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Error 404: What ‘Error 404’ Means and How to Fix It.

You’ve seen this one before: you click on a link, but instead of going to the site you wanted, an error message states that the page you requested does not exist. A message like “404 Not Found” would be appropriate. The universal HTTP status code for a failed page load is 404. When a user makes an HTTP request, the server of the associated online presence responds by sending a message to the user’s web browser. This error message is then seen by the browser.

How Does a ‘404 Error’ Come About?

The typical trigger for an error 404 message is when website content has been removed or moved to another URL. There are also other reasons why an error message could appear. These include:

  • The URL or its content (such as files or images) was either deleted or moved (without adjusting any internal links accordingly)
  • The URL was written incorrectly (during the creation process or a redesign), linked incorrectly, or typed into the browser incorrectly
  • The server responsible for the website is not running or the connection is broken
  • The requested domain name can’t be converted to an IP by the domain name system (DNS)
  • The entered domain name doesn’t exist (anymore)

When administrators are unaware that the referenced information has been removed or relocated, dead links frequently remain for extended periods of time. Many defunct websites continue to show up in search engine results even when they are no longer operational (or at least not at the specified URL). The removal of a website or its relocation to a different URL is often not communicated to sites that link to it, such as blogs, news aggregators, etc. Some website owners don’t bother to routinely monitor their external links, thus a once-active link may have become inactive.

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How to Fix the Error ‘404 Not Found’

error 404

Rarely is it cause for celebration to encounter a 404 error. In the end, site users were unable to locate the information they sought on the website. A 404 error message may not always indicate that the content you are seeking is unavailable. The cause of the issue is often obvious, and the visitor can be swiftly sent to the page they were seeking. So, how does one go about resolving the 404 error? It is our recommendation that you begin with the following options and work your way down the list:

Reload the Page:

It’s possible that the website didn’t load correctly, which is why an error 404 was displayed. You may quickly and simply verify this by selecting the F5 key on your keyboard or hitting the “Refresh” button in your browser.

Go Back Through the Directory Levels:

There may be an error in the URL, whether you typed it in yourself or followed a link. Because of this, you need to double-check the website’s supplied path. You or the person who submitted the link might have made a typo. In addition to misspelled words, forward slashes could be missing or in the wrong location. Keep in mind that this can only be truly verified with “clean” URLs, which are URLs that do not contain any illegible abbreviations, digits, or symbols but instead consist solely of English.

Use the Website’s Search Function:

If you get a 404 page when you try to access the content at example.com/Directory1/Directory2/Directory3, for instance, you may always return to the previous directory level (in this case: example.com/Directory1/Directory2).

example.com/Directory1/Directory2) to see if it is linked there. Simply removing the final directory from the URL will do the trick. If you scroll back up the page, you should find a link to the desired location. If the proper link is not on that page, you may always return to the one before it. However, if this strategy proves fruitful as well and you find yourself returned to the homepage, go to the next hint.

Use a Search Engine:

You can find a search bar on the front page of a lot of different websites. You can use it to quickly locate the desired page by entering a term or many.

Delete the Browser Cache and Cookies:

You also have the alternative of using the website of your choosing to find a website. If the sought-after website does indeed exist, its domain name and/or a keyword transliteration of the topic should lead you to it.

There may be a problem with your browser if you’re only receiving the HTTP 404 error on one machine and not others, but you can still visit the site from other devices. Deleting the site’s cookies and the browser’s cache may solve the problem and allow you to view the page.

Contact the Website:

Contacting the website’s administrators may be your last resort if you’ve already tried everything else. The masthead or a dedicated ‘Contact Us page is typically where you can find contact details for a website. If the page you’re trying to reach doesn’t appear to exist, the website’s administrators should be able to tell you why. In the event that the page has been relocated to a different URL, you would be doing the site’s owner a huge favor by alerting them to the change. Then they can implement a 404 error solution by setting up a domain redirect, which will take visitors straight to the new site and bypass the broken one.

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HTTP 404 Errors Can Damage a Website’s Ranking and Reputation

If a website consistently has 404 problems, it will receive a poor ranking from search engines like Google and Bing. When crawlers see a high percentage of failed requests (code 404), they assume the site isn’t being updated often. If a website has too many 404 error pages, Google may lower its position in the search engine results pages (SERPs) or perhaps stop indexing it altogether due to broken links. There is a risk that this will cause a significant drop in the site’s traffic.

If your site is riddled with dead links or your landing page (the page accessed from the search engine results) is empty, you can kiss your visitor goodbye. Because they can’t be sure if the content they want is still available, many people will give up searching if this keeps happening on a regular basis.

Identifying 404 Errors on Your Own Website

It’s important for website operators to prevent HTTP 404 pages. All 404 pages, both those on their own site and those on other sites, are included in this. To aid in the process of locating these malfunctioning links, you can use any one of a number of free tools currently available. Here are the names of three of the most popular and successful:

Google Search Console

You should utilize Google Search Console (formerly known as “Google Webmaster Tools”) if you have a Google account and have registered your website with Google. If the Google bot comes across a 404 error, you may see it displayed in the web tool and designate it as fixed from within the interface. You may also utilize the added features to check for mistakes in your robots.txt file and analyze your site’s crawling statistics to learn how often Google bots have visited.

Dead Link Checker:

The Dead Link Checker is one of the quickest and easiest ways to discover broken links within your own site or to other sites. You can begin a scan of a website by entering its URL into this web app. Here, you may choose between scanning a single page or a whole website. The software compiles a comprehensive database of error pages, complete with status codes and links.

W3C Link Checker:

Verifying links with this World Wide Web Consortium (W3C) online tool is more time-consuming than with other websites because of the tool’s attention to detail when testing individual web pages. Just like the Dead Link Checker, all you have to do to use the W3C Link Checker is input the URL you want to check. Additional information might be provided as well.

Creating a 404 Error Page

When a website’s URL is incorrect, several content management systems (CMSs) including WordPress, Joomla, and Drupal will automatically generate a 404 error page. However, most of these generic HTTP 404 pages can be customized with the help of dedicated CMS plugins.

It’ll be more challenging if your CMS doesn’t allow you to create or modify your 404 page, or if your website is built entirely in HTML, PHP, etc. The following is an example of an error page:

  • Create an error page (‘404.html‘ or ‘404.php‘) in the root directory (if there isn’t an existing one already).
  • Open the .htaccess file (or create one if needed) in the root directory, enter this in ‘ErrorDocument 404 /404.html‘, and save the change. The error page will be generated with this code.
  • To see if it’s worked, try to access an unavailable webpage, and hopefully, the error 404 message should appear in the browser.

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Why Should You Personalize Your 404 Error Page?

While any 404 page is better than none, a personalized one is preferred. One positive aspect is that genuine HTTP status codes are returned to users; for instance, if the content they requested has been removed from the site, the ‘410 Gone’ message is what they should see. The user will be informed that this information has been permanently removed.

However, you can provide a custom-made error page with relevant links (i.e. links to your homepage or subpages where the content overlaps that which the visitor originally requested). It’s also possible to improve your website’s usability by incorporating a search bar. It’s possible that these additional precautions and incentives will keep users from immediately leaving your site after they get the 404 error.

You might even find that visitors are more understanding after you’ve provided them with a clever 404 message. Naturally, they will be unhappy that they couldn’t locate the content they were looking for, but an unusual or funny 404 page could make up for it. Error pages can be useful if they are designed well.

Make sure the error message’s aesthetic is consistent with the rest of your site, and you’ll have the makings of a solid 404 page. To avoid upsetting your visitors, it’s best to explain the situation in a humorous and light-hearted approach. Read our piece on unique 404 error pages if you need some ideas.

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