Error 404 — Blog post not found. Okay, bad joke. Why do you even need a 404 page?
You’ve been running your website for a while and have accumulated a grocery list of broken links. Visitors clicking on a broken hyperlink to your website will either see a 404 error page generated by your CMS (this is good), or an error page through the browser (this is bad).
The point of a 404 page is to give you a chance to redirect the visitor to the proper place on your website. When a user see’s a 404 page, it’s up to them to decide where to go on your site. If you don’t have a 404 page, there is a 99% chance user is going to click the back button on their browser, then visit a different site.
Make sure your 404 page gives the user several options such as a search box, navigation menus, social media profiles, etc. This is your best chance of salvaging the user’s experience on your website when they receive a 404. You also want to distribute the PageRank from any backlinks to the broken/missing/deleted page. Keep in mind, PageRank is divided up between the hyperlinks on your 404 page.
Keeping in mind what we learned above, lets move on to 301 redirects.
- If you move a webpage url, redirect to the new url.
- If you delete a post, either redirect to a relevant category/tag archive.
- If you don’t have either of those — Return 404 page.