Every website, especially the one of a news organization or of an E-commerce based business where one updates the content at regular intervals, is bound to have a handful of 404 errors lurking around the corridor. These errors are a common site once a major website redesign and the URL structure is changed. It is important to clean those errors on a regular basis, or your Search Engine Optimization program could be at risk.
Here are 3 ways in which 404 errors can damage your SEO in the long run:
1. You lose any SEO value that now-dead page had
A new URL has to earn its position or way to the top of the SERPs by aging, acquiring inbound links, social media shares and many more things that can be done. When this page is deleted, and not 301 redirected to a live page, the SEO value that old URL had earned is now gone; and your overall domain no longer enjoy the advantages of it.
If you update the URL structure after redesigning your website and forget to implement 301 redirects, then Google will treat every single URL on your on that particular domain as something brand new. That simply translates into you losing weeks, months of inbound link building, social authority, brand value and more overnight just because of 404 errors. Further, any efforts made to rebuild the old URLs in a 301 redirect guide will be a nightmare, which could have been easily avoided.
2. Too many of them will get in the way of Search Spiders
Google doesn’t crawl every page on every site every day. Depending on your crawl rate Google might hit your site once a day, once a week, or even only once a month. And while every site is bound to have a few 404 errors, when you start creeping up to the 4%, 5%, or 6% range (404 pages/total pages) you risk wasting Google’s limited efforts. The search spiders are only going to crawl so many pages on your site at a time and if the bots hit a stretch of 404 errors that could mean they don’t actually find your new or updated content! And until Google indexes that new content it can’t show up in the search engines. Don’t make it any harder on your content than it already is. Get those 404 errors cleaned up and ensure there is no barricade in the way of the crawlers when they finally collide your site.
3. Dead pages affect the usability of your website, that in turn can affect your SEO
Usability plays a significant role when it comes to SEO. Numerous 404 errors create a bad user experience and usually result in a higher than average bounce rate. If Google sees a lot of people hitting and immediately leaving your site it is possible that certain pages will start to drop in the SERPs. When it comes to Google, all they want is the best possible search results for their users because search volume is how they charge people for AdWords. If your website is constantly serving up 404 errors than that isn’t a very good search experience and you’re undermining Google’s main goal.