What is Error 404 Not Found and How to Fix It?

Staff Writer
Last Updated
May 30, 2024
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Encountering the Error 404 "not found" message is common during web browsing. But remember that letting your site visitor encounter this error often can leave a negative impression. It also adversely affects search engine optimization, as it can hamper search engines' ability to crawl and index a website's content effectively.

As a website or business owner who aims to boost site traffic, it's crucial to be mindful of 404 errors. Ensuring your site is free from these issues is essential to maintain a smooth user experience and prevent potential disruptions that could deter visitors.

What Is a 404 Error?

A 404 error is an HTTP status code signifying that the requested page on a website cannot be found on the server. This error indicates that although the server is accessible, the particular page you search for cannot be located. Some common name examples of 404 errors that can be found:

  • 404 Error
  • 404 Not Found
  • Error 404
  • Error 404 Not Found
  • 404 Page Not Found
  • Etc…

Although generally, a standard 404 error page is sufficient, you can also create a personalized page to ensure visitors receive an accurate HTTP status code. Additionally, a creatively crafted 404 message can help improve the experience for site visitors.

What Are the Causes of 404 Errors?

  • The URL is Wrong: One of the most common causes of 404 errors is due to incorrect or misspelled URLs. Sometimes URLs can change due to site updates or reorganization which leads to broken links.
  • The Webpage No Longer Exists: If a webpage resource has been deleted from the server, users will encounter a 404 error when they try to access it.
  • Website's Setup or File Permissions Have Changed: Your content might still be on your site server, but because of changes in website configuration or file permission - it may result in the server becoming unable to locate and display the page that is being requested.
  • Internal Links Lead to Unexisting Pages: Internal links within your site might point to pages that have been moved or deleted, thus this results in 404 errors for visitors who try to navigate them through your site.
  • The Website Sitemap is Outdated: An outdated sitemap can mislead web crawlers and cause them to attempt to access non-existent pages. This can result in your site generating 404 errors.
  • The Domain Name was Changed: Changing your website’s domain name without setting up proper redirects can result in 404 errors since the old links will no longer point to the correct location.
  • Problem with the .htaccess File: Issues or errors in the .htaccess can lead to misconfigured redirects or inaccessible pages which cause 404 errors.

How to Identify 404 Errors On Your Website?

To identify 404 errors on the website, you could check for it by manually clicking each link and noting if it leads to a "page not found" message. However, this method is inefficient and will take much time. Instead, you can utilize helpful tools such as Screaming Frog, Semrush Site Audit, Dead Link Checker, Google Search Console, or Ahrefs to identify 404 Errors on your website.

How to Fix the 404 Errors?

Encountering a 404 error on a website can be frustrating for users and at the same time impact site performance. However, with the right approach, you can effectively fix these errors. Let’s dive in and learn how to tackle these common website issues effectively.

1. Add Custom Error Pages

Create custom error pages for your website that provide helpful information to users when they encounter a 404 error. This can include a message apologizing for the inconvenience, navigation links to other parts of your site, and a search bar to help users find what they're looking for.

2. Redirect the Broken URL to a Related URL

If a page has been moved or renamed, set up a redirect from the old URL to a related or equivalent page on your site. This ensures that users who land on the old URL are automatically redirected to relevant content, minimizing the impact of the 404 error.

3. Clear Browser Cache

Sometimes, a 404 error may be caused by an outdated or corrupted browser cache. Clearing the cache can refresh the browser's memory and resolve the issue.

4. Check Permalinks

Review the permalinks (permanent URLs) of your website's pages to ensure they are correctly configured. Incorrect permalinks can result in broken links and 404 errors.

5. Check .htaccess File

The .htaccess file contains configuration settings for your website. Check this file to ensure there are no errors or misconfigurations that could be causing 404 errors. We recommend updating the file in case of changes to any redirects.

6. Set Up 301 Redirects

For permanently moved or deleted pages, it is important to set up 301 redirects to automatically send users from the old URL to a relevant page on your site. If you don’t have a relevant page to redirect the old URL, you can opt to use 302 redirects. This is a temporary redirection which you can change once you have a relevant page to redirect the old URL.

7. Scan for Broken Links

Last but not least, you need to scan your website to look for broken links regularly. To do this, you can utilize online tools or plugins. This will help you to be able to promptly fix any broken links and prevent users from encountering 404 errors when navigating your site.


Although error 404 is one of the most common issues one may encounter while browsing, however, too many unexpected 404 errors can sour the user experience. It will increase bounce rates and will impact your website’s rankings and traffic. Thus, implementing best practices for handling 404 errors is crucial to maintaining a seamless user experience and preserving site SEO health!

Are you looking for more SEO tips to boost your site traffic? You can explore our insight here.

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