[Error 404] Page Not Found: What it Means & How to Fix It

Have you ever clicked on a link and ended up on a totally different page, with a flashy “Error 404: The requested URL was not found on this server” message staring back at you? 

Well, that’s what we call a 404 error

It’s like taking a wrong turn and landing in a dead end. But guess what? 

Having too many of these errors on your website can seriously mess up your web ranking and even cost you some sales

I mean, think about it. 

When visitors can’t find the page they’re looking for and bounce right out of your site, it’s pretty hard to make any sales, right?

That’s exactly why I’m here today, to tell you all about how to tackle these 404 errors like a pro. 

Ready to dive in? Let’s go!

What Is a 404 Error?

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So, let’s break it down. 

A 404 error is a notification that the page you’re trying to reach on a website is not available or, it doesn’t exist anymore. 

There could be a bunch of reasons behind it, but the bottom line is that the page you’re looking for is nowhere to be found.

Why 404 Errors May Appear on Your Website

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As we mentioned, the main reason why a 404 error might appear is that a webpage isn’t available or doesn’t exist.

But there are other reasons that 404 errors could be showing up on your website.

✅ 1. Web Server Problems

If your server is acting up or having connection problems, you might see a 404 error when trying to access any page on your website that’s not reachable. 

The trick here is to reach out to your provider and hang in there. 

Choosing a solid hosting service for your website will make incident management faster and less of a headache.

✅ 2. Error Due to a Deleted Page

Even if you’ve requested a URL to be removed from Google Search Console, it might still show up on the search engine. 

The truth is, Google sometimes takes a while to fully remove it. 

But don’t worry, there are two options to fix this:

  1. If you’ve deleted the old content and replaced it with something new, you can redirect the old URL to the new page. This way, visitors will be automatically directed to the updated content.
  1. If the old page has been permanently deleted, you can create a customized and optimized 404 page. This page will be displayed when someone tries to access the old URL. Don’t worry, we can guide you on how to create an effective 404 page.

Remember, having a 404 error page isn’t a big deal, so there’s no need to panic.

✅ 3. URL Changes

A page’s URL acts like its ID, and Google considers even a slight change in a single letter as a completely new page. 

To address this issue, you can create a 301 redirection from the incorrect URL to the correct one. 

Here’s how you can do it:

  1. Edit your .htaccess file. If you’re not comfortable with modifying your shop’s code, you can ask your programmer to handle it for you.
  2. Alternatively, you can use a plugin like Redirection, which is free and user-friendly. It simplifies the process of setting up the redirection without the need for coding knowledge.

By implementing a 301 redirection, you ensure that the old page’s positioning authority is transferred to the new one. 

This way, you won’t lose the search engine ranking of the previous page.

How to Fix a 404 Not Found Error

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Encountering a “404 Not Found” error can be frustrating when trying to access a webpage. 

However, the good news is that there are several simple steps you can take to resolve this issue and reach your desired content. 

In this guide, we will explore various troubleshooting techniques that can help you fix a 404 error and get back on track. 

So, let’s dive in and learn how to conquer those elusive 404 errors together.

✅ 1. Check for Typos

One of the most common culprits behind a 404 error is a simple typo in the URL. 

It happens to the best of us! 

Take a moment to carefully double-check the URL you entered in the address bar. 

Look out for any misspellings or extra characters that might be causing the error. 

Fixing a small typo can often quickly resolve the issue and get you on the right track.

✅ 2. Open a New Window

Sometimes, a 404 error could be a temporary hiccup or a glitch related to your current browser window. 

To rule out this possibility, give it a fresh start by opening a new browser window. 

Enter the URL again and see if the page loads without the error. 

This simple step can help determine if the issue is specific to your current browsing session.

✅ 3. Try Using Another Device

If you find yourself constantly encountering a stubborn 404 error on a particular device, such as your trusty computer or reliable smartphone, it might indicate a device-specific issue. 

In such cases, it’s worth trying to access the same URL on a different device. 

If the page loads correctly on the alternate device, it suggests that the problem might be with your original device’s settings or network connection.

✅ 4. Open an Incognito Window

Another nifty troubleshooting technique is to open an incognito or private browsing window. 

This mode disables browser extensions and clears cache and cookies, which can sometimes interfere with webpage loading. 

By opening an incognito window and entering the URL again, you can see if the 404 error persists. 

If the page loads fine incognito, it could indicate that an extension or cached data is causing the hiccup.

✅ 5. Clear Your Browsing Data

Over time, your browser collects a pile of cached data and cookies that can occasionally cause issues and lead to 404 errors. 

Giving your browsing data a good cleaning can often do the trick. 

Head over to your browser settings, find the option to clear browsing data, and choose to clear cache and cookies. 

Once you’ve done that, try accessing the URL again and see if the 404 error bids farewell.

✅ 6. Update Your Site’s Permalinks

If you’re a website owner facing 404 errors on your own site, it’s essential to check your permalinks. 

Permalinks are the permanent URLs that point to individual pages or posts on your website. 

Outdated or incorrect permalinks can lead to 404 errors. 

Take a moment to review your content management system or website platform’s settings and ensure that your permalinks are correctly configured. 

Updating them can help resolve 404 errors caused by broken links.

✅ 7. Create 301 Redirections

In case you’ve recently made changes to your website’s structure or shuffled pages around, it’s crucial to set up 301 redirects for any old URLs that no longer exist. 

Think of it as a forwarding address for your web pages. 

A 301 redirect tells search engines and browsers that the page has permanently moved to a new location. 

By implementing 301 redirects, you can ensure that visitors are automatically redirected to the correct page instead of encountering a frustrating 404 error.

Tools to Detect a 404 Error on Your Website

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As a website owner, it’s important to be aware of whether your website has a significant number of 404 errors. 

However, manually checking every single page of your website can be a time-consuming task. 

Fortunately, there are several digital tools available that can help you with this.

These tools can scan your website and provide you with a comprehensive report on any 404 errors encountered. 

✅ 1. Google Search Console

If you haven’t given Google Search Console a try yet, it’s about time you do! 

This incredible tool from Google is not only powerful but also completely free. 

One of its standout features is its ability to detect broken links, just like the search engine does.

✅ 2. W3C Link Checker

By simply entering the main URL of your online business into this tool, it will analyze each individual link and generate a comprehensive report highlighting all the broken ones. 

This makes it incredibly convenient for you to identify and address those issues promptly. 

Fixing broken links becomes a breeze with the help of this tool, allowing you to ensure a seamless browsing experience for your website visitors.

✅ 3. Dead Link Checker

If you’re looking for a free tool that not only helps you find broken links but also presents the information in a visually appealing way, Dead Link Checker is worth checking out. 

It offers a more eye-catching report that makes it easier to spot and tackle those pesky broken links on your website.

But wait, there’s more! 

Dead Link Checker goes the extra mile by allowing you to set up regular reports that can be conveniently delivered to your inbox. 

This means you don’t have to keep manually checking the tool. 

Instead, you’ll receive updates on the status of your broken links right in your email.

✅ 4. Broken Link Checker

If you’re running a WordPress shop and want to detect broken links, there’s a handy plugin available for you. 

Once installed, this plugin will automatically scan your website, diligently spotting any error pages it comes across. 

It’s a powerful tool that keeps you notified about broken links in real-time.

How to Make an Error 404 Page

Customizing your 404 error page is a fantastic idea for multiple reasons. 

Here’s why it’s worth investing some time to make it special:

  1. Allowing Google bots to explore: By customizing your 404 error page, you provide options for Google bots to navigate beyond the error page and continue crawling through the website. This helps ensure that your website is fully indexed and optimized for search engine visibility.
  2. Retaining your audience: A well-designed and informative 404 error page can convince your audience not to leave your website immediately. By providing relevant links, search options, or suggestions to explore other sections of your site, you can reduce your bounce rate. 

As you can see, customizing your error page offers significant benefits. 

To inspire you and get you started, we’ll share a few tips and showcase some examples of creatively designed 404 error pages. 

With some creativity and thoughtfulness, you can transform this error page into an opportunity to engage and guide your visitors effectively.

✅ 1. It should be a simple, fast, and usable page

When it comes to creating a customized 404 error page, it’s important not to overload it with excessive information that could slow down its loading speed. 

Instead, a simple yet clear message will suffice to inform your visitors about the error they encountered.

However, you should always provide a way for them to navigate back to your website. 

Take a look at Volkswagen’s example, where they include a clear call-to-action (CTA) prompting users to “Go to the Home page.” 

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This allows visitors to easily return to the main page and continue exploring your website.

Remember, if you don’t provide options for your clients on the 404 error page, they might simply close the window and leave your website altogether. 

By ensuring a clear message and offering a way to redirect them to relevant pages, you can retain their interest and keep them engaged with your site.

✅ 2. Resort to humor

When faced with an error, it can be a refreshing approach to infuse empathy and humor into your 404 error page. 

It doesn’t have to be complex, as demonstrated by Primor.

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They incorporate elements that aim to make their visitors smile while addressing the error. 

This not only creates a more enjoyable user experience but also helps to alleviate any frustration your users may feel.

While adding humor, it’s still crucial to provide links or options for users to navigate away from the error page and explore other categories of your website. 

This ensures that they can easily find their way back to relevant content and continue their journey on your site.

Consequences of Having HTTP 404 Errors on Your Website

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You might be wondering, “So what if there are a few 404 errors? 

Users can just click the back button and move on, right?” 

Well, it’s not that simple. In reality, if your website displays a high number of 404 errors, it can lead to several negative consequences:

✅ 1. Decreased SEO Ranking 

So here’s what Google says: having 404 pages on your website won’t directly affect your positioning in search results… initially, that is. 

If Google notices a bunch of 404 errors on your site, they might get the impression that your website isn’t well-maintained or regularly updated. 

And, they may start showing your site less frequently to avoid giving users a bad experience.

But, there’s also another piece to the puzzle: your bounce rate – the percentage of people who land on your website and leave without clicking on anything. 

Why does this matter?

Well, first off, a high bounce rate indicates that users aren’t satisfied with what they find on your site, and they’re bouncing away faster than you’d like. 

Google takes notice of your bounce rate when determining your positioning in search results.

And if you have a lot of 404 pages on your website, your bounce rate could potentially double!

So, it’s important to tackle those 404 errors ASAP. 

✅ 2. Poor User Experience

Stumbling upon multiple 404 errors can be really frustrating for users. 

It disrupts their journey, frustrates them, and tarnishes the overall experience they have on your website. 

This negative feeling can even lead to a loss of trust and credibility in the eyes of your users. 

After all, if they can’t find what they’re looking for, why should they trust your site?

So, it’s crucial to keep your users’ experience top-notch by minimizing those pesky 404 pages. 

You want visitors to feel comfortable, trust your brand, and keep coming back for more. 

✅ 3. Loss of sales

Let’s address another critical issue: the direct impact of 404 errors on your sales. 

As we’ve discussed earlier, when potential customers encounter a 404 error on your website, it’s like waving goodbye to a potential sale.

Think about it this way: users are not likely to stick around and waste their precious time trying to navigate through a frustrating 404 error page. 

Nope, they’ll simply leave your website and head straight to your competitor’s website.

Every potential customer counts, and you want to provide them with a smooth and seamless shopping experience to maximize your chances of conversion.

Fix your 404 errors and turn them into sales opportunities

Don’t wait until tomorrow to fix those 404 errors that are costing you potential sales. 

Take action today and turn those dead ends into valuable opportunities.

And here’s a pro tip: schedule regular checkups to keep your website in top-notch condition. 

By staying on top of maintenance, you can ensure a smooth browsing experience for your visitors and avoid those frustrating 404 errors.

Remember, every error page represents a missed chance to engage with your customers and make a sale. 

So, roll up your sleeves, dive into resolving those errors, and unlock the hidden sales potential they hold.

With a proactive approach and a well-maintained website, you’ll be on your way to converting more visitors into satisfied customers.

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