We spend a lot of time ‘optimising’ our sites, adding content, building links, keeping the site fresh and ensuring that it all links up nicely.
But, in many corporates, server hygiene and best practice is commonly overlooked. This is normally by omission rather than any kind of malice.
I believe that using and handling errors correctly can be beneficial for SEO. You should set up a Server Response Code monitoring process.
404 errors can be good!
Handling your 404 page properly is an essential part of on-site optimization that is helpful both for your site visitors and search engines.
- The page no longer exists
- Inventory has gone
- Page is no longer relevant
- There is an inbound link that is wrong!
- You moved something and didn’t redirect
- Your rewriter tool has broken/failed.
- You changed the URL rules / business logic
How to handle them!
Your server should return that page with a proper 404 header. This way any bots will know the status of that page and clean up their index.
What should be on that page? Well anything you want really.
Normal convention would suggest a polite message that indicates to the real user that the page no longer exists, but ensure it doesn’t blame them!
Maybe a sign post page is a good idea. Use your main search widget, or some static links. Or if appropriate that message with the contents of a normal page, commonly the homepage.
Errors happen – how you deal with them is the mark of a good digital marketer.
Other codes to monitor, for good and bad reasons
The use of 301’s, 302’s and the 500’s. By watching all of these, you can tell the health of your site and helps you tidy up.
Generally a healthy site is a happy site!