How Does a 404 Error Affect a Website’s SEO?


A 404 error impacts a website's SEO negatively by reducing user experience, increasing bounce rates, and potentially causing search engines to deindex the pages from their results. Addressing 404 errors is crucial for maintaining a site’s SEO health. Below is a detailed explanation of the impacts and how to mitigate them.

Effect on User Experience (UX)

404 errors occur when a user tries to access a page that does not exist. This leads to a poor user experience, potentially causing users to leave the site, which increases the bounce rate. A higher bounce rate signals to search engines that the site may not be providing valuable content.

For instance, if users regularly encounter 404 errors on a website, they might abandon their search efforts, adversely affecting overall user satisfaction. Maintaining a positive UX is crucial as search engines like Google factor in user engagement metrics as part of their ranking algorithms. [Google SEO Starter Guide, 2023]

Impact on Crawl Efficiency

404 errors can hinder search engine crawlers. When crawlers encounter broken links, it wastes the allocated crawl budget for the website. The crawl budget is the number of pages a search engine will crawl on your site within a given time. Consistently encountering 404 errors may lead to fewer pages being indexed. [Google Crawling, 2023]

Deindexation Risk

If a large number of important URLs result in 404 errors, there’s a risk that search engines might deindex these pages, causing a significant drop in search visibility and organic traffic. Ensuring that critical pages are always accessible is vital for maintaining a strong presence in search engine results. [Managing Crawl Budget, 2023]

Link equity, or “link juice,” refers to the value and authority passed from one page to another via hyperlinks. When a page returns a 404 error, any incoming links to that page lose their value, as the link equity is not transferred to other parts of the site. This can diminish the overall authority and ranking potential of the website. [SEO Starter Guide, 2023]

How to Mitigate 404 Errors

Implement 301 Redirects

Redirects are a practical solution for addressing 404 errors. A 301 redirect sends users and search engines to a different, functioning URL. This transfer preserves link equity and ensures continuity in user experience. [301 Redirects, 2023]

Create a Custom 404 Page

A custom 404 page can help retain users by providing useful navigation options, search functionality, or links to popular content. While this doesn’t solve the issue of broken links, it helps ameliorate the impact on user experience. [Importance of a Custom 404 Page, 2023]

Regular audits of the website using tools like Google Search Console, Screaming Frog, or other SEO software can identify dead links. Proactively addressing these by either updating or removing them can prevent 404 errors. [Google Search Console, 2023]


A 404 error can have several detrimental effects on a website’s SEO, impacting user experience, crawl efficiency, and link equity. To minimize these impacts, it’s essential to implement 301 redirects, create a custom 404 page, and regularly monitor and fix broken links. Addressing 404 errors promptly helps maintain the site’s SEO health and ensures a better experience for users and search engines alike.