There are three common approaches web managers often take to 404 errors. None are wrong, but all of these views are incomplete. At SpringTrax, we take a different approach to 404s by focusing on users. Our goal is to help you understand how not found errors affect the people visiting your site.
Developers and server techs typically approach 404s as a technical problem. In this view, a 404 error means something broke: a page was removed, there was an incorrect link in the source code, the database couldn't find the requested content, etc.
Search marketers, or SEOs, tend to see 404s as a technical SEO issue. A 404 error means that Google or Bing can't index that broken page, and are wasting crawl bandwidth on errors. Not found errors will lead to lost rankings and lost traffic from search results.
Another approach to 404s is that broken links lead to a decline in sales. If people see broken links on your site, they'll leave your site. Lost visitors mean lost customers. Lost customers mean lost revenue. It also means lost repeat business and lost referrals.
All of those approaches are valid concerns about 404 errors. A not found error does mean something broke on your site. Broken pages can lead to a decline in rankings. We have lots of proof that 404s can cost you sales.
Broken pages go beyond these concerns; broken pages are a user experience problem. Managing your website requires creating an experience for your customers. That experience needs to reflect your company's values and should not reflect errors.
It goes beyond a technical problem or a search problem or a sales problem. Not found errors present a problem for the people visiting your site. If users have a good experience, you won't have technical issues. A good experience will lead, directly and indirectly, to higher rankings in search results. A good experience will lead to higher sales.
At Springtrax, we approach broken links by focusing on visitors. How many people saw a broken page on your site? Where did they find those broken pages? Which broken pages are affecting your users the most? How do you fix those broken pages to improve the experience people have on your site?