Building a successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy hinges on what kind of experience visitors have on your website. A key factor in providing a positive user experience is ensuring your visitors don’t encounter any errors. Errors cause frustration and sometimes confusion when a visitor is on your site and can ultimately lead to a quick exit to the next website on the search engine results page (SERP). When buttons on your site don’t actually work or when photos don’t load properly, these errors present barriers to the consumption of your website content.
One of the most frustrating site errors that inhibit SEO ranking is the 404 error. A 404 error is simply a page error that you see when you try to visit a page that simply doesn’t exist.
- Broken Referring Links: With referring links on your website, the links themselves may actually have errors in the URL. If only one character is off, the link won’t work. So it’s important to ensure that the page link is accurate before you embed it into the text. Additionally, if the page you are linking to no longer exists, of course, the 404 error will reflect this. There are a ton of resources online that allow you to scan your site’s links and check for 404 errors. Periodically checking as your site grows helps you to ensure you keep those errors from cropping up.
- Broken Menu Elements: As with referring link text, your menu elements may also be broken, producing a 404 error for your site visitors when they try to visit site pages. Changes to a page URL don’t automatically filter through to the site menu where they are linked. These changes often have to be made manually, so if any changes take place in a URL on your site, ensure flow those changes through to every place they are linked from on your website, including the site navigation menu.
- Off-site Links: Links from other branded properties can also cause SEO headaches when they point to pages that don’t exist on your site or use URLs that have changed or were incorrect in the first place. Exactness is key to linking just as it is to email, one wrong character and you get an error. Be meticulous about link health and your site links with work for your brand visibility.
Oftentimes these kinds of errors result from the removal of site content or the moving of site content to another page or even domain and the original links pointing to that content have not been updated. It ultimately amounts to an administrative error. Following through with updating any existing links on your site pages when content or URL has changed or moved is all it takes to ensure your website doesn’t get hit with user-experience issues resulting from 404 errors.
If you would like to learn more about how search engine optimization strategies can power visibility and growth for your website, call Proctor Digital at 773.664.5819. We’d love to help!