How to Properly Handle 404 Errors and 301 Redirect

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.

301 Redirection

Keeping in mind what we learned above, lets move on to 301 redirects.

  1. If you move a webpage url, redirect to the new url.
  2. If you delete a post, either redirect to a relevant category/tag archive.
  3. If you don’t have either of those — Return 404 page.
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