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What does a 404 HTTP status code mean on your website?

9 minutes of reading
What does a 404 HTTP status code mean on your website?
Category SEO

Every business owner, web developer, or even user comes across 404-page errors very often. Many of you might be having this question in mind like – what does 404 not found mean? Well, you wanted to open a specific website, and when clicking on that, it takes straight to the error pop-up specifying that the page is unavailable. This is a clear indication that the page is currently unavailable. A 404 error is the standard HTTP status code and that means the page is not functional right now. The 404 error message visible on the page is sent from the web server of the online website. The online browser receives the HTTP status code request and displays the error code. ‘Error 404’, ‘404 code’, and ‘HTTP404’ are some other names of HTTP status code 404. These are also referred to as dead links or broken links. Let’s dive into more details about 404 error codes and processes to identify or rectify them.


How does a 404 not found error come?

The 404 error is triggered when the content on the website is no more available or it has been moved to some other URL. Apart from this, there can be certain reasons why 404 not found error comes in the first place, some of them are mentioned below:

The URL is deleted or moved to some other address. It can be files or images that you are trying to access but finding the 404 error. There is a possibility that the company is not managing the internal links carefully.

The web designer or developer might frame the incorrect URL and write incorrectly. A mere typing mistake can lead to this problem. Also, the user might have entered the wrong URL in the web browser.

Another cause of the 404 error is that the server of the website is not working properly. It can lead to the disconnection of the website from the backend server and show a message – the connection is broken.

The DNS (Domain Name System) is not able to convert the requested domain name into IP address. This is another issue with the hosting or server management team and hence the company needs to choose a reliable hosting provider.

The domain name is spelled incorrectly or it might not exist anymore. If a domain name is not renewed by the company, the users can face a 404 not found problem.

The dead links are seen to remain available for a long time as the owner is not aware of the same. In most cases, the person managing the website is not able to track them. The operators have no sense about the content removal or linked deletion. That’s the reason why these 404 error websites remain available on the Search Engine Result Pages (SERP) even after the domain is not renewed. Various other news, blogs, or portals remain unaware of this and they keep on redirecting the users to 404 not found webpage. They are even unaware of the fact that the website is available at a new URL address now. It is tough for marketers to keep a track of external links and that’s why the functional link often becomes a dead one.

How to fix the 404 not found error?

What 404 pages not found means is a much bigger issue than usual, we presume. It is simply a sign that the customer is not able to access the content on your website for which he was looking. At the end of the day, you might be losing a potential lead or conversion in this manner. However, it is not necessary every time that we presume the 404 error means that information is not available. In most cases, you can easily find the worthy solution to the problem and users can quickly redirect to the right webpage they were looking for.

So, now that you’re aware of what does 404 code mean? The question comes if there is an easy way to fix the 404 error on the website? Yes, there is and we recommend following the below practices to gain the potential solution for the error page:

Reload the page:

It might be a possibility that a 404 error has come on the website for a very simple reason the loading of the page was incorrect. Oftentimes, the webpage does not load correctly and that causes an error on the page. You can check this easily by pressing the ‘Refresh’ button on the browser or pressing the F5 button.

Verify the URL address:

No matter if you’ve visited the web page URL directly from the browser and redirected from a link, there is a chance of a mistake. You should be checking the specified URL path of the website. The cause of the error might be you or the person who created/added the mistyped link. Spelling mistakes or slashes missing can be the actual error. However, you can only rectify the error if the URL is clean and doesn’t contain unreadable words, numbers, symbols, abbreviations.

Website search function:

A lot of websites do provide a search option on the website home page. You can type any keyword or search phrase in the same and reach the desired page. This won’t help in fixing the error on the website but will surely assist with finding the right option.

Try using a search engine

This method to avoid 404 not found errors is helpful for active websites. You can try entering the domain name on Google or any other search engine to find the desired website.

Delete browser cache

Do you know how to check 404 errors on your system? Yes, there is a possibility that the issue exists on your laptop/desktop due to the browser’s cache. While the page/website will be loading properly on the other systems, it’s your system facing the problem. Such a problem lies in your browser only due to cache issues. Hence, the solution is to try clearing the cache problem along with other cookie data of the website.

Contact website:

In case none of the above-listed tips are working for you, the only option is to contact the website support of the owner. You can easily navigate to the contact option of the website. There are high chances that the operator or website owner is unaware of the broken 404 error link. Inform them and ask them to share the updated URL. It will help you to reach the desired URL and will be doing a big favor for the website owner as well. They can easily fix the error with domain redirection. All the users can simply be redirected to the new URL where the right set of information is present.

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How to fix 404 errors on my website?

Now, since your customers can dodge the 404 error with the above-listed ways, let’s explore the measures to correct them. This section is very important for the website owners and operators to avoid HTTP 404 pages. The below-mentioned tips are useful for both internal 404 page not found error and external 404 error pages. You can find plenty of tools to find and correct the broken links, out of which some of the prominent ones are mentioned below:

Google Search Console

Also known as Google webmaster, the tool is well known among online business owners and website operators. Since you have a Google registered website, it’s better to make the best use of this tool in identifying and rectifying the dead links. How to fix 404 errors on my website – Google Search Console is one of the prominent answers to the question.

It will showcase all broken links visible to the crawler that is displayed in the tool. You can resolve them and mark corrections as well. There are plenty of other functionalities in the Search Console and finding errors in the robots.txt file is one of them. You can even check how many times Google is crawling the website and analyze statistics as well.

Dead Link Checker

It is one of the easiest ways to identify broken links. This tool is designed to find both internal and external broken links that are showing 404 errors. Dead Link Checker is a web app that requires you to simply enter the website URL and will bring the entire list of broken links after inspection. How to check 404 errors? – Dead Link Checker is the solid answer to this question. You can inspect the single web page or entire website using this link inspection tool. It will provide the status codes and URL of all dead links that need to be corrected.

W3C Link Checker

It is a potent tool from W3C (World Wide Web Consortium) offering detailed analysis on the dead links. It is very much reliable for analyzing the single web page URL as the process takes a lot of time. In case you wish to analyze the entire website, the above-mentioned Dead Link Checker is the much-preferred choice. The W3C Link checker tool is very much similar to the Dead Link Checker and provides additional information as well.

How to easily create a 404 error page on a website?

There are a lot of Content Management Systems (CMS) that provide the dead link maker option by default. In simple words, whenever you don’t find any correct website URL, it will automatically generate a 404 error page. It will be a basic error message by default and can be customized to appear better with some extensions.

You will find the option to modify the 404 not found error page if you’re using any CMS platform. Make the best use of HTML and PHP to provide the most personalized appearance on a 404 page. Here is the process to create a 404 page on the website:

1. Create an error page and save it in the root directory. Make sure to check if it isn’t already available in the directory.

2. Open the .htaccess file in the root directory and navigate to ErrorDocument/404.html to save the changes. Once done, the page will be created on the website.

3. To verify the same, try to access some wrong web page and you will find a 404 page available there.

One thing that should be considered while creating a 404 page is to personalize the same. Gone are the days when 404 pages weren’t considered of importance and often ignored. However, there are numerous reasons why every website should have a customized 404 error page. The web designer can mention on the page that the content is removed from there. Adding related links is also one of the efficient ways to gain more engagement. With this approach, you won’t only satisfy the customers, but can also try your chance to boost engagement and bring conversions. We hope the shared information proves valuable to every reader out there.

iCEA Group

As a leading international digital marketing agency established in 2007, we have consistently set the standards for traffic acquisition and conversion. We proudly host Poland's largest technical department, staffed with highly skilled SEO, SEM, and UX specialists with years of experience. Our offer knows no borders! As evidenced by our successful campaigns in not only the Polish market but also in India and the United States. Driven by our dedication and expertise, we empower our clients to achieve online success.

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