Explore What 404 Page Is, Why It Appears and How to Track 404 Errors on the Website

If the server response is configured correctly and page 404 is well-designed, then the site won’t have any problems even having a great number of pages with 404 error. Do not try to cheat on search engines by configuring redirects, which lead to irrelevant pages. And finally, having chosen the best method for you, you will always be able to trace broken links and understand how to fix them.

Check server response for a specific URL
img-border What is a 404 error?

Table of contents



What is a 404 error?


“Error 404” (or “Page Not Found”) – is a standard code of HTTP status that occurs when the server can’t find a document required by a user. Basically, this is a page that doesn’t exist.


404 page exampleimg-close


The reasons for page not found error


  • the page was deleted from a website
  • the user has typed the URL incorrectly
  • the page was moved and the redirection was configured incorrectly
  • the server malfunctions (it happens very rarely)

Ideally, there mustn’t be any links that show 404 error of the server on the site (or external links). But, frankly speaking, if the site has more than a thousand pages, a problem of 404 error not found can’t be avoided. But what is really strange is when you find a site with a little number of pages (which means that all the broken pages can be traced manually) that contains three broken links to the articles in the rubric “Fresh news” on the front page.


Significant increase in error 404 page not found


One case is when while checking a site search bots report on several dozen of errors, but what if its number increases by hundreds or even thousands? The prompt intervention and solution should be found if the number of 404 errors exceeded by 10% the total number of pages on the website. There are various reasons why such a great number of pages not found appears, but mostly this is because of the problems with 404 error code (for instance, these pages were created with the help of scripts and styles, and the styles are in the code of the template, but not in the separate file).
The other reason why robots avoid pages that have never been available on site is cyber-attack (for example, placing doorway pages on the website). Even after its deletion, robots will still continue avoiding created web pages for some time and this can lead to the appearance of numerous errors 404. But, with the help of various tools, you can easily trace such following links.


How to track down broken links and their followings?


You should use “Parameters of visits” in Yandex.Metrica if you want to check the users’ jumps by broken links. Just put this line in the counter code:

params:window.yaParams||{ }});

Also you should put this JS-code somewhere on the 404 page:

var url = document.location.pathname + document.location.search
var url_referrer = document.referrer;
var yaParams = {error404: {page: url, from: url_referrer}};

Here url – is the current address of the 404 page, and url referrer is an address you have used to get on it. This way you can not only trace all the broken links, but also all the pages they are placed on.


Google Analytics
To trace the jumps, you should install this code on a 404 page:

ga('send', 'pageview', '404.html?page='+ document.location.pathname + document.location.search +'&from=' + document.referrer);

Where document.location.pathname + document.location.search – is URL of the page that not found on the site;
document.referrer – URL of the page, used by a user to jump on the 404 page


To find these pages you have to select the section “Indexing” – “Searchable pages” – “Excluded pages”. Here you can select only pages with the error using “Error HTTP: 404” filter.


404 pages in Yandex Webmastersimg-close


Google Search Console
You can also find errors using “Crawl” – “Crawl errors” – “Error 404” in Google Webmaster.


404 pages in Google Search Consoleimg-close


What is a danger of 404 error?


It is said that pages not found directly influence the indexing of the site and its position in the search results negatively, but in most cases this statement is wrong. What happens to such page when the robot founds it? It deletes it from an index (in case it has already got in it, if no – bot just won’t scan it). Obviously, this is because the page is no longer informative and useful. But you shouldn’t forget about SOFT errors. SOFT 404 is not an official response from a site, but rather a tag, given to pages by search engines after scanning.
What is wrong with these pages and why search engines make such decisions?

1.There is little or even no content on the page (Google can consider it as 404, Yandex as not of good quality).
2.There is a redirection to the page, which is unresponsive to users’ requests.
3.The page not found doesn’t give either 404 or 410 server response


What to choose: 301 or 404?
A new question arises after a page deletion: what is your next step? Should you adjust 404 server response or 301 redirect? You have to analyze each case separately: for instance, the method, which you have used successfully for an online shop might not be a good choice for the site that offers services or another online shop. Set 404 server response if, for some reasons, a page is deleted completely from a site.
301 redirect is better when:

  • The address of the page was changed (e.g. because of the structure changes);
  • A page is relevant to the users’ request;
  • Redirection to the other page with a similar content is possible (the same theme or from an item page to a catalog);
  • There are external links to the page.

301 redirect to the homepage is not the best variant both for users (will cause their puzzling) and SEO (for example, Googlebot considers them as SOFT 404).


404 error and behavioral factors
Remember your feelings when after visiting a site in search of something, you see a white monitor with 404 Error Page Not Found instead of the information you were looking for. What will an ordinary user do in this case? Of course, he closes this tab and searches for a new site. It is naturally, the more pages on the site give 404 server response, thus users face with this error, the less time they will spend on this site and the more declines will occur. The search engine algorithms function the way that the behavioral factors are paying the most attention as they play very important role in the ranking process. If you want to avoid worsening of behavioral factors, you should motivate users to stay on the site, thus you should approach the issue of creating 404 page in an interesting and rational way.


Your own 404 page


If you want users to stay on the site, you should think of creating your own 404 page, which will display once an error occurs. In most cases, webmasters do not pay much attention to it.


Page objectives:

  • Attract users’ attention;
  • Explain what has happened;
  • Suggest solutions to a problem.

Search engines in turn, speaking of own page 404, recommend the following:



  • A page should differ from the other pages of the website in design;
  • You should use different colors or even do not use graphics at all when creating a page.



  • A page should be created in the same style (including navigation) as the main website;
  • You should place the links to the most popular articles and comment sections on this page;
  • Give your users an opportunity to report on broken links.


General recommendations:

  • It must contain a link to a homepage;
  • You should inform a user in a polite form that a page he wanted to visit is not available.

The abovementioned recommendations are not unconditional rules for 404 pages. Everything depends on a website theme and target audience, thus for an online shop it is relevant to add search line, and for websites that offer services – contacts.


Hotjar 404 error


404 error on hotjar websiteimg-close


GitHub 404 error


404 error on Githubimg-close


Facebook 404 error


404 error on facebookimg-close


Ahrefs 404 error


404 error on ahrefsimg-close


Semrush 404 page


404 error on Semrushimg-close

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