Search Console: Fix Not Found (404) Errors in Page Indexing
Not found (404) errors in Page Indexing issues in Google Search Console can be fixed.
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Not found (404) errors are thrown by Google search console for the following reasons: –
- the requested page is deleted
- the page is replaced with another one or moved
- the page doesn’t exist while it is discoverable or pointed to somehow
While many webmasters and beginner SEO professionals take it easy and leave them, we recommend to fix this issue before Google devalues your overall website. For sure, if they’re not too many, you can be leave them for a while. If there are too many 404 errors, Google decreases the overall crawl rate for your website.
Can a website be penalized in search results due to 404 errors?
Yes, it can be. A few of 404 errors doesn’t impact SEO, however, if you don’t fix the root cause and the list of 404 errors keeps increasing, the crawl rate is decreased which leads to poor discoverability and indexing of your content in search engine.
Can we fix 404 errors in search console?
Yes, they can be fixed. It just takes time, an attention to detail audit, and patience with recrawl.
How can we fix not found (404) errors and let Google know about it?
Fixing 404 errors need careful analysis of the root cause. Depending upon the reason of 404 error, we can fix it and validate it in search console.
Fix 404 errors due to page deletion
If you have deleted or removed the existing page completely and there is no other replacement for it yet, add 410 response code to it. 410 header response indicates that the page has been deleted. Doing this, upon next crawl by GoogleBot, it won’t fall into 404 anymore and hence, not queued for recrawl.
Adding 410 deletion header to all 404 is not a good idea. Since there are certain 404 error pages which actually needs a redirect or replacement.
- a page for an event that happened last year and now no longer needed at all
- a job page that is no longer needed
- a property listing page which was indexed but now the property ad needs to be removed completely
- a historical tool page which no longer exists
Fix 404 errors due to page migration, replacement, or moving
If you have created another page and want your users and search crawlers to crawl that new one, add 301 header response. 310 header response indicates that the page has been moved permanently to a new location.
If the movement is temporary, use 302 header response instead.
- a page for a guide that is outdated and new guide has been published as a better version
- your website was previously indexed with www and now, you moved to non-www version
- all of your site pages or post pages were indexed with ending hash, but now you updated the permalink structure to go without ending hash
Fix 404 errors due for unknown or non-existing pages
Handling Not found (404) errors for non-existent pages requires patience, effort, and time.
Normally it is suggested that redirect 404 to homepage etc. It is not a right practice always. What if the triggered 404 page actually needed a 410, 301, or 302? Again, this is the case when we knew what happened to the page currently with 404 error.
There are pages which we even don’t know about and we see them search console. That’s weird? Right?
Well. Deep down it is understandable.
Those were somehow discovered by GoogleBot. But how?
Either GoogleBot crawled a anchor link (probably internal link or backlink) having typo error in it or it was a query filter which was available as a link somehow.
This is annoying. I know. Finding typo errors in the internal links is hectic. On top of that what if that wrong URL is coming through a backlink or someone else linked it wrongly?
Generally in case of backlinks, it is hard to fix the link. If you have access to the backlink or 3rd party site, update the link. If you don’t have access to a broken link to your site coming from external site, just redirect it to the most useful, closely relevant, or the correct page. This means, apply 301 or 302 redirect to those broken and inaccessible backlinks.
In case of broken internal links, spend some time with QA team to test and validate the correctness of all navigational, categorical or sectional, breadcrumbs, footer links, and sidebar links.
For the internal links within post or article content, use a 3rd party tool like SemRush, Ahrefs, Moz, and similar to audit your website. If you have a site with thousands of pages, it may be expensive to audit website repeatedly. However, it works great.
You can also set up Analytics event to track visits on 404 pages, clicks on anchor links, and more. A custom 404 error reporting solution in Analytics is really helpful, however, you might need to hire a pro for this.
Inform Google after Fixing 404 Not found errors
Once you have fixed the Not found (404) errors via aforementioned steps, do the steps below to mark 404 errors as fixed in search console:
- Go to Google Search Console > Indexing > Pages > Not found (404) error pages
- Click on ‘Validate Fix’ and submit.
- Wait for GoogleBot to crawl again and find the redirection (301, 302) or deletion (410).
- Since you handled the discovery of links with typo errors or similar, Google won’t be crawling it again if it doesn’t discover it again from any source
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