The Error 404 “Page not found” is the error page displayed whenever someone asks for a page that’s simply not available on your site. The reason for this is that there may be a link on your site that was wrong or the page might have been recently removed from the site. As there is no web page to display, the web server sends a page that simply says “404 Page not found”.
The 404 error message is an HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) standard status code. This “Not Found” response code indicates that although the client could communicate to the server, the server could not find what was requested or it was configured not to fulfill the request.
The 404 errors can be caused due to various reasons, such as:
- Page requested does not exist
- Server is down
- Internet connection is down
- Broken links
- Incorrect URL
- Page has been moved to a different address
404 errors can have a negative effect on your website regarding both usability and the search engine. A high number of 404 error pages on a website will give your user a negative user experience, and they’re more likely to leave your website and go to a competitor’s website.
However, 404 errors do not impact the ranking of your website, and Google will not penalize your website due to a high number of 404 errors.
How to Handle 404 error pages
You can deal with 404 errors either by creating a redirect or setting up an error page offering users alternative information. If you do not set up an error page or a redirect, you will send negative signals to users and to Google. The Googlebot will try to access a non-existent resource, but will not get the correct status code 404 or 410 that the URL is no longer available. Users will also receive negative signals as they do not know why the URL isn’t working.