What Are 404 Errors? (With Tips to Fix Them)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 1, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Users usually expect websites to deliver a flawless, interruption-free experience. Errors can arise that negatively impact the user experience and overall website quality. Learning about 404 errors can help you understand how to fix them. In this article, we define 404 errors, provide tips for website administrators and website users to fix these errors, and explore general website improvement suggestions.

What are 404 errors?

A 404 error is a website or computer network fault code. It happens when there's a difficulty in communication between the web browser and the web server. This produces a dead website link, meaning the webpage cannot load. The website typically shows an error code to the user. There are a multitude of names for these types of errors or ways you might see an error, such as:

  • 404 not found

  • Error 404

  • HTTP 404

  • 404 page not found

  • 404 file or directory not found

  • Requested URL not found on the server

  • Error 404 not found

  • HTTP 404 not found

  • Cannot find page you're looking for

Some common reasons 404 error codes may occur are:

  • The website no longer has any content.

  • The content moved to another URL.

  • The website's server is not running correctly.

  • The connection between the server and the website broke down.

  • The domain name system (DNS) cannot convert the requested domain name into an IP address.

  • The domain name no longer exists.

  • The user input the URL incorrectly or the link they clicked on was incorrect.

It's critical to have a proactive attitude towards these errors. Use crawling tools for your website. These tools can indicate errors that need fixing or broken links that need examination. The size of your website may influence how often you scan for 404 error codes. For instance, if you have a small website, such as one with less than 50 pages, you may do a monthly 404 error check. If you have a more extensive website, you may do a weekly or daily search for error codes.

Related: What Is JavaScript?

Tips for fixing 404 errors as a web user

A 404 error doesn't necessarily indicate that the requested information or website is permanently unavailable. It's critical to remember that these issues might degrade the user experience or irritate consumers. Users may be able to rectify these errors manually. As a web user, the following strategies may assist you in resolving these errors:

Refreshing the page

A 404 error may occur if the page does not load correctly. You might resolve the problem by simply refreshing or reloading the page. By pressing the refresh button in your web browser, you can reload the page. Additionally, depending on the device you're using, you may be able to reload the web page by pressing the F5 key on your keyboard.

Checking the address

Verify that the uniform resource locator (URL), also known as a web page address, is valid. Check for spelling problems and errors caused by incorrect punctuation. It's critical to remember that this may only work for clean URLs. Clean URLs are are simple to read and comprehend.

Checking the directory levels

Go back to previous directory levels or pages to see if there is a different way to navigate to your desired webpage. Work your way back through the pages until you reach the homepage again. For example, if you try to access bestaffordablehotels.com/canada/toronto/ontario/under-100, the link doesn't work. Remove "under-100" from the URL to see if you can access bestaffordablehotels.com/canada/toronto/ontario. Continue to remove URL sections between slashes until you find a directory level that works.

Conducting a website search

Most websites feature a search tool dedicated to their content. If it's available, you can use this function to find the page you're looking to find. Enter relevant keywords for the page you're searching for in the search box.

Related: How to Become an SEO Expert (With Salary and Job Outlook)

Using a search engine

A search engine may assist you in determining the content's present position. Enter the domain name and any relevant keywords to assist you in locating the page. It's critical to note that this method can only function if the requested website is still available.

Trying to access the webpage from a different device

The inability to view a website could result from a problem with your device. For instance, you may obtain a 404 error message on a computer that's unable to connect to the internet, but you may be able to view the site through a mobile device connected to a data network. Alternatively, try accessing the URL using a different browser or mobile device.

Clearing your cache and deleting cookies

A 404 error code may indicate that your web browser is having problems. Consider emptying your browser's cache and cookies. You could erase all of your cookies or just the ones associated with that website. This might provide you with access to the page.

Contacting the website administrator

Consider informing the website's operators about your issues accessing it. You may find the organization's contact information on the website's masthead or a separate contact page. Tell them about the circumstances behind the 404 error and the steps you took to address it. This information may assist them in resolving the problem, or they might let you know that the resource is no longer available.

Tips for dealing with 404 errors as a website administrator

Receiving 404 error codes on your website might affect more than just the user experience. Although search engines don't officially consider these errors to be a ranking factor, having too many of them on your website might harm your search engine optimization (SEO), which in turn can harm your ranking position. To retain a higher search position and reputation, it's critical to find and resolve codes on your website. As a website administrator, the following suggestions may assist you in resolving 404 errors:

Create a 404 page

Consider creating a customized 404 page. Try to tailor the page to align with your brand or find a way to engage with users. This may encourage them to spend more time trying to get to the page they were looking for, helping reduce the bounce rate of your page.

Create a redirect

A website redirect sends visitors to another page. This substitutes the 404 error by referring visitors to a more relevant site than the one they were originally looking to find. It's helpful to attempt to choose a specific page other than your website's homepage.

For example, each year, the National Marketing Association organizes a conference. Each year, they create a new homepage for the event, replacing the previous one. In case users bookmark the previous page, they configure a redirect. So, if users attempt to view the conference page from a prior year, the website automatically redirects them to the current year's conference page.

Restore the page

A user may receive a 404 error code if they try to access an unpublished webpage. Consider restoring old web pages, especially if someone deleted the page by accident or if there's still a large demand to access the page. Before you restore the page, it's important to review it to ensure all information on the page is accurate.

Related: Web Developer Skills: Definitions and Examples

Correct the link

Review the URLs on your website. Look for errors, and edit the URLs on the back end of your website. Check all hyperlinks on your site to ensure they point to the correct links.

General website improvement tips

Here are some tips that can help you improve the quality of your website:

Know your users

Understanding your users' desires and requirements is an excellent place to start when optimizing your website. You may customize the online experience to their specific needs and preferences when you do. Additionally, various audiences may engage with your website in unique ways, so it may be beneficial to conduct market research to understand your target market better. Consider partnering with a team to develop goals tailored to your unique online audience.

Intentionally plan

Creating an intentional development strategy for your website can assist you in accomplishing your goals successfully and efficiently. Consider discussing online tactics with your team or forming a task force to help you establish relevant online presence objectives. You could also match evidence-based best practices to your objectives to optimize the content of your website.

Maintain organization

Maintain organization when making changes to your website. Internally, a well-defined and coordinated development cycle can facilitate regular site evaluations and upgrades. A well-organized website may simplify access to information, interact with site content, and complete transactions from a user perspective. Consider checking and assessing your site's navigation features, such as menus and sidebars. Use drop-down or layered navigation to ensure that the mobile version of your site looks and behaves similarly to the desktop version.

Explore more articles