December 17, 2019

Making the Most of Your 404s

Are you making this common mistake and losing valuable traffic? 

As you may know, 404 is the standard response that is returned by a server when a webpage was successfully requested but the server was unable to locate it. Most companies opt to automatically redirect these pesky error pages back to their homepage, which at first glance makes sense: it maintains link juice passed by backlinks, allows users to avoid unsightly and potentially offputting 404 errors, and keeps them out of Google’s way, avoiding potential negative impact on SEO. 

However, evidence shows that while redirecting these broken links to your homepage may save time in the short term, it could be costing you in clicks. In fact, even Google advises against this practice! Instead, a proven way to gain greater SEO traffic is to redirect these links to equivalent or similar content pages. 

Why Not Send 404s Back to the Homepage?

One of the biggest issues with redirecting 404s automatically to your homepage is that it’s confusing for users and webmasters alike. Users searching for a specific link become frustrated when erroneously landing back to the homepage, and are more likely to give up altogether and bring their clicks elsewhere than to stay on your site. It may be better to simply allow the 404 to exist so that your customers understand there is an issue that you are working to address, not just maintaining with a less convenient stop-gap solution, which places the burden back on them to find what they were looking for.

Redirecting Broken 404s to Equivalent Links to Increase Traffic

It’s common for companies to take an extra step to customize their inevitable 404s slightly by including a humorous picture or drawing even but not go much further than offering to reroute back to the home page. Mainly this is because manually redirecting to a unique page for every broken link can be time consuming, depending on the number of links you’re working with.

However, there are a number of ways to automate this process to save yourself or your client time while increasing traffic.

Automating 404 Redirection

Should you choose the do-it-yourself approach to automate this technique, there are a number of online resources at your disposal to make the process easier. One useful tool to assist with the process is Ahref’s broken backlink tool, which shows you all the referring pages that link to 404 pages along with their anchor and surrounding texts. It also filters 404s to pages with external links, and as an added bonus, you are able to use the tool to see your competitors broken links as well, should that be useful for your marketing. Once you’ve got this list, step by step tutorials can walk you through the mapping of 404s at scale using sentence embeddings.        

Let Us Help You

If automating the process seems too daunting a task, let Key Medium/Running SEO take care of it for you! Using our proven system, we can:

For more information for help with fixing your broken links and mapping old pages paths to new ones to retain maximum SEO value, please contact us today. 

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