, 404 configurations can look like you are trying to hide something on your website or, worse, that you are trying to trick visitors or robots. That kind of manipulative behavior can get your website penalized and kicked out of search results.
What To Do About It
First, you need to know what 404 errors are affecting the people visiting your site, including the 404's resulting from Google or Bing search results. Once you know about every 404, you can fix those 404s. By fixing those 404s, you can improve your site's quality, earn better backlinks, make sure robots see every part of your website, and avoid losing rankings due to 404 errors.
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