4XX: Client-Side Error Handling (404 vs. 410, etc.) | Lesson 17/34 | SEMrush Academy

You will learn about HTTP header fields, which transmit the parameters and arguments important for the file transfer via HTTP protocol.
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0:18 404 status code
0:32 410 status code
0:48 Soft-404 error
1:22 What happens when Google hits a 404
3:52 Quote from Matt Cutts

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In the 4xx error section, we’ll mostly talk about the 404 HTTP code as well as the 410 code.

404 means that a certain URL has not been found. It is the default status code that the server will send whenever you try to open a URL that doesn’t exist. Or does not exist anymore.

In comparison, HTTP 410 means gone and suggests that the requested resource is not available and will never be available again. It should be used when the resource has been intentionally removed.

A special case which solely exists with Google is what they call a Soft-404 error. The concept is that you would serve a URL with HTTP 200 suggesting everything is alright, but in reality this page should not have returned a 200, but should rather be 404 instead. Google flags it in the Search Console whenever they think that the URL that you serve as OK is actually not OK. This could indicate content quality issues or simply that you’d need to reconsider indexation strategies for those pages that Google actually flagged as Soft-404.

What happens if Google hits 404? So, the crawler will try to request this URL and the server will say – OK, this is a 404, the URL doesn’t exist. That means they can’t process it any further. It will be noted in the big Google URL database. And that’s it for now.

If this URL has been reachable and has been indexed previously, nothing will happen immediately. That URL will still remain in the Google index and basically they come back and try to crawl it again. And again, and again.

Recrawling will go on until they decide that “This 404 came back for over a week or longer. However, whenever I open the URL it does not exist and continues to serve a 404. So I will remove it from the index for now”. This frequent recrawling happens until they take it out of the index. It makes sense if you think about it though, as the 404 could have been sent by accident. Or the content shouldn’t have been deleted in the first place.

A good starting point to check if your domain has issues with 404s is by using Google Search Console – they have a great report there. Remember though that having some 404s is natural so you should not worry about it too much. Don’t freak out and focus heavily on achieving zero 404s –in reality this rarely can be achieved.

From an SEO perspective you need to really make sure that you watch your internal linking. You do not want your internal links to point to URLs that return a 404, as Google will encounter those 404s over and over again. Massively increasing 404-error counts can`t be a sign of good site health or quality.

You can use log files or search consoles or both to revise what’s going on there, and if necessary, you can deal with 404s and set proper redirects, or just reenable URLs that may have gone by accident. Make sure to have a routine in place that takes care of these things on a regular basis.

Another interesting point is the HTTP 410 status code. The main difference in the case of 410 rather than 404 is that Google will delete content from the index faster. Also the 410 will be recrawled less often. If the page is gone and there is no other page to replace it, if you don’t have anywhere else to redirect to from a content proximity perspective and you know that this page will never come back, then go ahead and serve a 410. Otherwise, 404 is fine. Using different status codes makes it easier to search the search console, where you can filter information by status code. With the 410s, you know that you did them on purpose, so you don’t have to revisit them over and over again, but 404 can be accidental, so you have to keep a close eye on it.

To streamline the process of finding client-side errors on your website, you can always use the Issues report of the SEMrush’s Site Audit tool. There you will find the checks that will help you find pages that return 4XX status codes, as well as broken internal links and images.

#TechnicalSEO #TechnicalSEOcourse #4xx #4xxErrorCodes #SEMrushAcademy

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