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Should I redirect all 404 errors?

Sometimes we encounter new “SEO hacks” that people apply, that are actually bad SEO patternsShould I redirect all 404 errors or individual redirect? One of these bad SEO patterns is to apply a 301 redirect to all your 404 pages to your homepage. This is a lot like cleaning up your garage by throwing everything into a corner and what the better solution would be.

The premise of this hack is that 404 errors are counted by Google, and that through some magic the number of errors on your site affects your site’s overall ability to rank. The solution, that really isn’t a solution, that people come up with is then to start 301 redirecting all error pages to their homepage.

If you care about your website, you should take steps to avoid 404 errors as it affects your SEO badly.

we’ll be the first to tell you that you should keep an eye on your 404 errors and try to fix them where possible. Google shows a graph of your 404 errors in Google Search Console and lowering the number of 404s on your site is often a good idea. That doesn’t mean that your site shouldn’t have any 404s.

Let me go back to my analogy of throwing everything into the corner of the garage when the wife tells you to clean your man cave up. Everything, in this case, means not just the dirty clothes, or your tools, but also that half emptied food containers, that half-finished sandwich, etc. You know what that makes your garage when you clean it up like that? Still a mess. And soon your garagel start to stink because you cleaned it up like that. This situation is no different.

Google will treat them as 404s anyway (they’re soft-404s), so there’s no upside. It’s not critically broken/bad, but additional complexity for no good reason – make a better 404 page instead.

So when you do this blanket redirect, all those URLs are treated as 404s. So none of them spread value. On top of that, by 301 redirecting all your 404 pages, you throw away the opportunity to find real errors on your site and fix them.

Better solution to handle 404 errors?

404 errors redirects can exist for lots of reasons, and each of those reasons has their own “solution”. For instance:

  • Someone linked to an article and made a mistake in their URL. If you can redirect that wrong URL to the right article: do so.
  • You’ve deleted a page, you should think about that and act properly.
  • Someone is trying whether your site can be hacked through a certain URL, that 404 is 100% the right thing to serve.
  • You have a lot of 404s on your site because you had a broken link in your template somewhere (all too common): fix that broken link. Then redirect all those 404s to the right page.
  • Someone is typing in random URLs on your site just to see if something exist: a 404 is right. Of course, then your 404 page could be helpful in guiding them to the right spot.

404 errors are especially common among ecommerce websites where there are thousands of pages that are difficult to track. 404 pages cannot be ignored as these pages are detrimental to SEO and user experiences on your website.

Now, don’t take this as though we’re telling you not to 301 redirect 404 errors. We’re telling you to do it the right way. There’s nothing wrong with having a few 404 errors on your site, and you should definitely keep an eye on them.

We at Town Press Media can help identify, fix and resolve 404 errors to help increase your traffic correctly. Contact us today for a free consultation.